Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Children of the 1930 and 1940

Children of the 1930s & 1940s "The Last Ones"
A Short Memoir
Born in the 1930s and early 1940s, 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 league.
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 ourselves.
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 50’s 
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 imagined. 
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 naïve belief that there 
was more where this came from, we shaped life as we 
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 1950s 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 1940s and early 1950s. 
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 
We did not have it easy. Our wages were low, we did without, we 
lived within our means, we worked hard to get a job, and 
harder still to keep it. Things that today are considered 
necessities, we considered unreachable luxuries. 
We made things last. We fixed, rather than replaced. We had 
values and did not take for granted that "Somebody will take 
care of us". We cared for ourselves and we also cared for 
We are the ‘last ones.’

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