Back When I Was a Boy

Photo credit: Broken Sphere

I think one of the hardest things about growing old is that you can remember what a pound of hamburger cost fifty years ago ($.45), so when the government assures us over and over there is no inflation, we sort of get a disconnect going that seeps into many different areas of our lives. 

Wise men say that history repeats itself.  Those who have studied the facts and lived long enough to get a seasoned perspective understand that if it doesn’t repeat itself, it sure does rhyme.  Which leads me to an observation made by every generation since time began: every generation believes that the one following it is made up of a bunch of molly-coddled softies who will obviously allow the world to go to hell in a handbasket.  

As a still surviving though somewhat battered member of the boomer generation, I am beginning to think that when the Greatest Generation thought this about us they, may have been right.  By every metric imaginable except of course technological toys and wonders, we have presided over the decline of America.   

Our parents conquered the world and then defended their conquest against that destroyer of hope, the USSR, for fifty years until that great gulag of nations collapsed under its own weight.  Then in 1992, we repudiated those who had won the war and secured the peace.  Following a colossal betrayal, “Read my lips,” our generation took the reins and proceeded to run the whole thing into the ditch.    

First, we have the Clinton inter-lewd with its fake prosperity, courtesy of the peace dividend, the dot com bubble, and the Contract with America Congress.  Then we have George II and endless wars for peace combined with a guns and butter economy at home where couples making a combined income of $40,000 could buy $400,000 houses.  This was followed by BHO and his anti-colonialist disdain for all that had made America great, combined with a micromanaged centrally-planned economy guaranteed to sweep us into the dystopian trash heap of history. 

Then, faced with Mrs. “The Last Nail in Our Coffin” Clinton and Mr. “Take a Chance on Me” Trump, we chose Mr. Chance, who may well end up being the last Boomer president.  All of us who chose the chance are now waiting with baited breath praying he will do what he said he would do.  If he does, this last Boomer president may well bring back the glory of our parents and we will hand this off to the X Generation and give them a shot at preserving it for those who come after them. 

Woodrow Wilcox


Back to my theory that each generation sees the one following them as the ruin of all that is holy, and why that is in reality a truism as old as time. 

The Greatest Generation was once known as the Silent Generation until we re-christened them because of their stolid plodding through FDR’s Great Depression and their solid performance in WWII.  They looked askance at the music and the counter-culture of the Boomers.  Those few who actually were Hippies did ride a sociological tsunami that did in fact change our culture. The draft-dodging flag-burning micro minority rose to the top of the political world with the Watergate Congress and hang on to power to this day.  The rest of us went to work.  Eventually most of us followed the predictable trajectory.  The liberal firebrands of youth become the worker drones of middle age and eventually the conservative mossbacks of old age.


Remember the Generation Gap?  Today it feels more like a Generation Gulf, or close encounters of the third kind.

Generation X seemed to come out of the womb with an eye for style, a penchant for name brands, and an ability to work for what they wanted.  They are mostly moving through the worker-drone phase right now.  Their younger brothers and sisters of Generation Y or the Millennials are now shedding their youthful fire and entering into middle age.  Now come the Centennials, or as some of us call them, the Snowflake Generation and we see the fruit of our loins terrified of micro-aggressions, seeking safe places, and protesting elections when they didn’t even bother to vote. Oh what is the world to do? 

Take a beat, take a breath, and step back.  Yes, when we see our grandchildren crying because they think someone might have looked at them crossways, we wonder about the fate of the republic.  Instead of bemoaning our coming fall once these limp-wristed get-a-trophy-for-showing-up crybabies take over, remember they have several stages of growth coming before they get there.  There’s nothing like raising kids and working twelve hour days to support them to put a little steel in your spine.  Give them time.  Their rebellious attitudes and oh-so-delicate sensibilities will crash upon the reef of 3 AM feedings, paying the bills, buying the house, and worrying whether Social Security will be there when they need it. 

The young always act as if youth was some clever thing they invented, not knowing that we all were once young, and if we survive, we grow old and things generally seem to carry on from there. 

The only lesson we learn from history is that we don’t learn the lessons of history.  As far back as records go, every generation has thought the next was going to be a disaster, forgetting that they are the ones who raised that next generation and having a little faith in how their example and time would mellow youth into old age.   

Remember, everything is relative.  The next time you find yourself telling some young whippersnapper how you walked to school uphill in both directions in a blizzard without a coat, think of the story of two old men.  One says, “Why back when I was boy all I had to play with was a stick.”  The other old man his eyes blazing with jealousy at the frivolous prosperity of others exclaims, “You had a stick!” 

Just as an interesting by-the-by: 

Average Cost Of New Home Homes 
1930 $3,845.00 , 1940 $3,920.00, 1950 $8,450.00 , 1960 $12,700.00 ,  
1970 $23,450.00 , 1980 $68,700.00 , 1990 $123,000.00 , 2008 $238,880 , 2013 $289,500  
Average Annual Wages  
1930 $1,970.00 , 1940 $1,725.00, 1950 $3,210.00 , 1960 $5,315.00 ,  
1970 $9,400.00 , 1980 $19,500.00 , 1990 $28,960.00 , 2008 $40,523 , 2012 $44,321  
Average Cost of New Car Cars  
1930 $600.00 , 1940 $850.00, 1950 $1,510.00 , 1960 $2,600.00 ,  
1970 $3,450.00 , 1980 $7,200.00 , 1990 $16,950.00 , 2008 $27,958 , 2013 $31,352  
Average Cost Gallon Of Gas  
1930 10 cents , 1940 11 cents , 1950 18 cents , 1960 25 cents ,  
1970 36 cents , 1980 $1.19 , 1990 $1.34 , 2009 $2.051 , 2013 $3.80  
Average Cost Loaf of Bread Food  
1930 9 cents , 1940 10 cents , 1950 12 cents , 1960 22 cents ,  
1970 25 cents , 1980 50 cents , 1990 70 cents , 2008 $2.79 , 2013 $1.98  
Average Cost 1lb Hamburger Meat  
1930 12 cents , 1940 20 cents , 1950 30 cents , 1960 45 cents ,  
1970 70 cents , 1980 99 cents , 1990 89 cents , 2009 $3.99 , 2013 $4.68 

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Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion.  He is the Historian of the Future @ © 2013 Robert R. Owens [email protected]  Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens
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