Children of the 30’s – “The Last Ones”



(Note:  This was the first post on our blog repeated here for newcomers.)

A Short, Generational Memoir

C. D. Peterson b. 1937

Born in the 1930s, we exist as a very special age cohort.  We are the “last ones.”  We are the last, climbing out of the depression, who can remember the winds of war and the war itself with fathers and uncles going off.  We are the last to remember ration books for everything from sugar to shoes to stoves.  We saved tin foil and poured fat into tin cans.  We closed ranks and worked together. We saw cars up on blocks because tires weren’t available.  My mother delivered milk in a horse drawn cart.

We are the last to hear Roosevelt’s radio assurances and to see gold stars in the front windows of our grieving neighbors.  We can also remember the drama of “D Day” and the parades in August 1945; VJ Day.

We saw the ‘boys’ home from the war build their cape style houses, pouring the cellar, tar papering it over and living there until they could afford the time and money to build it out.

We are the last who spent childhood without television; instead imagining what we heard on the radio.   As we all like to brag, with no TV we spent our childhood “playing outside until the street lights came on.”   We did play outside and we did play on our own.  There was no little league.

With war-busy parents and no television in our early years we picked up little real understanding of what the world was like.  Our Saturday afternoons at the movies gave us newsreels of the war and the holocaust sandwiched between westerns and cartoons.  Newspapers and magazines were written for adults.   We are the last who had to find out for ourselves.

As we grew up, the country was exploding with growth.  My small New England town saw General Motors come and bring hundreds of jobs and a boom in real estate.   A futuristic mall, the first of its kind, transformed our state highway and powered commercial growth.  A local truck farmer was so short of labor that he brought in summer workers from Puerto Rico; another demarcation of before and after.

The G.I. Bill gave returning veterans the means to get an education and spurred colleges to grow. VA loans lit off a housing boom.  Pent up demand, coupled with new installment payment plans, put factories to work. New highways would bring jobs and mobility: shipbuilding to the south, aircraft manufacturing to the mid-west and West. The veterans joined community civic clubs and became active in politics.  In the late 40s and early 50’s the country seemed to lie in the embrace of brisk but quiet order.  The war had solidified the working class and now the post-war boom gave birth to its new middle class.

Our parents understandably became absorbed with their own new lives.  They were free from the confines of the depression and the war.  They threw themselves into exploring opportunities they had never imagined.  We weren’t neglected but we weren’t the all-consuming family focus of today.  They were glad we played by ourselves ‘until the street lights came on.’  They were busy discovering their own post war world.


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