Was there ever a generation of Americans more blessed than us baby boomers?
Our parents had lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They were frugal and battle-scarred. They had experienced awful times and sacrificed mightily.
And by God, no way were their children going to go through any of that misery.
Thus, when my generation of 78 million Americans was born, every possible way to make our lives easier was employed by our parents. Yes, we were born on Third Base and thought we had hit a triple. This means whatever advantages we had in our lives, they were not created by us. Our parents set us up for success and relished in it.
We enjoyed the best educations. We had cheap college. We thrived with good medical care. Jobs were plentiful. Leisure became a reality. We could afford to buy homes, and then buy even nicer homes as inflation added values to our existing real estate.
Heck, even the news media was impartial and fair when we grew up. We read newspapers that covered the news impartially and watched TV newscasts that featured icons like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley, and John Chancellor.
Unlike today’s crazy media world, the three rules of journalism then were accuracy, accuracy and accuracy. At some point that was changed to fairness, which meant many obscure points of view were elevated to equal mainstream opinions, causing confusion that continues today.
There are 132,000 baby boomers here in Wyoming. We still comprise about a quarter of the state’s population.
This is my second baby boomers column this year. The first one back in February talked about first boomers, those folks born in the first 10 years of the boom.
Note: The expression “OK, Boomer” is a derogatory phrase that was created by some very funny Gen Xers and Millennials to tease us old folks. Their Facebook pages and other social media outlets have thousands of followers. It would be easy to be offended but frankly, many of their observations are hilarious (and true).
Let’s talk about all boomers, although my emphasis will always be on those early ones.
After the Great War, the husbands came home and produced a boom as they started their young families. Schools were thrown up as fast as possible. Teachers were hired and old teachers were kept on long past their normal retirement.
We were taught by strict old schoolmarms who pounded into us the correct ways to write, speak and do math. We memorized poems and needed to know the capitals of all the states. And there was a huge emphasis on civics.
We also learned cursive to write intelligently. Geography was a big deal. No generation was ever better at knowing the countries of the world. Our fathers had been overseas during the war. They insisted we know our place in the world.
Not only was our generation spoiled, but so was our country. The USA was the lone superpower in the world. We rebuilt Europe with the Marshall Plan, we built the United Nations, and we even went to the moon.
Our generation watched all that and assumed this was normal. China wasn’t the national worry it is now. Russia had nuclear weapons but wasn’t as much a threat compared to the rich USA. Europe and Japan had been flattened.
Just How Spoiled Were We?
Were we spoiled?
Of course, we were. We were special. For 20 glorious years, we enjoyed the benefits of being the offspring of our amazing parents.
Then the Vietnam War came along and it was panic time for most young men. I was one of them. Three small colleges opened up in the Midwest that catered to draft dodgers. I enrolled in one just in time to avoid being drafted. It was Midwestern College in Denison, Iowa. If you were in college, were married or had a child, you had a deferment and did not have to go to war.
My friends Pat Schmidt, Andy Gramlich, Dan Whetstone, Larry Halverson and Bob Spengler all went to war and all suffered being shot or exposed to Agent Orange or PTSD. I appreciate that they do not resent folks like me any more than they should because I escaped that horror. Some 50,000 of my fellow baby boomers died in that ill-fated war, including my high school classmate Harlan Bilden.
Pretty soon, our generation was running the country and the world.
Just 46 years after our arrival, we elected our first of four baby boomer presidents in 1992 with Bill Clinton. He was followed by George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Those 28 years have been both boom times and turbulent. History will have to judge how we did.
The Oldest Boomer
I always claimed to be the oldest baby boomer, having been conceived when my dad got home from Europe’s World War II Theater in June 1945. At 77, I am long past retirement age and have been on Medicare for 12 years already.
More than 20 million of my fellow baby boomers are already dead. If you read the obituaries every day like I do, you see many people my age dying, plus a whole lot of folks younger than me.
My wife Nancy looks at the obits and when she sees someone older than us, she says “OK.” But when they are younger than us, she gets upset. “Too young,” she says.
Alas, we are not ready to die yet, but we are living in a time when the Grim Reaper might just be around the corner. But if we do die, we can say it has been one helluva ride, especially as members of the most spoiled generation that ever lived on this planet.