“We didn’t know war–that would come later–we knew prosperity. We knew split-levels ‘n’ ranches built on abandoned potato farms in Long Island…We knew Schwinn bikes, hoola hoops, comic books, Howdy Doody, Annette, Toni Home Perms, paper routes, drive-ins, Nancy Drew, scout camp, Bert The Turtle. We kids played outside (’till those street lamps came on) supervised remotely by an unseen neighborhood watch,” said Frances Pulle.
Report by Paula Antolini
February 18, 2016 9:25AM EDT
A Stroll Down Memory Lane: ‘The Boomers’ by Frances Pulle
Carl D. Peterson’s “Children of the 30s–The Last Ones” prompted me to ponder my own generation. We were the “Boomers”–so named, so proclaimed because we were so many. More so when “War Babies” are added to our cohort.
We didn’t know war–that would come later–we knew prosperity. We knew split-levels ‘n’ ranches built on abandoned potato farms in Long Island…We knew Schwinn bikes, hoola hoops, comic books, Howdy Doody, Annette, Toni Home Perms, paper routes, drive-ins, Nancy Drew, scout camp, Bert The Turtle. We kids played outside (’till those street lamps came on) supervised remotely by an unseen neighborhood watch. We dined at whosever house we landed, sampling that family’s ethnic cuisine. I can’t recall anyone being allergic to chocolate milk, peanut butter sandwiches or Cheerios. Crazy talk like that would have been labeled subversive given the current political climate. Maybe two kids were overweight if that.
We kinda knew where our parents came from though they rarely discussed the old country” and only to each other. And, not in English. Grandparents back then favored black–head to toe–seemingly shopping the same Goth establishment. They did not play with us grandkids. Every family on our block enjoyed at least one scary ancient relative as a permanent house guest.
Boomers dressed for church, learned the Baltimore Catechism, prayed for an end to polio, wore saddle shoes, attended junior high, carried briefcases, babysat, did their homework. Little League was “boys only”. Girls hated “gym” and avoided sports–except cheerleading–the socially acceptable path up the food chain.
In high school boomers bullied, were bullied, academically tracked, gender-assigned either home ec/shop, did not (with the exception of “guidance”) receive counseling, went steady. We watched American Bandstand, listened to Cousin Brucie, read “1984”. We knew no minorities, single mothers or homosexuals. “Gay” meant happy. It was also a girl’s name.
On the homefront families shopped for clothing three times a year– September, Christmas, Easter–and paid cash. What else was there? Malls and credit cards were decades away. Eating out was confined to Mother’s Day or when something broke in the kitchen. Black and White was not a cookie but the T.V. most likely to inhabit most living rooms. Parents were not our pals and were too busy working and saving for “our college” which we were destined for like it or not.
“Our” college was vastly different. There was no open enrollment, support centers, safe zones, second chances. Being informed you were not “college material” was not considered hate speech.
We eventually knew war. The Vietnam War. Our war. We knew demonstrations, the draft, sit-ins, teach-ins, November 22nd, the Berlin Wall, Woodstock, Kent State. We thought we knew it all. We knew death. We fought for peace, Uncle Sam, civil rights, gender equality, humane treatment of animals. We organized the first Earth Day, May 1970. While we’re not the greatest generation we’ll settle for the “coolest”.
Prolonged adolescence/ delayed adulthood was not for us. We boomers
couldn’t wait to grow up and leave home. We felt different from our parents,
alienated even. College had radically changed us and seriously challenged our
values. We would not have a rapprochement with our parents until we birthed our own ungrateful offspring.
We’re probably the last generation to have it so good. The storied American
Dream. We owe our good fortune to the boom times in which we were raised
and to praise adverse moms and dads who were the tiger parents of their day.
Parents who recognized no limits for themselves and certainly none for their
children. In short, we were perfectly positioned to prosper as no other generation was–before, since, to come.
The very “Last Ones” to quote Mr. Peterson.