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The piece that I’m about to reproduce here first appeared in The Age newspaper, on 9 May, 1956. In it, a fiendish danger to society and our youth is laid bare. I’ve left the original article emphasis in place.

Milk Bars “Breeding Ground of Delinquency”

A warning that milk bars, Continental cafes and youth clubs were becoming breeding grounds for juvenile delinquents was given by Mr. Pat Loftus, recently retired police prosecutor of the Children’s Court, at a meeting of the Probation Officer’s Association last night.

Mr. Loftus was the guest of the association whose president (Mr. P. G. Heads) presented him with a wristlet watch as a tribute to his co-operation and happy association with the probation officers.

Mr Loftus said teen-agers were going to be a problem if something was not done to provide adequately in a creative way for their leisure time.

“One has only to walk along the streets of certain industrial suburbs in Melbourne and notice the large numbers of cafes and milk bars and hamburger ‘joints’ now being run by New Australians,” he said.

“In most of them there is a sprinkling of teenage boys and especially girls either hanging about the doors, or on the footpath, or sitting on stools drinking some beverage.”

“These places are gradually becoming meeting places for teenagers, and if something is not done it will develop into a condition that will be hard to correct later on.”


Mr. Loftus said teenage children were not being catered for adequately. While many youth clubs in Melbourne were doing quite a good job, a great number of clubs and youth centres were lacking.

Far too much attention was given to the physical side and not enough to crafts, hobbies, music, drama, and libraries and creative work generally.

He said that in his opinion some church clubs were not catering adequately for the needs of their young people.

It was rather pathetic to find some of the beautiful old churches, built by people with vision, now allowing their halls and equipment to lie idle.

Youth leadership was ahe[sic] answer to this problem, he said, and he asked for support of the Victorian Association of Youth Clubs to train 15 professional youth leaders in a course recently started.

So, this is how the wheel turns. The answer to the problem of youth delinquency was to get them out of the fresh air and away from sports and physical activities and all that damned uncontrolled socialising with each-other and into more sedentary forms of entertainment. I imagine he might have approved of video games, had they been around at the time.

These days, opinion is that something else is responsible. Something else is always responsible.

Later on, things that became responsible for the decline of our youth included: Film, television, violent cartoons, comics, the telephone, role-playing games, mobile phones and video games. The cure for which was to get kids back out into the fresh air, into sports and physical activities and into some honest, real-life uncontrolled socialising. You may sense some irony here.

Apparently fresh air is positively thick with irony, and perhaps some sort of filter-mask might come in handy if you’re planning to indulge.

We’ve let our kids have access to each one of these things, over the decades, as well as denying them these things, and you know what? It hasn’t made a lick of difference overall. When push comes to shove, and the inescapable reality of our role in society faces us down squarely, we punt and find something else to blame. Something new that we haven’t blamed yet.

Ultimately, if you want to explain the behaviour of youths of this – or any other – century, you generally need look no farther than the behaviour of adults, not only as role-models, but how we behave towards children and teenagers, and how we interact with them.

For kids, these activities aren’t really escapist – they might distract their attention, but all of these things are a ubiquitous part of the rich and varied world they live in – whether we grew up with them or not. The only escapists are us, trying desperately to find something to blame that isn’t ourselves, when our children ultimately respond to the ways we bring them up.

Here’s a scan of the original article, just in case you feel inclined to pin it up on the noticeboard at your local cafe or something. Click for a larger version.

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Categories: Culture, Opinion.

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