The Luckiest Generation
That ever has been or probably ever will be
1929 to 1945
Jack and Barbara Rairden
IV. WHY WE’RE LUCKY
That brings us to our thesis that the generation of us born between 1929 and 1945 is the “Luckiest Generation” LG). We consider the “Greatest Generation” that preceded us, and the “Baby Boomer Generation” that succeeded us to be the second luckiest generations. This is not comforting to us – we would prefer that each succeeding generation be “luckier” than the last.
However, our generation arrived on the scene at a confluence of population growth and technology/knowledge development that seems impossible to ever be repeated. Industrial mechanization was developing very rapidly from 1940 to 1970, and mechanical devices were being invented and developed rapidly for industrial, military, commercial and household consumption. Funding for these was readily available from public and private sources.
It certainly wasn’t obvious in 1929/1930 that we would be lucky. The country and the world were in the depths of the Great Depression – the economy had collapsed and many people were suffering from homelessness and starvation due to lack of employment opportunities. By the time we were old enough to remember, the economy was recovering and millions of people had jobs created by federal programs.
It was only later as we approached adulthood that we realized what our parents had been through, and we started to appreciate their struggles to keep us fed and housed. They must have spent many restless nights worrying how to pay the bills and keep it all together. But we learned many life lessons during this stressful period that have served us well for the rest of our lives.
We both came from homes of very modest means and we lived in modest houses in very middleclass neighborhoods. Our parents were very loving and supportive, but there were household rules that were rather strict and there was no reluctance to exercise disciplinary measures to counteract non-compliance. Of course we often felt the restrictions were overly harsh, but later as adults we were grateful that they really cared.
We were lucky in that we had stay-at-home moms as did most of the kids we knew. The family “got by” on the money our dads were able to earn. Somehow that included nutritious food, a modest but warm house, adequate clothing and a family car. Our transportation was primarily by walking until we were old enough to have bicycles. If the distance was too far for these means, we had a very good streetcar system in the city.
In spite of the depression, we attended good schools and generally good to excellent teachers. Our parents had high expectations for us and if we didn’t measure up in our classwork, we were required to take responsibility. Trying to blame our problems on the teachers or other people fell on deaf ears. We were expected to prepare ourselves for adulthood which included getting an education beyond high school. It also included finding jobs, at least during summers, so we could have some spending money and help finance our education.
Jack was born and raised in Denver, CO, - Barbara moved there with her family in 1945. It was a laid back city of ~350,000 people and was surrounded by rural areas of acreages and small farms with a number of small urban areas. It was known as the “Mile High City”, “The Queen City of the Plains” and “A Cow Town Grown Wide”.
We both went to college after high school – Jack to a state college and Barbara to a private university. Our tuitions were modest enough that we and our families didn’t give a thought to borrowing money for tuitions.
We were married in the fall of 1950. Barbara worked and Jack graduated from college in May 1952. Jack was hired by General Electric after a campus interview so we left Denver for Ft. Wayne, IN. The Korean War was underway so Jack was called into the Army and served for almost two years including ~ 15 months in Korea.
Upon returning home, we went to Schenectady, NY, where Jack worked for GE until retirement in 1990. We moved to Ouray County, CO, where we still reside.
The point of our story is not just about us, but that we are more-or-less fairly typical of our generation. Even those without formal education after high school were able to establish careers where they could earn enough income to support themselves and their family, have medical insurance, buy a home and send their Baby Boomer children to college. Then retire with a defined payment pension, Social Security and Medicare sufficient to allow them to live the rest of their lives comfortably.
There are other factors that make our generation in the U. S. very fortunate. We have had no widespread epidemics akin to the 1918 flu pandemic. There has been no devastating major urban area earthquakes akin to the San Francisco earthquake in 1906.
Our generation is included in the generations that have benefited from the fantastic advances in medical science and technology since the 19th century. Infant death rates have been dramatically decreased and adult longevity is continually increasing.
Except for those of us who were born from 1929 to 1931 and were called into the armed services during the Korean War, our generation was spared of major warfare. Those born from 1932 to 1945 were too young for Korea and too old for Viet Nam.
We have been lucky in that there have been no catastrophic stratovolcano eruptions like Mount Tambora in 1816 and Krakatoa in 1883 where these devastating natural disasters would be felt worldwide for years to come. Several years of “no summer” had dire effects on agriculture. When the next serious volcanic event occurs, the concerns about global warming will be, at least temporarily, put on hold and widespread food and fuel shortages may cause suffering and political unrest.
What does the future hold? Those of us alive now probably have no better chance of conceiving what the U. S. and the World will be like in 2100 than those alive in 1916 could have imagined the conditions in 2000. It’s likely the challenges due to population growth and providing for a good standard of living for those people will require the best minds possible to meet those challenges.