April 1, 2013 in Features

Boomers in line to change the world; someone else got there first

By The Spokesman-Review
 
What about them?

The generation wedged between the greatest generation and the baby boomers have two generational labels – the “silent generation” and the “lucky few.”

Unlike the baby boomers – clearly identified by sociologists as those born between 1946 and 1964 – the years-of-birth for this pre-boomer generation vary slightly.

The silent generation label usually describes the generation born between 1926 and 1942; many of their fathers fought in World War I. With the exception of the very oldest of this cohort, the silent generation – now between the ages of 87 and 71 – didn’t come of age in time to serve in World War II.

The generation drew the silent label because its members were considered conventional conformists, not prone to challenge the status quo.

However, some did rebel, including the so-called beat generation – writers, travelers and free spirits of the 1950s.

The lucky few label encompasses men and women born between 1929 through 1945. They are now between the ages of 84 and 68. There were only 41 million of them, compared with 78 million baby boomers.

They are considered lucky by some sociologists because they reached adulthood in the 1950s and 1960s when the economy was prospering.

The world was relatively peaceful, with the exception of the Korean War and the Cold War, both of which paled in comparison to World War II.

This generation enjoyed high employment rates and most retired with good pensions.

Famous members of this generation include Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis Presley and Sandra Day O’Connor.

Rebecca Nappi

Sources: Population Reference Bureau; “The Lucky Few: Between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boom” by Elwood Carlson; staff research.

Your turn, Gen X:

Conventional wisdom says the generation born right after the boomers resents baby boomers the most. If you were born between 1965 and 1982 and agree with this conventional wisdom – or would like to dispute it – email your thoughts to rebeccan@spokesman.com and look for the topic in an upcoming Boomer U section.

What about us, what about us.

Don’t want to cause no fuss,

But what about us – The Coasters

When Boomer U was introduced on these pages Feb. 4, I wrote on Facebook – tongue-in-cheek – that, unlike baby boomers, I didn’t consider myself self-absorbed, entitled or jealous.

I simply felt ignored.

What about us?

I was born in 1944, wedged between World War II’s greatest generation and baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. We were the lost generation, as if we never existed and our contributions were irrelevant.

I am approaching 69, and I feel I have a lot in common with boomers born in the mid-to-late 1940s. It is a feeling echoed by recent California transplant James Curtiss of Spokane, two months my junior.

“The media has given great attention to ‘boomers’ and a great deal of accolades to the ‘greatest generation,’ but I feel a large number of us have been left out of the conversation,” he wrote in an email to The Spokesman-Review.

I gave him a call to commiserate.

We lived and participated in the 1960s and ’70s upheaval that has come to define the baby-boom legacy. We enjoyed the same music and movies. We were classmates in school and served in the military together, courtesy of a draft that polarized a generation.

Curtiss went one step further. Maybe the baby boom was part of us.

“I contend,” he said during our phone conversation, “that the protest movement was started by Mario Savio and people at Berkeley who were our generation. Our generation started the whole ’60s movement. They (the boomers) kind of attached on afterwards.”

“The Times They Are a-Changin” Bob Dylan sang as you boomers went off to create a perfect world. Dylan, 71, is older than me.

You boomers attached on.

Women’s liberation (with its legendary bra burnings) was championed by feminists Betty Friedan (born in 1921) and Gloria Steinem (born in 1934). They are well older than me.

You boomers attached on.

Enlightened young men and women, you championed social change during those halcyon times: Civil rights and free speech; chaining yourselves to college administration buildings in war protests; communing in Haight-Ashbury where flower-haired hippies “turned on, tuned in and dropped out” of the establishment. Timothy Leary, older than me, coined that.

You boomers attached on.

Yes, sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll were prevalent, but like all of the above, nothing new. Jim Kershner has written extensively in The Spokesman-Review’s history column about brothels, opium dens and “lewd” dancing 100 years ago.

When the British invasion arrived in 1964 (interestingly, the year the youngest boomers were born) and revolutionized rock ’n’ roll, many of those now craggy-faced rockers were as old as or older than me.

You boomers attached on.

Living lifelong in the Spokane Valley, I mainly watched the phenomenon from the periphery. But as a noncombat soldier in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive of 1968, I witnessed firsthand the futility (if inevitability) of war.

I had a front row seat to history at the Mexico City Olympics when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised gloved fists on the medal stand in solidarity with black power. I was in Oakland a few years later when the Black Panthers and police clashed.

You didn’t trust anyone over 30 then. Today you all are well over 30. How do you like it now?

Eventually reality settled in and we entered the mainstream of work, rearing family and community involvement. “Mean streets” protest gave way to the power of politics. Hopefully that power, and our part in 1980s greed-is-good materialism, haven’t done irreparable harm.

Ultimately, I surmise, what makes the post-war baby boom different was its sheer numbers.

So you boomers must take responsibility for the overpopulation and global warming you lament today. By the baby boomer era’s official end in 1964, more than one-third of the country’s population was under 19. The chasm that alienated you boomer children from your parents (although the older we became, the smarter they were) is typical.

That’s why I contend that I should be a dues-paying member of your generation, not those boomers born in 1964, who could conceivably be the children of the oldest boomers, born in 1946.

Kidding aside, I’ve come to the realization that the post-war baby boom was simply an arbitrary period of time. Baby boomer is a synonym for human nature.

History repeats itself. One generation laps over into the next sharing both enlightenment and dark ages. Innovation that helped make life easier for society is not unique to one generation

Will the so-called self-absorbed generation improve the world or lead to its demise? Likely a little of each.

I can’t vouch for Gen X, Gen Y, helicopter parents or angst-filled Millennials, however.

My conservatism might warrant exclusion from the boomer club, but I contend stereotyping is pointless and dangerous, whether by generation or political certitude.

We’re all in this together.

My wife, Tambra, was born as the boom waned. My friends, by and large, are a decade-plus younger than me. Still writing about high school athletes, after 45 years, keeps me young.

So what about us? We are the bridge that filled the void between two of the most ballyhooed generations of history.

And I get to enjoy the better of two worlds.

If the post-war baby boom is the eve of civilization’s destruction, I will disavow responsibility.

But if you are society’s salvation, count me in.


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