This post introduced our blog in April. It’s a special post about those who came of age in the 1940s and early 50s, “the Last Ones.” We are the last ones who personally experienced the scarcity of the depression, the patriotism during World War II and the exuberance in that brief, post-war period when we felt safe and when the middle class was born. Your stories are special. Post your stories here. I’ll share them.
Excerpted from “A Memoir from the Homeland 1941-1955 © C. D. Peterson
All rights reserved
Born in the 1930s, 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 drama of “D Day” and the parades in August 1945; VJ Day.
We saw the ‘boys’ home from the war build their cape style houses, pouring the cellar, tar papering it over and living there until they could afford the time and money to build it out.
Children of the 30’s 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.
With war-busy parents and no television in our early years we picked up little real understanding of what the world was like. Our Saturday afternoons at the movies gave us newsreels of the war and the holocaust sandwiched 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. My small New England town saw General Motors come and bring
hundreds of jobs and a boom in real estate. A futuristic mall, the first of its kind, transformed our state highway and powered commercial growth. A local truck farmer was so short of labor that he brought in summer workers from Puerto Rico; another demarcation of before and after.
The G.I. Bill gave returning veterans the means to get an education and spurred colleges to grow. VA loans lit off 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 community 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.