One America Ends, Another Begins
The family had lived in smaller, less dramatic houses before this one was even built. Now that the building business was booming right along with the postwar baby business, and with Dad getting established in his career, getting a new home was the order of the day.
Most veterans and their wives viewed this as a necessity. For vets, it was in the interest of and essential to getting their own interrupted lives back on track, so they could continue pursuing goals and ideals of their lives they'd dreamed of before shipping off to theaters of the war, where they became solidified into firm ambitions.
Many had just emerged into service from college which they'd at least begun prior to December 7, 1941. A few lucky ones had already graduated, which gave them immediate entry into commissioned service.
For those who had progressed toward their graduation enough to highlight them for possible officers' training, the military service of their choice provided officer-bound training at prominent colleges to be completed before assigning them to their battle areas. Junior and Sonny’s father had been in that category; and after going to several prominent universities where the Navy had set up pre-Officer's Candidate School and then finishing the OCS program at the Naval Academy, he went into the service as a junior officer on the ship to which he was assigned, which had proceeded to its assignment in the South Pacific.
The lad, our boomer named Sonny, was only about seven years old when the family had moved into a beautiful new house on a brand-new street, which was yet to be paved. This was the flagship house for the new development.
Sonny and his older brother, Junior, a boomer of the earlier post-war years, shared a room in this grand new home. It was not a large room, but it was a sunny upstairs room with high windows facing west. Immediately upon leaving its confines through the door at the far-end of the upstairs hall, one was greeted with the instantly visible panoramic view of the spectacular living room below that loft-like hallway. The other bedrooms and bath opened onto the hallway and the open staircase led down to the lower level.
The living room's spectacular ceiling rose from the house’s front one-story wall which had a big fixed-glass window overlooking the small front yard and from that level, the ceiling swept up at a steep angle to meet the peak of the house above the room’s inside half-wall. This dramatic two-story wall featured a stunning stone fireplace which opened all the way through that "divider" wall to present the other side with its own stone fireplace in a wall which included a built-in bookcase and a long homey stone hearth for the large family room.
Both rooms shared an open spacious terrazzo-floored entrance-way which opened into an elegant dining area, all part of the same space with no walls except the fireplace wall only halfway across the floor area. The living room had a shag carpet, while the family room had an asbestos tile floor, good for family games and activities and typical of homes being built then.
The family room's walls were 10-foot tall which lent it a cozier ambiance than the drama of the living room with its breath-takingly steep slope. The sense of spaciousness and lack of confines throughout the downstairs living areas was wonderful.
Anyone coming to the front door was greeted with a dramatic view of the inside of the house, with its open staircase on the side wall, the open loft-like hall upstairs - but most of all the sweep of the living room ceiling. Dad had suggested to the builder leaving the stairway open, in lieu of a solid wall and coat closet underneath it the building plan called for. The effect was much more arresting than any other houses which would be built on the street.
All the vets had goals and visions for their futures, in which they would follow in footprints of past generations but more efficiently. Their wartime experiences had expanded their expectations of reaching those goals faster. The atmosphere of dynamic movement had gained momentum with the war efforts and the generation who had provided the "people power" to accomplish it all. Their visions of personal success had been accelerated but they would build with principles on which they'd been reared. Decency, honor, persistence were their instilled standards. When War had interrupted their more leisurely quest of their own "stars" it merely added & intensified those elements of greater focus and determination. It became their purpose to get back to making their marks and building on their dreams.
They had the tenacity which had seen those former generations through wars and economic depressions and helped produce these incredible new opportunities which these vets could now more fully appreciate.
If war had suggested other choices as they had experienced other cultures, it was but a temporary side-trip from which they expected to (and were expected to) return and come back to the girl back home and resume the standards - and the prejudices - which were very much in the mold of their parents and their parents’ parents which they'd learned from infancy.
They had a kind of cocksure confidence which radiated from a sense of security in knowing who they were and who they came from. They weren't distracted with questions of who or what is "right". They simply didn't doubt that the way they were trained WAS right. It wasn't a decision, it was an assumption.
Going into other countries to help win battles as heroes, where other countries were already ravaged by battles those strong young heroes were welcomed without challenge, further boosting their confidence in their attitudes, their humor, their abilities. They returned to their communities almost as they were before except for being more reassured than ever. It's rather shocking to sit through a "war movie" of the 40s and 50s and see how cocky and - actually, rather obnoxious - the attitude of superiority really was, and so taken for granted that no one seemed to have thought to question it in real life or in making the movies!
Back home afterwards, these young men and the few military women returning fully expected to earn their economic independence and to provide for their families as prior generations had always done, except better and faster. Their chosen wives were expected to attend to the homes while it was up to them to provide the best housing and lifestyle for the homes possible and they felt sure they were up to it.
If they needed to complete their college and career training, they did so. If they were already prepared to enter the work force, they did that. The services offered education assistance for veterans and it was unlimited, so that they could return later for graduate degrees if that were to become their choice.
G.I. Bill - Education
So in a few years, couples were getting established, having children, buying homes and becoming the continuing members of communities and fulfilling the lifestyles of their visions. The new affluence following the War began to open up more and more "extras" for them, more than they'd even known to expect, while acceleration of the pace following the war left little time to analyze or to critically evaluate any of that.
The Dads were absorbed in "making it" and their wives were swept away with the blossoming of wonderful new experience as mistresses of their homes and a delightful affordability of it all.
Both genders had learned from their parents who had exemplified the lessons they intended to instill. Many of their parents took time to explain expectations in stories with morals in them and they knew they could expect the schools to support their values and teach them to their children.
As children the new parents had been expected to excel at school and likewise expected the same of their children. They'd had no "hang-ups" as kids nor did they expect their children to. Children in general were not expected to have any "nerves"! In fact, children weren’t regarded as psychological individuals at all. They were thought of somewhat like unformed wild things needing "training" and like pets were to be trained to "mind" and to "behave". They were expected to be little living testimonies to their parents high standards.
These new parents didn’t realize that their ideals were less obvious and self-proving now to the new generation than their predessors had been to them. In those previous times when transitions were smooth and orderly, they were taken for granted. Large families of many relatives had been close and shared the same standards. Now with greater mobility as the men responded to better work offers in distant cities, the transition of values from generation to generation simply met blockage. While new parents felt that they were providing their children even more to support their expectations, the very affluence contributed its own contrary effects. TV came into the home, bringing many influences other than examples of family elders, whose influences other than the parents' were most often missing from the homes and when present, were not honored as elders had been in the past.
The new parents had grown up having those influences in their own lives. They were taken for granted so that they had no concept how to replace them . They were were barely aware what was now missing. If their children misbehaved, it never occurred to them that it might be a cry for help. Child psychology consisted of one Dr. Spock whose advice contradicted parental guidance and recommended allowing children to decide when to eat and when to sleep but offered little in the way of counseling or guidance for parents or for children. His popularity attests to the confusion young parents were experiencing in the dichotomy of their world.
Kids were supposed to be grateful and were not supposed to complain. They were expected to 'play nicely'. So long as they raised no ruckus and refrained from imposing on parents' rest, work or entertainment with friends, little concern was directed to kids' little quirks and personalities. When they had disagreements, the wiser of the kids knew how to shift blame to the less aware, and to manage to come out looking heroic while the innocent unwittingly suffered the consequences. In a situation in which appearances counted and objective investigation was seldom used, the result was that there was damage done to tender self-images each time.
Kids lacking in perceived admired traits were given more stringent training and those displaying more perceived approved traits were rewarded with more approval. Parents expected conformity and were uneasy about variations.
The War experience seldom fitted its vets for introspection into themselves, much less their offspring who weren't expected to deviate in ways unfamiliar to their own. Yet too often no real connection was built through which the boomers could absorb the same values and adopt the same hopes their parents felt, except superficially.
For those unequipped to "get it", this factored out to be a growing gulf between them, while the youngsters who learned how to "act" or play the game were rewarded with success and were free to pursue their own interests, while those who were confused and at sea became either rebellious or lost, frustrated and cut off from themselves. And - unfortunately - virtually invisible.
Looking at it objectively, it was no one's fault. The older generation did what they knew to do and thought they were providing the best for their children. There was a gap so wide and deep, however, that it either inspired some to become rugged scrappers and others to become alienated and cut off, and mostly from themselves.
Results of the mis-match between expectations and what were the inevitable new realities are abundantly portrayed in the media of the times.
Movies which trace the young adulthood of boomers, such as "Born To Be Wild" and "Rebel Without A Cause" bring it out painfully.
In popular TV sitcoms of the period, kids who tried to conform came off as rubber stamps of their parents, - but parents’ ideal kids. nevertheless. Those who "acted up" were seen as brats or bad influences. The depth of that ideal was a veneer, however, although meant to present the ideal. But the depth of despair in many of the others of the generation was to be long-term and far-reaching for some.
Rebel Without A Cause - trailer
But let's not get so far ahead of our story. . . .
Sonny and Junior had many good times and too many battles "behind closed doors". And Mom and Dad had more than a few battles, as well - usually behind closed doors, but inevitably spilling over into everyday life.