Notice It Wasn’t, “Wednesday Is Negligent Parents Day”

Hi Readers! This is from the blog, “Free-Range Kids in Film,” by Michael Alves. How I remember this commercial! — L. 

“Anthony” Prince Pasta commercial. Not sure when this was filmed, but it seems like it is the late 60s or early 70s. It shows a school-age boy, Anthony, running home through the streets of the North End of Boston to get his dinner. He is alone. The streets are crowded, but he gets home safely. According to the article below, this spot ran for 13 years. I bet no one felt it was strange that a boy would be out by himself back then. — Michael Alves

And I’ll bet no one called the police if he didn’t run home. — L.

50 Responses

  1. I’d say mid to late 70s, maybe even early 80s–I remember it from my childhood. I didn’t even have to watch the clip. 🙂

  2. Cute commerical. I feel as if I have seen it before maybe when I was a kid but honestly this commercial was probably made before I was born since I was not born until 1980.

  3. I remember that commercial. My mother used to laugh at it, saying that if Anthony were really that excited about macaroni, there was no way it was storebought. She grew up in those narrow alleys, and she still has the old enormous cooking pot. (I didn’t know you could boil macaroni in a regular-sized pot until I was in high school. It just never occurred to me.)

  4. I remember this commercial….made me think about a friend I had in high school. His parents picked his name by calling names off their back porch (pretending to call a kid home for dinner)…his name was Bronson. Braaawwwn-son.

    We had a neighbor with 9 kids that rang a triangle…really!

  5. @Stella: HA HA HA!!! Excellent point. And considering the Italian women cooking in the kitchen, you KNOW they didn’t go to the store. Those ladies were cooking from scratch, baby.

  6. You want to see this article:

    Baby dies in an accident when the babysitter apparently collapsed on top of him.

    But the COMMENTS are all “Where was the mother???” and “How could she not clear her schedule to be home???” and all. Like it’s suddenly become a crime to take a night off!

  7. (And none of them ask where the father is, naturally.)

  8. I remember that commercial from the mid 70s. I still think Wednesday should be spaghetti day, even though I’m not Italian and have never lived in Boston.

  9. First rule of any good kids film, Ditch The Parents:
    Fly them to France accidentally leaving one behind, send them to work, drive them off a cliff in Australian outback, have the kids run away for what they believe is a noble cause, or just ship the youngster off to any British boarding school.
    These days, of course, you have to loose the cell phones as well.
    I can’t think of many films that pay any attention to law and insurance fear mongering. Most stories ignore it completely and let the kids have their adventure.
    It’s turning out to be the only place they ever will.

  10. Yes, I remember that commercial. They should update it and get some real publicity! (Hey, Lenore, Prince Spaghetti could be a sponsor of your TV show – with this new commercial)

    The kid runs through the streets. Concerned helicopter parents watch as he passes. Several whip-out cellphones and call CPS and the police…

    Bystanders watching the boy talk of how dangerous it is to be unattended as a child in a dangerous city. (a siren sounds in the distance) The camera zooms in on a woman peering from a second story window – a look of grave concern etched on her face. She turns to somebody in the room and suggests calling the police. A voice says, “Don’t worry, he’s probably running home because it’s Prince Spaghetti Day.

    Scene change. Two policemen arrive with Anthony at his mother’s door. They read Mom the Riot Act and Anthony pipes up that it’s Prince Spaghetti Day, but the police say that’s no excuse to risk his life at HIS AGE because you never know when a pervert or murderer will kidnap and murder you. The policeman finally leave. One says, “maybe it was worth the risk since it’s Prince Spaghetti Day,” and his partner jabs him in the ribs and says, “You can’t be serious!!”

    The door closes. Anthony rolls his eyes at his mom. His mom nods and says it’s time for dinner. Then statistics roll across the screen telling how safe it actually is today for children to play outside …and that the likelyhood of a child being killed in a car crash is far higher than being kidnapped.

  11. […] Original post: Notice It Wasn’t, “Wednesday Is Negligent Parents Day” […]

  12. And the happy boy got to enjoy a lovely italian dinner because of his independence.
    Today, get that same family in an SUV at a fast food drive-through for dinner because there’s no time to cook a homemade meal when your on security detail for your kids.

  13. I grew up in a large city, but there was a field behind my house with a creek running through it. Between the field and just running the neighborhood my brother and I were out of sight most of the time. When it was dinner time and we weren’t in sight my mother would ring a bell she had on the porch and we would come running.

    I am trying to get my children to that. They won’t get there as fast as I did but eventually.

  14. Lollipoplover, those were my exact thoughts- word for word.

  15. Thanks for the smile. I remember this commercial … which is why every Wednesday night (in the fall/winter) at our house is spaghetti night!

  16. I remember this commercial from the 70s. And I agree with lollipoplover that allowing our kids to play outside without us frees us up to make healthier meals at home. That’s one of the things I do while my older child runs around the neighborhood. If I had to stay outside with her, I wouldn’t be able to cook using whole foods, or she’d have to sit in here and watch TV while I cooked. Free range parenting is healthier for families in a number of ways. More exercise and healthier food choices are two of them.

  17. I never saw this commercial until YouTube, but I heard a lot about it as people tend to think that regional stuff must be national. (I was raised on the west coast, which did not have Prince spaghetti.) This was a long-running commercial in Boston, where it was filmed sometime in the late 60s and early 70s. I can dig up some more info on it as local sites talk about it, and what happened to the kid as a grown up, from time to time.

  18. Ahhh…I remember that commercial. Oh the good ol’days. Literally, that’s how it was. Sometimes after school, me, my brother and a couple of friends would hang around the playground, or the school made ice rink (in the winter time) before we went home. Yes it was dark. We would always make sure we were home by 7pm though. That’s when dinner was ready. It was also a good way to pass the time since our parents didn’t get home from work till around 6pm. In the summer, you’d find plenty of kids walking by themselves to the park and playing with other kids. Most we didn’t even know, but hey, we were kids. It was all about interacting and having fun. It actually makes me laugh, that even kids ages 11-13 still are not allowed to do the things I was allowed and able to do at the age of 7. When my kids turn 7 they’ll be taking care of the 11 year olds of others. lol

  19. I remember on our old local talk radio station, the old Italian guys would talk about how they didn’t have the “streetlight” rule — the rule was that when the first mom yelled that she was putting the macaroni in the pot, they’d all run home to be there when it was put on the table — because it was the same in every house.

    “If I had to stay outside with her, I wouldn’t be able to cook using whole foods, or she’d have to sit in here and watch TV while I cooked.”

    That’s an amazing (though obvious, once someone has been smart enough to mention it) point. I remember reading something not long ago about tips for quick and easy, healthy meals — the premise was that even a SAHM didn’t want to have to squeeze much time into the afternoon to cook, as though this somehow interfered with “being a Mom.” And I thought, “Huh? What’s un-Mom-like about cooking dinner?” But I default to thinking Free Range, so I forgot that for a lot of parents, being a SAHM means carting your kids places and/or hovering over them, and meal preparation has to be fit around that. My way of thinking, meal prep is part of my job as a SAHM, and it’s done when the neighborhood kids are home from school, so of course it’s when my kids want to be out playing *without me.* Really, I can squeeze in 45 minutes to an hour (most of which is cooking time, not slaving time anyway) on a normal day to make a good meal.

    And that’s even leaving aside the point that kids can *help* at least with part of it, so it doesn’t need to be a detraction all the time anyway.

  20. A couple of years ago The Boston Globe ran an article about Anthony Martignetti on the 40th anniversary of the filming of the ad in 1969:

    The story behind the ad is even more free range because Martignetti got the part because he spoke with strangers!

  21. “Liam” is right! That story about Anthony Martingnetti shows how Being Free Range and Talking To Strangers were THE reasons he got into that TV commercial.

    It’s an article worth reading!

  22. She does cook with me sometimes, but she doesn’t want to do that every day. It’s fun for her sometimes when the weather is bad and no one is outside to play with anyway. But the fact is that most kids, if they aren’t playing outside, are watching TV or using some other kind of electronic device. Otherwise, that’s an hour of good strong exercise time, and followed by a healthy meal. If I felt the world we so unsafe that I had to hover over her, it would be a choice between exercise and healthy food. Even cooking with me isn’t exercise, and most kids don’t get nearly enough exercise.

  23. N, in case I wasn’t clear, I was agreeing! Meal-prep time is a time when I can chase the kids outside and get something done, because their friends are back from school and they’re done with their own work. I just threw in the “helping” thing because it was another reason that the “cooking is an interruption in your parenting day” thing seemed silly to me.

  24. Never saw that one. But it’s obvious it was a different mindset then. I don’t know many parents that even let their kids go out walking alone. Sad, isn’t it?


    This is a recent Jif peanut butter commercial that actually shows a sever or eight year old boy not only making his own lunch, but making his mother’s too. The mother doesn’t walk the kid to the bus either. Pretty refreshing for a change.

  26. I’d enjoy a list of free-range kids in literature, too. We’ve been reading the Ramona books and Little House books and just listened to “The Great Brain” on our last long car trip. I am continually astounded by how much childhood has changed in a just a few generations.

  27. 70s…I remember this well from growing up. Of course, nobody who actually lived in the North End would dare to serve Prince’s, but that’s a different topic 8-).

  28. I AM an Italian kids of the 70’s/80’s too, so of course this “memory” tugs at my heart strings, as I was always GONE for the entire day, off alone, playing with kids that lived close to a mile away by bike… Now I let my kids run free in our suburban neighborhood, and when it’s dinner-time, I’m able to whistle loud enough to get our neighborhood dogs barking (lucky me), Somethings never change;-)

  29. Prince Spaghetti was not made in Boston, but in Lowell Massachusetts by Portuguese immigrants. It irks us a bit, and we’ve boycotted the brand when they closed their plant in Lowell about 15 years ago. We’ve never eaten it since.

  30. Anthony’s mom today would have to make enough Prince Spaghetti for not only her family, but the police and CPS crew that would be waiting to take Anthony away after dinner…

  31. pentamom – I was thinking of people who would say, “You should be teaching your child to cook, not sending her off on her own outside!” It was less a response to you than inspired by you. Yes she is learning to cook, but she doesn’t want to cook all the time, and kids need exercise. And I don’t know if most people make the connection that if kids are only allowed outside with parents, they aren’t out nearly as often and they’re probably doing a lot more sedentary stuff.

  32. Drat, kid came home from school while I was typing and I ended the last sentence prematurely. OK, so I don’t think people always make the connection that if kids are only allowed outside with parents, they’re probably doing sedentary stuff a lot more, and they’re probably also not eating home-cooked stuff as much, and that combination is going to lead to weight gain.

  33. N — very good point. I get my back up also at people who give good advice (like “you should teach your kids to cook”) but it’s part of the response to everything that “you don’t spend enough time with your kids! You must do more! And MORE!!!!!” Or at least, “Here is something to do that you can do with your kids in the room, because of course you will always have your kids in the room.” That kind of stuff is everywhere.

    I teach my kids to cook in due course, but not because they have to be there in the kitchen just because I am.

  34. Ah, I remember it well…the commercial that is. We NEVER ate Prince pasta at our house. Every family that considers itself Italian would have had their pasta favorites, whether homemade or store bought. My neighborhood didn’t have city streets, but we were encouraged to play outside, in the woods, “within calling distance”.

    I grew up not knowing how to cook, however, and not really all that independent. There must be something more to it than just allowing/encouraging your children to run around the neighborhood.

  35. The ad is so much like when we were kids, except I was small town, rather than big city, in the 70s. Like most kids, my mum just sent my brother out side to yell when she wanted us home, LOL.

    Not all is lost though, at least where we are. It’s spring, still dark early and a bit cold, and today is my ‘midget’ child’s 12th birthday (still looks 7ish….). She took her friends down to the square down the road and played spotlight for a half an hour, and no-one hassled them – it probably helps that most of the neighbourhood was inside watching the first game of the World Cup on telly! Usually I send her older brother out with them if they’re out after dark, but he’s at a mate’s place watching the rugby too…..They had such a great time, communicating with each other by making ‘meercat noises’ (read shrieking!) periodically to check that all six were still there. And checking out the stars, in between getting torches flashed in their eyes!

    Great fun – makes me miss being a kid myself.

  36. One more person who didn’t eat Prince spaghetti, nor grew up in Boston, nor is Italian, but remembers the commercial well, using it as a touchstone. In the Jersey ‘burbs where I grew up, the “six o’clock whistle” (fire siren) was the marker for kids to head home for dinner (a) immediately or (b) within some other time frame, say 15 minutes. Independent of that, some suburban families did use bells or a triangle — my family used a conch shell hollowed at the tip to use as a horn; it was distinctive! Or closer-in parents (usually mothers in that day) just sang out for their children to come home. As best as I can recall, they all eventually made it home — every day — for years, reaping the best of Free-Range upbringing.

  37. What a cute story, thank you for posting the follow up! There was no Prince Spaghetti ads or Italian neighborhoods in small town Oklahoma, but I have been to Boston -once – and even ate at Regina’s (the waitress ordered my husband to sit down and shut up when he requested a table away from the bathroom).

    One nice thing about growing up in an unpopular, uncool place is that it never changes. I can go to my old hometown, Okmulgee, (aka Old Moldy) and except for a Walmart Supercenter, it’s exactly the same – only older. I have met people all over the world with some small connection to that town, however.

    I know every nook and cranny of “my” town from free ranging as a kid, while I have lived in my current home 12 years and can’t tell you the street name behind me or most of the neighbors across the street.

  38. Thanks for posting both the commercial and the follow-up story. I love the expressions on the faces of the mom and “Anthony” at the end of the commercial.

  39. I grew up in Chicago so we had the “be home when the street lights come on” rule. Of course, back then the lights didn’t come on until it actually started to get dark. Now they come on at like 5pm year round even thought it doesn’t get dark until 8:30pm in the summer.

    We live in a small town in WA and my kids know dinner is at 5pm. It’s their responsibility to get home on time. The food stays on the table until 6pm. If they don’t make it home on time, tough luck. Depending on my mood I might let them warm something up or make a sandwich but a lot of times they go without. They’ve learned to come home when they’re hungry or risk going without for the night. They don’t even ask for food if they come home after dark (because they know they should have been home earlier).

    During the summer I almost certainly kick them out the door when I’m making dinner. Our kitchen is too small to have 5 kids underfoot and it’s too hot (especially the last month here in WA) without AC and the stove going. I can’t take the constant interruptions. If they don’t go outside, I don’t cook, lol.

    In the winter when it’s raining they usually go watch TV in the other room or play in their bedrooms where they don’t get on my nerves. I’m sure I’ll eventually teach them to cook (they can use the microwave and toaster but are lacking on the actual cooking skills because I can’t deal with that many people in the kitchen).

    When I was a kid we used to spend a lot of summers up in Michigan with my mom’s family. Mostly at my Aunt Kitty’s house. When it was dinner time (around 6pm) she would stand on her front porch and whistle. It was so loud you could hear it for blocks and EVERYONE in the neighborhood knew that meant it was time to get home for dinner. It was hilarious because you’d hear that whistle float in on the breeze three blocks from home and whatever game, activity, fight that was going on immediately ended, everyone grabbed their bikes and took off in various directions. I was like 8 at the time and my cousin was 10.

    Earlier today I answered a question on a parenting sight. A mom wanted to know when it was okay to let her middle schooler hang out at the park with her friends and her not there. Six other moms had answered that they wouldn’t do it until the kid was at least 13 and only if they had met the parents of every other kid there and knew them well. *insert eye roll here*

    My kids are only 11, 10, 9 and 5 and they hang out at the park all the time. Well, the 5yo not so much. The older kids are getting to a point they don’t want her tagging along. Luckily she made a friend her age around the corner so the 2 of them just go back and forth between the 2 houses most of the time. The older 3, though, are all over the place. My 10yo son can mostly be found playing football in a field near the park with his friends and just about every other boy in the neighborhood between 6 and 15. The girls either hang out at the picnic tables or the dugout of the ball field or they just walk around.

  40. @Jen Connelly – good on you! I can’t believe people wouldn’t let kids out to something as basic as a park by themselves until they were 13. What in the world do people imagine is really going to happen to their kid, and if ‘it’ does happen, and they’ve reached that age without doing anything for themselves, how could they be expected to deal with ‘it’ anyway? I know that’s the whole point of this website, but attitudes like that of the parents you’re decscribing above just make me cross – plus very worried!

    The only one of my kids I have trouble letting out, and that’s because of others worrying about her, rather than the child herself, is my middle one, because she looks much younger than her age. Have always had to send the ‘baby’ , who looks older and is taller, along with her. Doesn’t make me popular with her, but prevents the inevitable questions from concerned strangers about what she’s doing out, and does mum know where she is….grrrr! Still get that, even in relatively free-range NZ…..

  41. I remember that commercial from when I was a kid, but the brand wasn’t Prince, it was Ronzoni, another of their brands, and likely the one sold in my region.

  42. @Hineata

    That’s pretty mild compared to some of the stuff I’ve read on that site. They were discussing allowing kids outside alone one day and many of the moms answered not until they were 10 and in a locked back yard with a dog. Before 10, even in the back yard, a parent must be around. To be out in the front yard alone they had to be like 15.

    Some people said they don’t allow their 16yos to leave their site in a store or anywhere in public. I wouldn’t be surprised if they still held hands. Geesh.

    On the discussion of when kids should learn to use sharp knives one lady told me no child under the age of 11 should ever use a sharp knife for anything. It’s just too dangerous. We were talking steak knives and cutting their own food. At the time my son was 5 and pretty proficient. I was told I was negligent for allowing it because he’ll cut his fingers off. Our serrated steak knives won’t slice off a finger, lol. He nicked himself once and learned his lesson about watching where his fingers were.

    I’ve noticed lately on the site there have been more free-rangey moms but they are in the minority and usually flamed for allowing even small amounts of freedom with the implication we are lazy and uncaring of our children and their safety.

    The extent of the helicopterness on that site makes me ill sometimes. There was one woman that said she would be walking/driving her kids to school every single day until they were 16 or 17 and had their own license and they would never be allowed out of her site. That was with the high school being like 1/2 mile away on her street. She said anything could happen.

    It cracks me up that she would keep them under her thumb until they had their own car then send them out into the world with no practice at independence while driving a 3000lb killing machine. Makes perfect sense. Then again, I have a feeling once her kids got that age she’d find a reason to not allow them to drive alone ever, even after 18. Those kids will probably be living with her their entire lives.

    Then there’s the parents that never allow a child under the age of 5 our of their site inside their house. EVER. Which means whatever room they go into the parents follow or the kid follows them. Mom needs to pee–all the kids under 5 go with her. Mom needs to cook dinner–all the kids are in the kitchen. Mom needs to nap because she has the flu–nope, she has to stay awake because it’s irresponsible to nap while the kids are awake even if they are 13. I’m serious. I’ve seen people write crap like that. Their kids never play alone in their rooms. If they want to go in their room mom sits on the bed with them. And supposedly these moms enjoy every moment of their imprisonment (because that’s what it sounds like to me). I think they’re full of it. But they consider me unfit because I don’t want to spend every waking moment of my life in the presence of my kids.

    It’s gotten to the point I rarely go to that site any more because the people there are crazy.

  43. @Mightjhavejoy – Try the Trixie Belden series. They were my favorites and my kids like them too. They’re pretty old so you may have to search for them but I found the entire set in a box at our local recycling center. They have a day every year that you can go and take any boks you want for free.

  44. […] Notice It Wasn’t, “Wednesday Is Negligent Parents Day” ( […]

  45. I think the Trixie Beldens are still in print, or were relatively recently. I heard about them just a few years ago and my daughters were able to get at least some of them from the public library.

  46. @ Jen – Love the thing about being locked in the backyard with a dog. Over the last few years a few children over here have been savaged, and a woman killed, by dogs their owners at least thought were safe. I have nothing at all against dogs, and obviously not a lot of people get savaged by them, but I wouldn’t mind betting that more children are savaged by dogs than are taken by strangers. I know that’s the case in NZ, where, in nearly 30 years, only one child under the age of 12 has been abducted and killed by a stranger. That’s still one too many, of course, but dogs here have been more of a danger. What’s it like elsewhere?

  47. P.S. What is this site you refer to? I could do with a little humourous stress relief at the moment!

  48. Haha! love that…reminds me of my childhood summers during the 60s. You got up, rounded up the neighborhood kids and just hung out under a tree patch. Playing with sticks and junk you made. You rode bikes, skated, jumped rope, walked and ran around. Then took turns playing in each others yards. Then we’d hear our moms call…..No day “camp” at zoos, youth centers, parks etc., standing in eternal lines, doing boring activities that are someone else’s ideas. La vita!

  49. A more recent commercial that shows a little kid out on his own and a parent not spazzing about it! I just saw this on tv and I love it!

  50. […] Readers! I love this idea that one of you sent regarding the Prince Spaghetti commercial. Enjoy it and have a great weekend — I’m off to Toronto to film another episode of my […]

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