I just ran across this article, stored on my computer, and thought, once again, how perceptive it is. No one under 70 years of age will fully understand it, but for those of us growing up in those years, it’s a look back at what could rightly be called “the best of times.”
It also sets the stage for what then happened in the ’60s.
A version of this seems to have been written by Denise Eyherabide, but there are somewhat different renditions online. Plus, I have edited it somewhat.
We are the “Last Ones.” Born in the 1930s and ’40s, we exist as a very special age group. We are the last generation, climbing out of the depression, who can remember the winds of war and the impact of a world at war which rattled the structure of our daily lives for years.
We are the last to remember ration books for everything from gas to sugar to shoes to stoves. We saved tin foil, flattened cans, and poured fat into tin cans.
We saw cars up on blocks because tires weren’t available.
We can remember milk being delivered to our house early in the morning and placed in the “milk box” on the porch.
We are the last to have heard Roosevelt’s radio assurances and to have seen the gold stars in the front windows of our grieving neighbors whose sons died in the war.
We saw the “boys” come home from the war and build their Cape Cod–style houses, pouring the cellar and tar-papering it over until they could afford the time and money to complete building.
We are the last generation who spent childhood without television; instead, we had mental images of what we heard on the radio. “Up in the sky … look … it’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s Superman!”
As we all like to brag, with no TV, we spent our childhood “playing outside.” There was no little league. There was no city playground for kids. We made baseball diamonds on empty lots until someone built a house on the empty lot.
With war-busy parents and the lack of television in our early years, we had little real understanding of what the world was like. On Saturday afternoons, the movies gave us newsreels of the war and the holocaust, sandwiched in between westerns and cartoons.
Telephones were one to a house, often shared (party lines) and hung on the wall in the kitchen (no cares about privacy).
Computers were called calculators, they were hand cranked; typewriters were driven by pounding fingers, sliding the carriage, and changing the ribbon. The “internet” and “Google” were words that did not exist.
Newspapers and magazines were written for adults and the news was broadcast on our radio in the evening by Gabriel Heater and later Paul Harvey.
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 opened many factories for work.
New highways brought jobs and mobility. Veterans joined civic clubs and became active in politics. In the late ’40s and early ’50s the country seemed to lie in the embrace of brisk but quiet order as it gave birth to its new middle class.
The radio network expanded from three stations to thousands.
Our parents were suddenly free from the confines of the depression and the war, and they threw themselves into exploring opportunities they had never imagined.
We weren’t neglected, but we weren’t part of today’s all-consuming family focus. Our parents were glad we played by ourselves until the street lights came on. They were busy discovering the postwar 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 went.
We enjoyed a luxury; we felt secure in our future. Of course, just as today, not all Americans shared in this experience. African Americans didn’t have the same opportunities as did white people. Depression poverty was deeply rooted. Polio was still a crippler.
The Korean War was a dark passage in the early ’50s 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 came of age in the late ’40s and early ’50s. We are the last generation to experience an interlude when there were no threats to our homeland.
The war was over and the cold war, terrorism, “global warming,” technological upheaval, and perpetual economic insecurity had yet to haunt our lives.
Only our generation can remember both a time of a great war, and a time when our world was secure and full of bright promise and plenty. We lived through both.
We grew up at the best possible time, a time when the world was getting better — not worse.
We are “The Last Ones.”