SIDNEY UNDERWOOD - The Baby Boomer Generation, America Grew Into A Better Place

(12/04/2017)

By Sidney Underwood
I recently read an interesting fact. According to the latest statistics compiled in 2015, Millennials have now passed the Baby Boomers as the largest living generation of Americans. As I understand it, Millennials comprise a group of 75.4 million individuals surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers.

Millennials are individuals who are now 18 to 34 years of age. They are the most technological savvy group in history and are proficient with computers, smart phones, I-pads and other technological gadgets. They grew up playing X-Box and other computer games.

The Baby Boomers are in the age group of 51 to 69 years and Generation X individuals are in the 35 to 50 age group. Bear in mind, statements concerning these groups with special names are not exact because generations tend to fade into each other with over-lapping ages.

Tom Brokow was inspired to write a book about a group labelled The Greatest Generation. When World War Two ended, many of that generation went to school on the G I Bill and succeeded in life by entering various professions. Some women of that generation worked in defense plants and chose to remain employed in an expanding economy. As parents they instilled their values of “work and reward” in their children.

That Greatest Generation knew all about hard times, most of them experiencing, first hand, the Great Depression of the 1930’s. They placed greater value on education and the need for their children to strive to be successful in life. Those adults had no idea that fifty years later, they would have such a grand label placed on them.

The Baby Boomer children responded in a positive manner during a time when this country was expanding and gaining strength. They put in the extra hours, did the hard work, received the advanced degrees and prepared themselves to be engineers in various fields, doctors, lawyers and teachers as well as following other professional pursuits and America was a better place for what they accomplished.

Retailers took advantage of those Boomers by trying to convince them to purchase expensive items such as sports cars, brand name clothing, jewelry and other items undreamed of by their parents. In fact, I recently read that the Baby Boomer Generation was the most targeted group in the history of advertising. It was not surprising since they definitely had more disposable income than their parents. They enjoyed their success and moved forward with a”Can Do” attitude. The Boomers worked hard and felt that they deserved to be well rewarded for their efforts.

Now, about my Unnamed Generation. I belong to the group who were born between 1930 and 1945. We arrived just ahead of the Boomers. We were not a large group as many of our fathers were in the military during this time. As far as I know in my limited research, my generation does not have a name. We were much too young to serve in World War Two, but old enough to remember the Korean “Conflict” and saw the coming entanglement that was Vietnam.

My Unnamed Generation believed in an America as a place of opportunity. A place where dedication and hard work deserved to be rewarded. A place where people could find employment no matter their skillsets, race, religion or socio-economic status. An America where jobs were not outsourced to other countries and an America where management and labor did not view each other as necessary evils constantly engaged in an adversarial relationship. An America that accepted people of different ethnic backgrounds and didn’t take offense over minor things.

Many of my Unnamed Generation reached personal goals and achieved the American Dream. Some did not. Some of those Unnamed went into the military for a rewarding career while still others fought and died in Vietnam.

We entered the workforce at a time when jobs were plentiful. We deemed it normal to work thirty years for only one employer. We never considered the idea that someday some of our jobs would be given to an outside contractor or outsourced entirely to another country.

All generations brings social change. We have seen it time after time and the Unnamed Generation was no exception. Outside forces swayed our attitudes. For example, the Vietnam “Conflict” taught us to be skeptical of our Government when it came to intervening in other countries’ wars. And that skepticism led to the distrust that still holds today. The old anti-war saying” Old men start wars and young men have to fight them” still rings true. Doesn’t it seem funny now that wars are conflicts and given special names such as Desert Storm and Iraq Freedom?

There may never be another War, but rest assured, there will be many conflicts with special names in the future and the good old USA will be right there spending great sums and furnishing the most manpower and armaments keeping the world ”Safe For Democracy.” That oft repeated phrase was first uttered by President Woodrow Wilson after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles at the conclusion of World War One.

One would have thought that as each generation passed, the next generation would have benefited from knowledge bestowed upon them from a previous time. In the field of the sciences it holds true that we have made great progress over the years. As to sharing the planet with our neighbors in a harmonious way, we remain a work in progress. Does anyone remember Eisenhower’s warning about an out of control Military Industrial Complex? It is alive and well today.

In my opinion, we are witnessing today a generational dynamic not seen before. As stated, I have great respect for the Boomer Generation. They came forth just after my No-Name Generation. They are now retiring in record numbers as they approach Social Security age. I know, it seems incredible to think of Baby Boomers as getting old, but they are. As they leave the work force, they are taking with them the skills, dedication and work ethic that made our country strong. As a result, I see a downward trend that has been occurring for several years.

In a more pleasant thought, our No Name Generation grew up having the utmost respect for our parents. We had no problems accepting the fact that they made the rules for the household. We were taught to be responsible for our own actions at a very young age. But, like generations before, we also enjoyed our leisure time. We listened to programs on the radio such as: Richard Diamond- Detective, Suspense and The Lux Radio Theatre. One of my favorite radio shows was a police drama entitled, Broadway-My Beat. Listening to my radio late at night as a seven year old, I was right there with that officer walking down Broadway. For those of you who wonder, the broadcasts that I remember occurred during the early 1950’s.

My No Name Generation remembers when people sat on porches during summer evenings and held enjoyable conversations until the TV revolution occurred. We certainly embraced the age of television. We remember when several families would congregate in the home of someone lucky enough to have an early model black and white TV. We watched programs such Milton Berle’s variety show and Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour sponsored by American Car Companies. Dinah Shore urged us to see the USA in a Chevrolet. Ed Herlihy performed “Live” commercials extolling the virtues of Kraft Foods. Eisenhower was President and Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, was always flying off to some distant land to try to stop the spread of communism.

Everything was not perfect for my No Name Generation although it often is portrayed that way today on TV. Unlike Ozzie and Harriet, we knew about the ever present danger of the atomic age. We had bomb shelters in every city and town. Nuclear war was a real possibility and we learned to be prepared for it. We had Krushchev pounding a table at The United Nations with his shoe stating that he would bury us. He was an ugly bully just crazy enough that we had to take him seriously. The Gary Powers incident certainly did not ease tensions when his U2 plane was shot down in a secret spying mission over the Soviet Union. Saber rattling was an art practiced back then and continues to this day.

In school during the 1950’s, it should be said that we No Namers respected our teachers and school discipline was not a problem. Our High School teachers such as Fred Barnes, Donald McCartney and Glendon McKee had such a presence in the classroom that we students would never consider creating a disturbance. If we did, we knew there would be real consequences in school and later at home. We understood that our parents had no reservations about supporting our teachers, a novel idea, almost unheard of in todays’ world.

Breaking News Flash: I have just been informed that my No Name Generation actually has a name. My daughter, Melanie, has a friend named Misty. Misty is a psychologist and is astute in knowing the generational labelling occurring now. It has been brought to my attention that individuals born between 1925 and 1945 are now known as the Silent Generation, not to be confused with Nixon’s Silent Majority. I’m in this group, but I ‘m not as silent as I used to be.

I think something happens to us as we age that changes our outlook. It may be a combination of events that we have had in a lifetime of living that urges us to compare what we experienced with what we see happening now. Whatever it is, we must finally reach a point when we realize that the best counsel we should keep is ourselves. Our world is never going to be perfect and we are powerless to make it so. What we can do is hope and pray for a better day when we can all finally live in peace and harmony on this planet. One thing is certain, I will not see it in my lifetime.

Post Script: I want to take this opportunity to thank Bob Weaver for giving me a chance to write local stories of my time spent in Calhoun County. It all started for me with my memories of living on Hardman Alley and sort of took off from that point. I hope that I brought some pleasure to those who read my stuff and I hope that no one was bored to tears. My grammar and syntax was not always correct, but I did enjoy putting stuff together and spent hours here in front of my computer composing articles. Thank you so much, Bob, for the opportunity you gave me. Everyone take care. Sidney.


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