Talking About My Generation: Baby Boomers
Let the Good Times Roll
The Baby Boomers are my Generation. We were so named because of the increase in the birth rate following World War II. As the soldiers came home and married, bought houses and settled in the suburbs to raise families the birth rate soared. In the US baby boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964.
The parents of the baby boom generation had grown up in an era of deprivation. They had endured the depression and been taught frugality from an early age. But after the war, jobs were plentiful. The national economy boomed right along with the birth rate, and life was good.
The children of the Baby Boom have the reputation of having been born to privilege. We, and our parents, expected that we would be wealthier and better educated than all of the generations preceding us. Perhaps we had an over-developed sense of our own importance in the world.
The American Dream
We lived in a comfortable suburban home and barbecued with the neighbors on the weekends. We played Red Rover and Freeze Tag with the other kids on our block until the fireflies came out. Then we would hear each of our moms calling us in to dinner.
On Halloween we went trick-or-treating by ourselves. We got homemade candy apples and popcorn balls from neighbors we trusted, and we ate them. We walked for miles and stayed out until all of the porch lights went out.
What a Time it Was
A Time of Innocence... and Segregation
As idyllic as that time was, there were things going on around me that I didn't even notice. I was born the year of Rosa Park's historic bus ride (1956). I lived in central Louisiana, and nearly every family I knew had a negro maid. We loved our own Corrine very much, and I believe she loved us, but her kids could not go to my school.
Even though when I started school it had been several years since the Supreme Court's historic decision on Brown v. Board of Education, in 1954, I went to a school where there were no black kids. As a small child, this was something I just took for granted. That's just the way it was.
We were the first generation to grow up with TV, and it was a huge influence on us. Our parents had grown up with radio, but for as long as I can remember every family I knew had a TV. Watching Walt Disney on Sunday nights as a family was a highlight of the week. TV entertained us, but it also brought the world to our living rooms.
JFK - The President is Dead
One day I came home from school to watch my Popeye cartoons as usual, but they were not on. All that was on was the news. The president had been shot. The vice-president was sworn in as Jackie Kennedy stood beside him in her blood spattered jacket and skirt.
It seemed like it went on forever. The nation was in mourning. The round the clock coverage continued throughout the funeral. I felt bad for the president's poor wife and children. Caroline Kennedy was just a bit younger than I was; her little brother saluted his father's casket as it went by.
The British Invasion
When the Beatles came to the US in 1964, it changed music, seemingly overnight. It seemed that all of America watched their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show February 9th, 1964.
Want To Hold Your Hand was hugely popular, even among grade-school kids. We used to sing it while playing on the swings.
Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits was so cute, how could Mrs. Brown's daughter treat him that way?
Eric Burdon of The Animals was a little edgier than most of our idols. A sign of things to come.
I just have to hear the intro to this song, it really takes me back to another time and place.
Mod Fashion, the Mini Skirt
When I was in Junior High and High School, the length of your skirt was a big deal. Girls were made to kneel on the ground so school administrators could measure how far above the knee their skirt went. I think at my school they had to be less than 4 inches above the knee, which is still pretty darn short.
Men Walked on the Moon
One Small Step for Man...
In May of 1961 President Kennedy had announced a new goal for the space program, the goal of putting a man on the moon, and bringing him safely home before the end of the decade. That was a goal that was pushed forward by President Lyndon Johnson after Kennedy's death.
Apollo 11 landed on the moon on 20 July 1969. I was 13 years old when I, along with the rest of the world, watched Neil Armstrong take mankind's first steps on the moon. In the photo below you can see him in the reflection of Buzz Aldrin's face shield.
The Anti-War Movement and Social Change in the 60s
Under President Johnson, US involvement in the war in Vietnam escalated. There was unrest on college campuses across America.
As they came of age, the war in Vietnam was a huge area of concern for Boomers. College campuses were occupied and draft cards were burned in protest.
Many of the children who had been born into that idyllic American Dream began to defy authority and reject the lifestyle that our parents had envisioned for us.
I was in high school at the height of the anti-war movement. Many young boomers had a strong sense of political involvement and social justice.
Rock music was the voice of the youth movement. We often took delight in its shock value. We were special, and old people didn't understand us or our music.
OK Boomer: We Didn't All Die Before We Got Old
Now we are the grandparents. We are the older generation that the young people are rebelling against. The source of all of their problems.
Back in the late 60s, I remember hearing about the generation gap. The older generation didn't understand us; our hair was too long, our music was too loud. There was that whole youth movement thing, we were going to change the world. You were not supposed to trust anyone over 30. We were pretty full of ourselves. 30 comes very quickly, with 40, 50 and 60 not far behind.
So, here we are now. We are the parents and grandparents. Take heed millennials, you are the new us. Before you know it, you'll be part of the generation nostalgically thinking back to the old days. The old folks that do not understand young people, and their weird music, weird hair and weird clothes.
The funny thing is, we are now in this politically correct age of acceptance. We are not supposed to judge people because of their color or race. Religious discrimination is taboo. Being gay was something that was usually kept in the shadows when I was young. Now people are free to be who they are, and society accepts that. These are all good things, but for some reason people still feel free to openly judge someone just because of their age bracket.
It seems to me like the generation gap is wider than it ever has been in my lifetime. People seem to feel free to generalize and denigrate people simply based upon what time period they were born in and that goes both ways. Young people blame the older generation for everything that's wrong with the world, and old people think young people are a bunch of lazy, entitled wimps.
Of course this is a wide generalization. I don't think this is as true as it may feel; it gets so amplified on social media. Most boomers don't hate their children or grandchildren, and most millennials don't hate their parents or grandparents.
The only thing people of a generation have in common is that they all grew up and lived through the same part of history. We have common experiences of the big events: wars, assassinations, 9/11. We have nostalgia for the same popular music and TV shows, the same fads and fashions. However, there is, and always has been, great diversity in the experiences, thoughts, beliefs and actions of the people of any generation.
Some people grow up in privilege, some grow up in poverty. Some go to war, some protest that war. If you look at how close almost every election is, you can see that just because a certain political party is in power does not mean that an entire generation wants it that way.
I found this meme that has a divisive message, but if you take away the headings, I think it actually shows how similar boomers and millennials really are. We all want to change the world.
© 2019 Sherry Hewins