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In this week’s part of The Big Smoke’s Boomers series, each generation believes they have it the toughest, however the choices my father’s generation made are beyond my comprehension.
While researching for the new TBS Boomers section I stumbled across a batch of substantial sounding demographics of which I was shamefully unaware – groups of long forgotten last century people with more fashionable and intellectual tags than their feted Xs, Ys and Millennials of today.
My father was from the Greatest generation (1910-25) a period which sits between the Interbellum (between wars) generation (1901-1913) and the Silent generation (1923-44).
Sadly, and possibly ironically (irony not being a luxury broadly enjoyed by my dad’s demo), members of the Greatest generation suffered the potentially soul-destroying deprivations of the great depression, and would not experience the special freedoms of being a teenager or, in my father’s case, the opportunity to offer “his two cents worth”.
This generation was often forced to leave primary school and join the workforce in order to put food on the family table, vaulting across their teens, essentially becoming adults. A double tragedy by today’s standards as their lifespans were substantially shorter.
“Most cultural observers agree that the strange and fascinating creature known as the teenager – as we now understand the species – came into being sometime in the the early 1940s.”
Ben Cosgrove – Time Magazine
By the time my father left school at the age of 10 he’d been fatherless for two years. Undaunted and without an adequate education, he set out as the vast majority of his contemporaries did to make a quid whichever way he could. Like the rest of his generation which needed to be flexible and adaptable to survive, my dad mastered cooking, SP bookmaking and barbering (all of which are now firmly back in vogue).
It’s doubtful my father’s grandchildren – of whom there are many, and many of whom have university degrees and well-worn passports – actually still draw from the well my father dug. Today’s Xs, Ys and Millennials (the Me Generation which gave us the Me Me Me Generation) are sometimes characterised as superficial and easy prey for the predatory marketers. But these demographics which are surgically cropped and probed and prodded and targeted to within an inch of their lives now have a competitor – The Baby Boomer. The Boomers are rapidly shaping up as a very desirable and cashed up cohort which savvy advertisers are keen to separate from their vast piles of disposable boomer bucks.
Also on The Big Smoke
- TBS Boomers: The time I met Patch Adams
- TBS Boomers: Dude, where’s my country?
- TBS Boomers: Women’s Health and the danger of taking things at Facebook value`
- TBS Boomers: What I’ve learned as a 50-something lesbian
Almost a decade ago, demographer Bernard Salt described baby boomers as “an optimistic and even idealistic generation…educated, articulate and opinionated, and ultimately demanding”.
My father was not formally educated nor from my memory, opinionated or demanding.
He was a quiet man, strong on values such as respect for women and punctuality (though he did question the trustworthiness of men with beards). He was big on polished shoes and for his four sons, a mandatory neatly combed and Brylcreemed head of hair before stepping out of our three-bedroomed weatherboard home en route, on foot, to Sunday Mass. My father did not own a car or hold a driver’s licence.
In 1966 my dad was engaged and excited about the introduction of decimal currency which hit Australia just as the first batch of Boomers was coming of age. Sadly he didn’t get to “put his two cents worth in”. He died suddenly and prematurely aged 52, a few weeks shy of the 14th of February 1966.
But for what it’s worth, he did belong to the Greatest generation.