“The Last Ones?”

Children of the 30s “The Last Ones”   ….A Short Memoir (by Anonymous…Z is NOT this old!!)

“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.

home from war

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 parades on August 15, 1945; VJ Day.

We saw the ‘boys’ home from the war build their Cape Cod style houses, pouring the cellar, tar papering it over and living there until they could afford the time and money to build it out.

We 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.

playing in the fifties

The lack of television in our early years meant, for most of us, that we had little real understanding of what the world was like.  Our Saturday afternoons, if at the movies, gave us newsreels of the war and the holocaust sandwiched in 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.   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 put factories to work. New highways would bring jobs and mobility.  The veterans joined 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.

Our parents understandably became absorbed with their own new lives.  They were free from the confines of the depression and the war.  They threw themselves into exploring opportunities they had never imagined.  We weren’t neglected but we weren’t today’s all-consuming family focus.  They were glad we played by ourselves ‘until the street lights came on.’  They were busy discovering the post war world.

fifties home

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.  Depression poverty was deep rooted.  Polio was still a crippler.

The Korean War was a dark presage 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.

safety drill

We are the last to experience an interlude when there were no existential threats to our homeland.  We came of age in the late 40s and early 50s.  The war was over and the cold war, terrorism, climate change, technological upheaval and perpetual economic insecurity had yet to haunt life with insistent unease.

Only we can remember both a time of apocalyptic war and a time when our world was secure and full of bright promise and plenty.   We experienced both.”

total living

We grew up at the best possible time, a time when the world was getting better not worse.

Z:  Agree??  And I wonder if our kids today knew these things how they’d feel?  I know many feel LEAVE IT TO BEAVER is silly these days;  did you know that the cable channel which used to show it every day even used some insult even worse than “that silly boy, Beaver, and his old fashioned stories” to promote it (I can’t remember the teaser but it was worse than that)?  But, what was silly about it?  That WAS my life, folks….my parents were happily married, we certainly weren’t rich but only Dad worried (if you know what I mean), we were taught life lessons, morals, to go to Girl Scouts, do well in school, go to church, be nice to others….  What’s “silly” about THAT?

And we knew nothing bad would ever happen on American shores, right?  We were protected by good decisions by our government. THOSE were the days.  We felt so blessed to live here.

How’d you feel reading the piece above about having been raised in those days?





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15 Responses to “The Last Ones?”

  1. bocopro says:

    Ack shoe ally, I CAN remember lotsa that stuff, and I’ve written pages of nostalgic stuff about the 40s and 50s as I ‘member ’em.

    But I don’t want to go all the way back to the 9th century caliphate that some dream of in their brainwashed delusions. I just want to go back to around Happy Days times, a pre-AIDS but still air-conditioned world where you could get only 3 channels on the TV and most were in black and white, BUT you had time to think, and you actually COULD find some peace and quiet if you wanted to. Popular music still wasn’t quite raucous and trying to resemble a group of vagabonds trying to imitate a thermonuclear detonation with electric guitars and overdriven amplifiers. Your innards didn’t keep time to the beat when you went into a night club, and your knick-knacks didn’t fall off the shelves when a pimped-out Chevelle drove by with its windows open.

    I want to live in a small town where I can sleep with a window open and not worry about meth freaks breaking in or militant homosexuals living next door or uneducated performers spewing their limited world view omnidirectionally simply because publish-or-perish media whores keep thrusting microphones under their chins.

    I want to see children playing outside and teenagers whose gender I can determine by hair and clothing. I want to need only one fone line coming into my house, and I don’t want people able to find me if I don’t want them to, and I want to be able to call some idiot up and read him the riot act and not have his fone identify me for him.

    Civic events, ball games, parades, and celebrations normally began with a prayer which offended no one in the audience. People put their hands on Bibles and swore to tell the truth at trials and hearings. Children trusted policemen and firemen and teachers and priests and ministers and doctors. Only the coarsest people used words which today are commonplace on TV, and most homes either had no TV in those days or didn’t pay much attention to it except during the evening news and sometimes when major events from Washington or other world capitals were on. In fact, many areas could receive only two or three stations, and those went off the air between 11 o’clock at night and 1 o’clock in the morning until breakfast time.

    Kids played outside, and adults who didn’t even know them might correct them for naughty or mischievous behavior. A complete stranger would stop and look after a child who appeared lost or hurt, usually making sure the proper authority — doctor, policeman, or parent – could take care of the child before moving on. People rarely locked their cars at night, and most slept with bedroom windows open because air conditioning was considered an extravagance. If the weather was just too hot to tolerate, people got in their cars and drove with the fly window (a term I haven’t heard in 40 years or more) open. The only places I remember with central air in those days were the movie (which most of us called the “picture show” in those days) house, the more expensive restaurants, and the really classy shops.

    Teenagers discussed such innocuous pastimes as sock hops, school events, duck tails, sports, and members of the opposite gender. Sex wasn’t discussed in public or on radio or TV. Women became “in a family way” or “expecting.” I can’t remember ever once hearing about anyone hooked on smack or horse or meth or nose candy or even weed. The harshest substances most people developed addictions to were alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. Occasionally a rumor might circulate that somebody or other had been using too many bennies or reds, but that was quite rare.

    We also talked about flathead Fords, and fender skirts, and spinner hubcaps, and steering knobs . . . things we just don’t hear discussed these days. Glass packs were a hot item, as were continental kits. Cars had emergency brakes instead of parking brakes, and some even had foot feeds; some of the older ones even had hand feeds. Cars had vibrators, and generators, and real bumpers which kept a 15 mph collision with ANYthing from costing more to repair than what the vehicle was worth.

    Under the hood, the engine was very straightforward and required only the most rudimentary tools and devices for trouble diagnosis and repair. In fact, many people actually knew what all that stuff under there actually did, and could repair or replace it without having to draw a detailed diagram so they could remember where to put back all the wires and hoses. The engine air filter could be found and cleaned or replaced in about 60 seconds flat, whereas today, many owners need a manual to find the thing and figure out how to remove it. A triple E degree wasn’t necessary to look around under the dash and fix most problems.

    Older people and kids who lived out in the country spoke proudly of having store-bought candy or store-bought clothes. The term “coast-to-coast” got everybody’s attention, and the idea of anything being world-wide was just too awesome to contemplate. “Wall-to-wall” was big and complex enough for the average citizen.

    Yes, it was nice back then . . . simpler, slower, safer. But . . . we can’t go back. Why? Because we can’t live without our e-mail, without our microwaves, without our cell-fones, without our i-tunes. We simply must have our daily fix of satire and sarcasm and innuendo and gossip and slander and libel and treachery and danger. Our economy would sputter and die in days without the automobile, the airplane, the computer, the ATM.

    We are completely locked into the jaded, materialistic, superficial lifestyle the Islamic fundamentalists accuse us of promoting. They call us corrupt and say that we are contaminating the entire world with our free-wheeling decadence, our prurient addictions, our spare-no-expense fads and flesh-oriented depravities.

    Yes, nous sommes “trapped” (’cause I can’t remember how to say it in the French I learned back then.

    But I do remember when…

    A computer was something on TV
    from a science fiction show of note
    a window was something you hated to clean…
    And ram was the cousin of a goat…

    Meg was the name of a girlfriend
    and gig was a job for the nights
    now they all mean different things
    and that really mega bytes

    An application was for employment
    a program was a TV show
    a cursor used profanity
    a keyboard was a piano

    Memory was something that you lost with age
    a cd was a bank account
    and if you had a 3″ floppy
    you hoped nobody found out

    Compress was something you did to the garbage
    not something you did to a file
    and if you unzipped anything in public
    you’d be in jail for a while

    Log on was adding wood to the fire
    hard drive was a long trip on the road
    a mouse pad was where a mouse lived
    and a backup happened to your commode

    Cut you did with a pocket knife
    paste you did with glue
    a web was just a spider’s home
    and a virus was the flu

    I guess I’ll stick to my pad and paper
    and the memory in my head
    I hear nobody’s been killed in a computer crash
    but when it happens they wish they were dead!


  2. Silverfiddle says:

    I was fortunate the grow up around grandparents, aunts and uncles who remember such a time, and they passed the lessons on to my parents’ generation and mine. I thank God for my small town upbringing surrounded by a sprawling working class family that enjoyed simple pleasures like Saturday night card parties, camping, fishing and big family gatherings complete with more food than you could ever possibly eat.


  3. bunkerville says:

    I will take the 1950’s even with duck and cover. The worse thing that happened to us was Elvis Presley swiveling his hips. Yep, ours was a good generation as well.


  4. geeez2014 says:

    Bunkerville, ours definitely was a good generation as well, absolutely. SO sweet and clean and optimistic.

    Bocopro, and I thought my post was long today! Thanks for the input; I didn’t look at the article as 9th century, but did enjoy hearing more about earlier days.

    SF…me, too…oh, for grandparents playing cards, or just having friends over on an evening when Grandpa’s card table came out and the ice bucket and whatever liquor they liked….Grandpa had one of those old standing ash trays whose medal top spins the ashes down, have you ever seen one of those?
    We played outside with absolutely ZERO worry that anything would happen to any of us as kids. On a cul de sac, which made it even safer…and everybody knew everybody else….and a Mom down the street could tell us off if we did something stupid without her feeling we might sue her 🙂


  5. Kid says:

    I liked the culture a lot more in the 50’s and 60’s but I sure don’t miss those times as a kid. There wasn’t a lot of money in those days. Back then I liked the people mostly but there was no technology. Today I like he technology but now the people are whacked.

    Well, as Rose-Rosanna Dana says….


  6. Silverfiddle says:

    Z: I really was blessed to grow up around so much family. I would walk down to my grandma and grandpa’s house every Friday(I think it was) because we had a standing date to watch the Dukes of Hazzard together. Grandma would make popcorn and we would all settle in to see what kind of trouble those Duke boys would get in to…


  7. Mal says:

    Being born a decade before “the ’30’s” I certainly can relate and definitely wish it never changed, but as I quoted previously “there’s nothing so constant as change.” One can’t help but feel had we remained as we were then, our country also would have remained strong. The change coincided with the rejection of our founding fathers principles of One Nation Under God.


  8. cube says:

    The childhood bocopro describes sounds idyllic to me, but unfortunately wasn’t my experience. I grew up in an apartment in Manhattan and didn’t go to the park except on certain weekends. I did read lots of books and watched lots of TV, hence my warped world view 😉


  9. Bob says:

    I was not a child of the thirties, but I was a child of the forties. Yes, we did play all day in the summer until the street lights came on. Not one mom wanted her kids in and out of the house all day, and that meant that we all stayed outside.

    When I was five years old, my mom would send me to the corner grocery to get an item or two. the grocer would charge our account, and make sure I could carry all the items wanted. My first bicycle was built from junk parts by my older brother who imagined himself as the family mechanic. I ran with a gang of kids within one or two years of my age, and we rarely got into trouble, other than little fights with the kids from the next block. Since I was the youngest, I would be pitted against the youngest from the other gang in fighting. It was not real fighting, but something like wrestling. Life was good.


  10. Sparky says:

    Even though I was born in 1956, this still brings back lots of happy memories because I grew up in a small town in Central Florida. This was before ‘helicopter mom’s’, civil rights, homosexual ‘marriage’ and lawsuits over nonsensical stuff like coffee that’s too hot or whatever. We prayed in school, learning the Golden Rule and that when there’s a problem, go talk to the Policeman on the corner. I practically raised myself playing outside with weapons and it made me tough. Most of these kids nowadays are losers and are definitely maladjusted and downright dangerous. I say we turn off all social media, TV’s, cellphones, etc. and spend time with loved ones. Building well-adjusted human beings and making happy memories is much better than having 10,000 ‘likes’ on a comment. Sometimes I pray for a solar flare that will fry every satellite in space. The world would be a better place, in my never-to-be-humble opinion.


  11. geeez2014 says:

    Reading some of your comments almost brings tears to my eyes with the sweet goodness of those childhoods well spent….and look at the kind of people you are! It shows! Good upbringings make GOOD PEOPLE (CONSERVATIVES!)

    Love you all! XXX Except Sparky, because you’re a tad younger than I AM 🙂


  12. Baysider says:

    Mr. B lived in that world as a child of the 30’s. After chores he roamed free all day. Swimming in the Molalla River with his buddy whose dad owned the dairy farm that provided everyone with healthy, raw milk. No plastic, no TV, few lights. It was a day when you could buy dynamite and blasting caps at the local hardware store – and he did, for the farm – because people used them responsibly. His summer jobs are largely replaced by mechanization now. He studied Latin in school and learned to ski on wooden skis his uncle made.

    He made a working crystal set (what boy didn’t in those days – all his friends did), making his own whisker for it. (My mother’s father listened to the Metropolitan Opera on the Texaco Radio Broadcast on his crystal set that her brother made. Everyone had to be super quiet so he could hear.) This was like magic! Radio was pretty new, the first commercial broadcast being in 1922.

    Mr. B’s grandfather ran a trading post up the Columbia River that served the Celilo Indians before the Celilo Falls were dammed. He had stories of the native fishermen catching salmon in their nets as the fish lept up the falls. Mr. B can still count to 10 in Celilo.


  13. Bob says:

    Baysider: What a great story. I particularly relate to, “He made a working crystal set (what boy didn’t in those days – all his friends did), making his own whisker for it”. I caught the radio bug early in my teens, even making my own coils, etc., but I never did achieve my own “whisker”. I wound up buying a diode to do the job. Then, along came cheap crystal radios in the form of “Rocket Radios”.

    I did wind up making a career or radio, engineering, and communications. Life is good,


  14. Baysider says:

    What a day, Bob. My uncle developed a way to make the radio much better. I’ve long forgotten – it was either in reception or clarity. He was a young naive lad and set it off to RCA – complete with details and specifications – to offer to sell them the idea. That seemed to work. A few months later RCA issued radios with this improvement, but, of course my uncle never heard a peep. He realized they’d taken advantage.

    Another thing about that day: the butchers gave you bones for free!

    PS – Mr. B’s whisker worked!


  15. cube says:

    Bob mentioned a radio crystal radio set and it brought back some fond memories for me. My paternal grandmother gave me one and I remember listening to it in bed long after my bedtime.
    Back then, in my little girl’s eye view, I saw my grandmother as wonderfully subversive.


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