NBC newsman Tom Brokaw wrote a book titled “The Greatest Generation,” published in 1998. I did read his book. Whether I believed I lived through the Greatest Generation is still awaiting a more definitive answer, because the jury is still out as to the Great Depression, which was often mentioned as the starting point, and World War II on the other end as the closure of the GG — little was said by my parents.
Occasionally there would be mentions of bread lines and bank closings. Even heard that it was safer to put your money in a glass jar and bury it in the back yard than to take it to the bank. I don’t believe my folks had any excess cash to be buried.
As to World War II, I was just a kid with two older brothers who served in the Army and Navy. The ongoing accounts of the war were hammered daily in the newspapers and by radio. An additional outlet included the weekend Newsreels at the movie houses, which included up-to-date film footage of the live action. As the war progressed, there were daily counts of casualties of lives lost, ships sunk, planes downed and cities bombed.
It was not a pleasant time for any of us, youngsters and family members alike. Quite often the blue stars that denoted a family member in service, turned to gold stars. And I know that as a kid I carried some hatred for the Japs and Germans who were our enemies.
Brother Don, who served as a Navy pilot in the South Pacific, would quite often write us on the thinnest of paper conforming to government standards. Those were special days when such letters arrived. We knew he was in the South Pacific, but specific details were not allowed.
For a period of time, the United States and its allies were taking some beatings in Europe and the Pacific. The almost daily buzz bombings of England by Germany made for a long day. When the Phillipines fell to the Japanese, it made for a similar gloomy day. But then in 1943 and 1944, the tide of battles began to shift and result in victories for us and our allies.
Finally, World War II drew to a close with the signing of a peace treaty. It was a joyous time, complete with a confetti-fed parade in New York. Everything, well almost everything, seemed right with the world again.
A fellow graduate of 1950 recently forwarded an interesting summary of “the children of the Greatest Generation.” Some of the mentions included the last to remember ration books for gas and sugar. Tin foil was saved, and fat was poured into tin cans.
I use the term “we” because the reference to the Greatest Generation generally included kids born in the ‘30s and early ‘40s. Some classified us as the “Silent Generation.” So I continue with the following:
We hand-mixed some white stuff with yellow stuff to make fake butter.
We saw cars up on blocks because tires were hard to come by.
Milk was delivered to our house early in the morning.
We were the last to hear Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” on the radio.
We witnessed when the boys came home from the war and began to build their Cape Cod style houses, often living in the basements until they could afford to complete it.
We are the last generation to spend childhood days without television. We expanded our imaginations as to what we heard on the radio.
We spent time playing outside until the street lights came on.
Telephones were one to a house and hung on the wall.
Our parents were suddenly free from the confines of the Depression and war and explored opportunities never before imagined.
Polio was a crippler.
We enjoyed a time of luxury shared by some Americans.
But, looming in the background was the Korean War, when school children were ducking under desks.
Yes, we lived in “the best of times” so to speak. Not all will agree. So, as we head for the weekend, let us remember our men and women who fought to give us the freedoms we enjoy. Many died for that privilege. We honor all of them in our thoughts and prayers.
Thank you, veterans, for your sacrifices and courage. I will continue to stand for our National Anthem. And if I ever take a knee, I will drop down on both and pray in thanksgiving for our country in which I live. God bless!