1946 - 1964
Boom, boom, boom, boom,
I'm gonna shoot you right down,
Right off your feet.
Take you home with me,
Put you in my house.
Boom, boom, boom, boom! --John Lee Hooker (1961)
To put it in historical perspective, World War II started
September 1, 1939 in Europe, and that "Day of Infamy", December 7,
1941 involved the 'neutral' United States when the Empire of Japan
bombed the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Nazi Germany then
declared war on America, and then the U.S. faced a terrible two front
war. Finally, it ended first in Germany, May 7, 1945, and Asia by
August 15, 1945.
Reap What You Sow
Now, let's fast forward to nine months later, the average human
gestation period, and with the 1946 New Year's Day birth of Kathleen
Casey-Kirschling, the cacophonous wail of infants had just begun. She
would be the first to turn 18, 21, then 40, and finally 60, all
milestone ages. Money magazine featured her when she turned
40, and it was stressful to receive such attention. By the time she was
highlighted in the USA Today's article on her at the end of
2005, she was more mature and ready for it. She adamantly claimed not
to be a "Boomer" spokesmen, however, she did say some pertinent things,
(I wanted to say, "Speak for yourself," but...):
I think our generation did many great things, and
there are a lot of great people in our generation. They also did a lot
of very negative and selfish things. We were self-absorbed. We had a
lot of issues. I think we were lied to a lot along the way by our
leaders, and something was happening all the time.
For the nation, the baby boomers turning 60 is monumental because of
all the issues of health care and Social Security and nursing homes.
Of course she could
not but help remember, like the rest of us, the influence of particular
kinds of history swirling around us, the growth of suburbia, the rise
of television, the change in music on the radio, the Cold War,
'duck and cover' from the possible nukes, the Korean War, The
War in Vietnam, the assassination of JFK, of Martin Luther King's
marches and his assassination, of riots, of protests, of body bags
and drugs. The Beatles and Rolling Stones, rock concerts climaxed
with Woodstock, and a denouement with Altamont. And we had to
contend with Jimi, Janis and Jim dying. Then there was Nixon up and down and out. There
were more drugs and Kent State. There was the end to the War, and
then all the things even the X and Y gens now face.
Just Another (Millionth) Statistic
Now, the man on the stand he wants my vote,
He's a-runnin' for office on the ballot note
He's out there preachin' in front of the steeple,
Tellin' me he loves all kinds-a people. --Bob Dylan,
"I Shall Be Free"
Looking at the General Fertility Rate (GFR) in the United States
from its record low in 1936 of 75.8 children per 1,000 women of
childbearing age spiked to 122.7 in 1957. It then plummeted to a new
record low of 65.0 in 1976. The year I was born, 1946, allowed me to
have three million and four hundred thousand peers by year's end; that
was a twenty percent increase over the previous year. 1947 saw another
3.8 million new mouths to feed followed in '48 with 3.9 million. Each
year afterwards until the waning of this boom in 1964 had 4 million
surplus human beings added For this entire period we made up 73.4
million, or 40 percent of the US population..
Now the issue is the effect on retirement
, for them, and their
following generations. There are lots of projections, but they are
guesses. The reality for me, I had to continue working after
retirement, and it has not been like winning the lottery.
Analyze the Me Generation
Sociologists, Social Psychologists, and other talking heads want
to know why there was this exponential birth. It is not enough to see
the obvious reason for the big bubble: GI's returned to girlfriends and
wives and had time to wine and have 'desert' afterwards. But, there
were other factors, girls started marrying a couple of years earlier
than the average of 22. The desire to not have children halved from the
15 percent in 1930. There was a renewed sense of security now that the
two Axis powers were defeated, and we had the A-bomb. (Notice by
1964, and the end of the 'boom' the scare and anxiety increased
regarding Soviet ICBM's). Business began to boom and unions fought
for better wages. Developers like William Levitt made affordable
housing in the outskirts of cities, and the GI bill gave the finances
to the new civilians and a place to raise their kids instead of rental
apartments in the city.
I got a letterman's sweater,
With a letter in front.
I got for football and track,
I'm proud to wear it now;
When I cruise around,
The other parts of the town,
I got a decal in back:
So be true to your school now,
Just like you would to your girl or guy. --Brian
Wilson, Mike Love
I wanted to mention classrooms were always overcrowded, even into
college years. I have a theory that this lack of attention, or
selective favorites in these classes with 25 to 40 students meant some
fell through the cracks, others with strong personalities rose to the
top, and other lesser qualified pupils were passed on to the next level
as to prevent further logjams down the road. If I may further get a bit
off track with another anecdotal: As a freshman, I took a required math
course at the University of Maryland, it was called Math 10. It was in
one of those huge lecture halls with 21 inch black and white
televisions mounted up in the corners. I still can remember Doctor Good
with black glasses, (that looked great on Buddy Holly --another sad
death), but not him and his slicked down graying black hair. His
monotonous voice and big paper flip chart, discussing Boolean Algebra
and Matrices and that sardine can situation put me in the failing grade
arena. I finally passed it the third time with, whew, a live person: a
grad assistant. Our mid-term and final exams were in the basketball
Cole Field House, (which was also where I saw some great rock concerts).
Follow the Money
When I think of all the worries people seem to find,
And how they're in a hurry to complicate their mind.
By chasing after money and dreams that can't come true,
I'm glad that we are different, we've better things to do.
May others plan their future, I'm busy lovin' you:
(One, two, three, four...)
Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today,
Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today,
And don't worry 'bout tomorrow, hey, hey, hey!
Those kids now would drive the market through the years, especially
with the help of television. TV would push cereals while the Mickey
Mouse Club would become a phenomenon. Later it would be Elvis and the American Bandstand, and all the products that
went along with the times. Some would later be part of the
'counter-culture' in various vectors in that area. Dave Dudley, Tom Paxton, Kris Kristofferson, and
Country Joe and the Fish would have their different musical takes on the
Conflict in Vietnam
And she said "Small change don't make no sense,
and your words are worthless too.
And ya best bring home more bacon, darlin',
or you and me is through."
Keepin' up with the Joneses is killing me,
Go on and hang that man who says the best things in life are for free,
Keepin' up with the Joneses is killing me,
She's just one more bad habit I was too blind to see.
It would be most negligent to not mention the 1980 book written by
author Landon Y. Jones. This editor of 37 years including, 8 at People
and helped Time, Life and Money
magazines, wrote Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom
Generation. Did you know he coined the term "Baby Boomer"? (His
second book is The Essential Lewis and Clark, and is part of
the National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Council.) Kavan Peterson
remarks about when "Boomer" was used:
By then, the oldest boomer was 35-years-old – well
past his or her hell-raising years of youthhood. (sic)
term “boomer” has been a buzzword big time in marketing circles since
the first boomers turned 60 in January of 2006. It seems that almost
everyone in business is trying to figure out how to make oodles of
money in boomer markets as its constituents head into their sunset
Landon was the one who looked up birth records and found Kathleen
Casey-Kirschling finding her to be the first one to be called a
"Boomer" born in 1946.
All the way from Washington,
Her bread-winner begs off the bathroom floor:
We live for just these twenty years,
Do we have to die for the fifty more?
He wants the young American,
Young American, young American, he wants the young American.
Do you remember, your president Nixon?
Do you remember, the bills you have to pay?
Or even yesterday?...
Have you been an un-American?
Just you and your idol singing falsetto 'bout,
Leather, leather everywhere, and,
Not a myth left from the ghetto.
You want the young American. --David Bowie
When When Will They Ever Learn?
Yeah, I hope I die before I get old.
(Talkin' 'bout my generation). --the Who
I am glad this 'me generation' sometimes hippie, wannabe yuppie
listened to my father after college and got a job that had a pension
plan, albeit only a wee bit above subsistence level. I was of the
generation that cried heavily when JFK was shot, in shock when RFK was, and afraid when MLK met his
end. I had gone to share his "Dream" at the March on Washington. Two of
the current ex-presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush represent
two from each major party that were affected by these times. Clinton would use a Fleetwood Mac song, "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" for his campaign theme song. That group full of musicians who were our peers, wrote about the angst of marriage, affairs and divorce, which I, and that first Baby Boomer endured.
Handful of senators don’t pass legislation,
And marches alone can'’t bring integration.
When human respect is disintegratin’',
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’'.
And you tell me,
Over and over and over again, my friend:
Ah, you don’t believe,
We’re on the Eve
Of Destruction. --Barry McGuire
My Mind Been Goin' Through Them Changes
But, like many Boomers, after searching and trying so many feeble ways
and things, singing Kumbaya
and turning out, and 'tuning in
found what I needed as true spirituality. Many of this humongous bunch
needed their souls anchored with on solid ground. Ultimately that's
where I wound up, in church up front at the altar, letting the blood from the Son of Man on the cross wash me clean, giving my life to Jesus, but then I became a
sweat became addictive, along with Gin Collins
Partying seemed like better fellowship, I guess. Now, wiser, from a
hard pan school of hard knocks, and with a half century and more of
years, and death is so much closer to this generation, I concur
with Eric Clapton
, "I have finally found a way to live in the presence
of the Lord."
You hand in your ticket,
And you go watch the geek;
Who immediately walks up to you,
When he hears you speak;
And says, “How does it feel...
To be such a freak?”
And you say, “Impossible”,
As he hands you a bone:
Because something is happening here,
But you don’t know what it is,
Do you, Mister Jones? Bob Dylan, "Ballad Of
A Thin Man"