Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Children of the 30s & 40s - The Last Ones

A Short Memoir

Born in the 1930s and early 40s, we exist as a very special age cohort.  We
are the last ones.  We are the last, climbing out of the depression, who
can remember the winds of war and the war itself with fathers and uncles going
off.  We are the last to remember ration books for everything from sugar
to shoes to stoves. We saved tin foil and poured fat into tin cans.  We
saw cars up on blocks because tires weren't available.  My mother
delivered milk in a horse drawn cart.

We are the last to hear Roosevelt's radio assurances and to see gold stars in the
front windows of our grieving neighbors.  We can also remember the
parades on August 15, 1945; VJ Day.

We saw the boys home from the war build their Cape Cod style houses, pouring the
cellar, tar papering it over and living there until they could afford the time
and money to build it out.

We are the last who spent childhood without television; instead imagining what we
heard on the radio.   As we all like to brag, with no TV, we spent
our childhood playing outside until the street lights came on.   We
did play outside and we did play on our own.  There was no little

The lack of television in our early years meant, for most of us, that we had
little real understanding of what the world was like.  Our Saturday
afternoons, if at the movies, gave us newsreels of the war and the holocaust
sandwiched in between westerns and cartoons.  Newspapers and magazines
were written for adults.   We are the last who had to find out for

As we grew up, the country was exploding with growth.   The G.I. Bill
gave returning veterans the means to get an education and spurred colleges to
grow. VA loans fanned a housing boom.  Pent up demand coupled with new
installment payment plans put factories to work. New highways would bring jobs
and mobility.  The veterans joined civic clubs and became active in
politics.  In the late 40s and early 50s the country seemed to lie in the
embrace of brisk but quiet order as it gave birth to its new middle
class.  Our parents understandably became absorbed with their own new
lives.  They were free from the confines of the depression and the
war.  They threw themselves into exploring opportunities they had never

We weren't neglected but we weren't today's all-consuming family focus.
They were glad we played by ourselves until the street lights came on.
They were busy discovering the post war world.

Most of us had no life plan, but with the unexpected virtue of ignorance and an
economic rising tide we simply stepped into the world and went to find
out.  We entered a world of overflowing plenty and opportunity; a world
where we were welcomed.  Based on our naive belief that there was more
where this came from, we shaped life as we went.

We enjoyed a luxury; we felt secure in our future.  Of course, just as
today, not all Americans shared in this experience.  Depression poverty
was deep rooted.  Polio was still a crippler.  The Korean War was a
dark presage in the early 50s and by mid-decade school children were ducking
under desks.   China became Red China.  Eisenhower sent the
first "advisors" to Vietnam.  Castro set up camp in Cuba and Khrushchev
came to power.

We are the last to experience an interlude when there were no existential threats
to our homeland.  We came of age in the late 40s and early 50s.  The
war was over and the cold war, terrorism, climate change, technological
upheaval and perpetual economic insecurity had yet to haunt life with
insistent unease.

Only we can remember both a time of apocalyptic war and a time when our world was
secure and full of bright promise and plenty.   We experienced

We grew up at the best possible time, a time when the world was getting better
not worse.

We are the "last ones."

- Author Unknown

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