How to Tell Good People from Bad People

NewImageI remember reading this pamphlet when I was a first or second grader living in Golden, Colorado. I can't remember if my school passed out copies, or if it came in the mail.

The page scans at Budget Raygun are low-res, but it looks like the pamphlet was published in 1964 by the International Order of the Golden Rule, an organization for "independent, family owned funeral homes that span the globe."

The advice in the book is good, but even as a callow youth I thought there was something bogus about the illustrations of "good people" vs "bad people." I couldn't find much difference between Mr. Good and Mr. Bad, and I found myself more attracted to the bad lady than the good one.


How to Tell Good People from Bad People


  1. But the text makes a lot of sense. This is basically anti-molestation literature. “They act bad only when alone with you or other children”…”Don’t wonder…tell!”

      1. The whole thing creeps me out, because it’s all implied. “Daddy, that man said the Soviet Union is a force for good in the world!” “That’s fine, dear, but did he diddle you?”

        1. I was wondering if there was an anti-communist screed in that pamphlet somewhere.  They look like good people you know.

      2. Maybe the point was supposed to be that it’s hard to tell “good” people apart from “bad” people based on appearances.

        1. It’s easy to tell the bad people from the good people based on appearances. That book I read when I was a child in the 80’s clearly illustrated that the bad people who try to abduct children all have shadows across their faces even in broad daylight!

          1. Only “Wire Mother” gives milk us!

            Also penciled eyebrows, untwisted coathanger purse in.

            Can’t convince new wife wear stilettos net hose.

            Sad us

        2. Essentially, don’t judge a book by its cover.
          Which is ironic because I am doing exactly that with this particular book.

    1. 9.5 out of 10 parents and respected adult authority figures are in favor of ‘stranger-danger’ themed anti-molestation literature…

    1. BAD people may ask you to ride in a car.

      O RLY?  Are these BAD people likely to be any drunker than Mommy and Daddy?

      BAD people may offer you candy or money.

      Thanks, but Mommy and Daddy have already taught me the hard way how to tell M&Ms from sleeping pills.

      BAD people may invite you into an empty house.

      And Mommy and Daddy will be fucking pissed that somebody else is horning in on their prerogatives.

  2. I found myself more attracted to the bad lady than the good one.

    Isn’t that generally true to life, though?

  3. I vaguely remember a safety coloring book being passed out in Kindergarten or first grade. It had a lot of the same advice, but with better artwork. I recall a picture of a kid writing down a license plate number in the dirt with a stick.

    1.  Holy crap I don’t remember anything else but I’m pretty sure I know which picture you’re talking about. I remember as a kid thinking that was a pretty dumb idea because the number would just get washed away in the rain and that it would be easier to just memorize the number (it rained a LOT where I grew up.)

  4. I have a funny feeling this booklet was given out by the “Harry J. Hill Funeral Home” when Harry himself said, “Look! I deal with dead bodies all day but I am not a creep! We need to hand these booklets out to all kids who stand awkwardly in front of this funeral home so they know that Harry J. Hill is not a creep!”

      1. Harry J. Hill is not a creep! Please allow him—and his staff—to properly dispose of your loved ones bodies!

    1.  Not to be a Debbie Downer, but maybe Harry Hill was just sick and tired of embalming dead kids with mysterious bruises, anal tears, and lacerations. If your job involved mopping the semen off a dead three-year-old, you might have an opinion.

      Adding, that what I find creepy is the way that these old anti-molestation media dance around a) the sexual nature of child molestation, and b) the likelihood that the molester was Dad, or Uncle, or Coach, or Priest. All of which was well known at the time, but couldn’t be said out loud. (Presumably because the desire to maintain hierarchical institutions outweighed the welfare of children.)

      I am old (relatively), and come from good rural stock. When Farmer Brown down the road told the sheriff his son fell out of the hayloft, that was that. Everyone knew better, but no one said anything.

      When people bemoan the immorality of the present age, I like to point out that unlike the past, today when family members or authority figures abuse children, we put them in prison. This is a huge advance in human morality, a major sea change comparable to the Code of Hammurabi or the presumption of innocence. And when people do look the other way (Catholic Church, Penn State), it’s a major outrage, instead of business as usual. And, oddly enough, we have 1980s daytime talk shows to thank for this. Thanks Oprah, Maury, Phil, etc., for making childhood sexual abuse something that can be said out loud.

      1. A friend of mine in high school had been molested, repeatedly, over a period of years, by her father.  Another girl I knew — not a friend — was going through much the same experience with her stepfather.

        Teachers knew, too.  In fact, the school nurse risked her job and a whole lot more by helping my friend get an illegal abortion to deal with the result of said abuse.  And one teacher had tried to go to the local sheriff with a report of abuse.  But this was very-rural-Colorado, and the local sheriff was buddies with my friend’s father.  Nothing ever happened.  Except continuing abuse, that is.

  5. What you can learn from the illustrations is that who is good and bad is mainly a matter of perspective.

  6. I don’t know about the people, but that cat really does look like it wants to kill me.

  7. If a bad person touches you in a movie theater, run and tell Usher. He likes bad people and will know what to do with them:

    “I hear you sayin’/I need a bad girl/If you’re a bad girl”

  8. I found myself more attracted to the bad lady than the good one.
    Isn’t that always the way…

  9. For a six-year-old, this is a valuable lesson. Sadly, I have known a lot of people whose moral development ended with “good people and bad people.”

    1. Yep, by nine or ten you should realize things are quite a bit more nuanced. The birther-commie-Muslim-death panel-Obama is gay-anticolonialist people are still stuck at age 8.

  10. bad people present themselves in exact profile. good people are closer to a 3/4-view, and of course good women pivot their heads sharply to the left. (oops, too late.)

  11. Wow.  How did I ever reach adulthood without this pamphlet?   [I was also an elementary school kid in the same area of Colorado at about the same time… I clearly remember the droughts and the water rationing and oil/gas shortage(s) but I do not recall any education of good vs bad people.]

    1. Yes, the good people will look just like Mommy and Daddy, and the bad people will look funny and different.

  12. I don’t think we tell our 5 year olds to ‘look out for bad people’ anymore.

    Instead we go to obsessive lengths to make sure no one who could possibly be bad gets near a kid – or does anything that might be bad in a public space near a kid.

    I’m thinking of the UK indoor play centre that has banned men and male children over 9. I’m thinking of the woman who ran out of a building as I passed on a public footpath, to explain it was a nursery ‘and we had to be very careful of people passing by with cameras’ (I had my binoculars, for the nature reserve up the path).

  13. I remember seeing this pamphlet when I was a kid.  It kind of freaked me out, made me start thinking about “the evil in the world”, but I agree, the “bad” woman looked more attractive than the “good” woman, which confused me.

  14. Well, (1) the bad woman should be more attractive than the good woman because the good woman represents your mother [eww], (2) why is is male parental unit gets the softer “Daddy” moniker but the female parental unit is referred to consistently as “mother” ? Was this written by Norman Bates?, (3) the idea of cops as always in the good category made me spit coffee out of my mouth…but on second thought, even dick cops that would happily taze you and me and beat their own children are usually nicer to strange kids so it’s not entirely bad advice for a young kid, and (4) I was thrown by the sudden switch to “now let’s talk about squirrels…”

    1. The policeman is the friend of the kid who’s being chased by the serial killer, as long as he is not also engaged in peaceful protest.

  15. Well, the anti-molestation part is obvious. I learned that in Kindergarten.
    (although the advice only ever concerned strangers. Afaik people in the extended family or friends of the family are generally more likely to be “bad”
    That thing about strange animals .. oh gee, I always played with any cat I ever met anywhere. Never was a problem, but well. I just learned to wash hands after you touched an animal.
    But then … never play with kids who are not your age? wtf? I mean, okay, the big kids were always picking on us, at least some of them, at least on some of us (almost always including me). But I wouldn’t have played with them anyway. Apart from that, why would I not play with younger/older kids? As long as you find some sort of common ground, why wouldn’t you?
    At least there was nothing about communists.

  16. This is like, the exact opposite of the pamphlet our friendly funeral home gave me! They said I should play with electric wires, and chase balls into the street, and hang around seedy parts of town. Oh, and they said to be sure and burn the book, and ps: Isn’t fire fun?

  17. Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that the pamphlet uses “Mother” and “Daddy”?

    If you want to be formal, you’d use “Father”; if you wanted to be informal, you’d use “Mommy/Mummy”. Mixing the two just seems odd…

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