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Remembering the Past with Honor
Recapturing the Past
The Greatest Generation did it. Baby Boomers are currently doing it and Generation X has started down the same path. Reminiscing about days of yore is a common denominator crossing all generational lines. Recapturing the past is something that never gets old.
America's Great Depression
I was always interested whenever my Depression Era parents told me stories of their childhood memories. It was amazing to learn my father and his two brothers slept in one bed. The three brothers often joked that the first time they ever climbed in a bed alone was during their military service in World War II. Additionally, there wasn't any indoor plumbing in my dad's family home and trips to the outhouse with the lantern in hand, were a daily occurrence.
Birth on an Army Base
A One Room Schoolhouse and No New Shoes
My mother’s early years were spent in the North Country, on the shores of the Saint Lawrence River, in a home without electricity. She attended a one-room schoolhouse. The first students to arrive in the winter needed to bring in the firewood and start the wood burning stove for heat. Both of my parents wore second-hand clothes. They talked about their worn out shoes with holes in the soles and cardboard inserts they would fashion in a fruitless effort to keep their feet warm and dry.
No Sense of Entitlement
The Greatest Generation did not grow up with a sense of entitlement. Instead, this group of men and women were trailblazers. They carried into adulthood a code of hard work and discipline. They built our interstate highways, bridges, factories, and schools for the new suburban neighborhoods that sprung up all across the country. New Chevrolet's, Fords and Oldsmobile’s were proudly parked in the driveways of cookie cutter homes. Yes, the United States was experiencing tremendous economic growth that ushered in an explosion of middle-class families.
We Were All Poor
Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child
Post World War II is when America became pregnant and rhythmically the Baby Boomer Generation was born. It is funny and nostalgic at the same time thinking how my dad could never utter the word pregnant. Oh no, for you see, my father’s generation was taught to say, “In a family way” when referencing a pregnant woman. Children were to be seen and not heard. Spare the rod and spoil the child was a common theme. “Stop that crying or I’ll give you a reason to cry,” are words many in the Baby Boomer Generation grew up hearing from their parents. Whenever family and friends gathered for dinner the adults would sit at the table in the dining room. On the other hand, children would be seated around a wobbly legged card table. There was an unwritten law for adults and children alike. We all understood that adults discussed big people topics while children were relegated to another room and out of earshot.
Waste Not and Want Not
The Greatest Generation subscribed to a philosophy of waste not, and want not. Meals were not grandiose, but instead, we ate comforting morsels of home cooked goodness. Second choices for finicky children didn’t exist. We were taught to either eat what was in front of us or go to bed hungry. I knew it was going to be a long and painful dinner when I would smell the fried liver and onions as I walked up the driveway. The odor and texture of fried liver literally gagged me. My father couldn't grasp the concept of me not eating what was in front of me. Vivid memories of being in combat in the jungles during World War II would overwhelm my dad. He would make a fist as his face turned red and yelled at me, "How dare you not eat good food!? I saw children eat my garbage during the war!" I still couldn't swallow that horrible meal and would go to bed hungry that night. Kids also needed to memorize what was inside the refrigerator because if the door was open more than 2 seconds we would hear the standard scolding of “Close that door! Do you think your mother and I work for the power company?”
Suits and Dresses Were the Norm
From the 1940s to the 1960s we witnessed decorum in the way people dressed. Whether going shopping, to work, lunch or dinner, women wore dresses, nylon stockings, white gloves and pillbox hats. Men also got into the act with their suits, dress shirts, ties, cuff links, topcoats, and hats. My dad had on a suit and tie while attending hockey, baseball, and basketball games, including football games played in an outdoor stadium.
Two Presidents with a Military Background
It was more the exception than the rule for someone to wear their heart on their sleeve, as emotions were buried deep within. We honored our veterans as American Legion Posts burst at the seams with new memberships. Former five-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower became the 34th President of the United States. In 1961, the Greatest Generation elected President John F. Kennedy who was a decorated war hero. During World War II, Lieutenant Kennedy’s PT 109 boat was hit by a Japanese destroyer and subsequently he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corp medal for courage, endurance and excellent leadership. True to form for people of his era, Mr. Kennedy responded when asked about being a hero by saying, “It was involuntary. They sank my boat.”
A Presidential Assassination
Although there was a perception the Greatest Generation were stoic and insensitive, that all changed on the fateful day of November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It marked a day in history when an entire nation cried.
The Greatest Generation
Do you believe those born during the Great Depression really were the Greatest Generation?
A Proud Baby Boomer
This article permitted me to share my pride and love of those who came before me and paved the way for not only my generation, but for Generation X and beyond. Thank you, one and all.
WRITTEN BY: Dennis L. Page