Goodbye to the Sun Kid

The price paid by Sun Kid.
The price paid by Sun Kid. KEITH LARSON

Photo get your attention? I didn’t include it to be gross.

It’s basal cell. I’m fine.

I was a Sun Kid growing up. I’ll bet most of you aren’t even one “degree of separation” from me on that front.

Endless days of bicycles and baseball, pool or beach. Tow-headed kid with short hair to boot. Until the later Sixties. Maybe the length helped. So far they haven’t cut anything off the back of my neck.

Playing baseball gave way to the bleachers; bicycles to motorcycles. Then it was everything outdoors with my own kids. Every vacation meant the sun, somewhere.

You have your own version of this – including the part where you didn’t think twice about the long-term effects of the sun. Not even the burns.

It’s not that there wasn’t any mention of the sun or sun tan lotion. It was something your mom made you do that you hated – like making you wear a hat on a cold day. You took it off when she wasn’t looking.

The only sun tan lotion I remember was Coppertone with that little girl losing her bathing suit bottom. Was there even any such thing as “SPF” then? There couldn’t have been much in the baby oil the girls used when they hit bikini-age. Or the Hawaiian Tropic, which I don’t think was more than oil, dark food coloring and coconut – at a higher price.

Besides, danger from the sun seemed as far off as the sun itself. People young and old drank and drove in the face of drunk driving deaths, did drugs in the shadows of Hendrix and Elvis and smoked cigarettes in spite of John Wayne and Uncle Bobby. My Uncle Bobby, who died of lung cancer. Every family had someone who died of lung cancer. I never knew anyone who died of skin cancer. But I’m hearing things since posting my photos.

“Lost my dad to melanoma in February.”

“I’ve had six surgeries ... the beaches ... did me in.”

“Lost my brother 10 years ago to squamous cell on the face.”

“My dad had these removed. ‘Just basal’ until ... he ended up losing part of his ear.”

I’ve been seeing a dermatologist twice a year having growths freeze-burned off. This last time he took one look at a new spot on my forehead and said, “That’s gotta go.”

So, it’s hats and long sleeve beach shirts, umbrellas, SPF 50 – and hoping it’s not too late. Amazing how easy it was to give up the sun worship once I realized the danger is a lot closer than the sun itself. I respectfully recommend you adjust your lifestyle. I wish I could go back and recommend it to that Sun Kid.

He probably wouldn’t listen.

Larson is the mid-morning host at WBT-AM (1110).