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Remembering the Past with Honor

Updated on November 25, 2016

Old Glory

Let freedom ring
Let freedom ring | Source

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

My mother, father and me after I was born on base in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey
My mother, father and me after I was born on base in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey | Source

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.

Interstate Highway

Driving to Connecticut
Driving to Connecticut | Source

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

The boy in the middle is me. Although we didn't have much money, we knew how to have fun. You don't know you are poor if everyone else in the neighborhood is poor too.
The boy in the middle is me. Although we didn't have much money, we knew how to have fun. You don't know you are poor if everyone else in the neighborhood is poor too. | Source

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.

Simple Meals

Corned beef on rye sandwich
Corned beef on rye sandwich | Source

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?

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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

Andrew Sisters Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy


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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 23 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      I just visited three childhood friends of mine recently and this is exactly what we talked about. My friends were born to a physician, the other one to a lawyer and the other one, a school principal. I was born to a businessman. We were very happy going to school, all of us just in our slippers and we felt we were all poor and privileged. Second hand clothes were the norm as we all grew up in big extended families and community of friends. It is not fair, of course, to judge the other generation from the eyes of ours. Each gene ratio will make its own mark to history.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 4 years ago from TEXAS

      Hello, dear Dennis! Interesting subject!

      I was a ‘Depression Baby’, born in 1932. It was not a big thing, though. My older siblings felt the brunt of it more than I did. Mother would make them clothes for school from older clothes, but they wouldn’t last through a washing or two and then she’d make them more. We had two domiciles. Town during school months and ranch all summer. Since ranch had been carved out of the wilderness even before 1929, and since my parents had always had to scrimp and save to make the mortgage payments, nothing too much changed, as as far as I knew - things were pretty much as always. We had indoor plumbing and electricity in town but neither at the ranch. Modern appliances were not in existence for either domicile. Our vehicles were primarily for business use, all Fords, all black and mostly for doing the ranch’s work.

      In town there was a good public school system, but I was a bit precocious and was enrolled in a one-room-8-grade schoolhouse with one teacher when I was 4-1/2 and not eligible for first grade in the public school. There was no “K” grade then. The next year after completing the first grade in the one-room school, I was accepted into public school in 2nd grade at 5-1/2. A lot of my memories of ‘those ole days’ seem rather different than others’, simply because of a kind of uniqueness in our family situation. My parents’ early memories were from the ‘Gay 90s” - the 1890s. My elder siblings were from the Roarin’ 20s. I’ve so many connections with so many decades even beyond my own 8 of them, that there are few ‘old memories’ which are really totally unknown to me by close experience.

      But highways were 2-lane across the country. Telephones were quaint and telephone numbers were even more so. Ours was 491-J. My best friend’s was 72. Postage was a penny for a postcard and 3 cents for a first-class letter.

      You’re right that respect for authority was taken-for-granted and no one expected entitlement of any kind. During the Depression, people were jobless and homeless and came around asking for a meal - and they happily worked for the meal they got of the family’s fare, served them on the porch steps.

      Language and what it represented did tend to be ‘old-fashioned’ - certainly by today’s standards.

      All through school and college, I wore only skirts and dresses. Pants were seldom worn, and only in the country or on picnic ‘outings’ where they were the more modest choice. When I graduated college and had my first job, I wore the dresses or suits, heels, hose, gloves, and hats you mention. No woman would be seen in church without a hat.

      All that said, I say that every generation from the ancient Greeks to the present has regarded their generations as the last one with any standards and the later ones as leading to doom. I like to look to the living for hope and inspiration. If not with them, where? They will have to work out their own ‘salvations’ from the actual realities facing them. They could probably use a ‘boost up’ that fits their challenges. They’re not ever going to be dealing with things as I knew them when I was living my challenges but theirs are just as valid and they will need to rise to their own.

      Good hub, Dennis. I do enjoy basking in the earlier light from time to time and I believe with all my heart that history has value and ignorance of it means reliving the same mistakes.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I can relate to many of the topics you touched on here. The depression proved man can survive under the most dire living circumstances. I am chuckling at some of the sayings you posted. I recall hearing "spank them till they're glad, glad you stopped." I enjoyed the read.