McDonald’s. Fish sticks. Disneyland. Coke in cans. These are just some of the American institutions that debuted the year I was born, 1955.
Legos and Velcro also were invented that year. Guinness published its first book of world records. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were born. And, in December, just weeks before my birth, a black woman, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Alabama – and many people cheered.
I was born into what would surely be an era of progress and enlightenment. The country was proud and confident. We’d just trounced the Nazis and the Japs (no longer politically correct, I know) in World War II, ending things abruptly in 1945 with our unveiling of the nuclear bomb.
Upon returning home, U.S. soldiers found a country about to experience unprecedented economic prosperity. They got jobs, married and built houses in the suburbs. Our dads worked; our moms had babies.
In 1957, U.S. births reached a record 4.3 million. That year, the U.S. government defined people born between 1946 and 1964 as “baby boomers.” Nearly 80 million babies were born in the United States during those 18 years, more than had ever been born before or since in any period of our history. By 1964, Baby Boomers made up 40 percent of the U.S. population. We still make up about 25 percent today.
My sisters, born in 1945 and 1948, are what are sometimes called Early Boomers. People born in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s are sometimes called Late Boomers. I’m right in the middle, although I relate more to the Early Boomers. One indicator is if you remember the JFK assassination or were eligible for the draft during the Vietnam War. If you don’t or weren’t, you’re a Late Boomer.
To say I am an aging Baby Boomer is really redundant because if you are a Baby Boomer at all, and you’re alive, you’re aging, or aged. The youngest of us have turned 50 while our oldest members are pushing 70. We will soon become the largest group of welfare recipients in U.S. history. Our sheer numbers threaten the solvency of Social Security and Medicare.
We had great ideals. “Make love, not war.” We had a level of social consciousness that the “older generation,” i.e., our parents, didn’t have. We would make the world a better place.
Did we succeed? Frankly, I’m a little disappointed.
Marijuana is just now becoming legal in some states and is still illegal in most. Are you kidding me? Four and a half decades after Woodstock and we still haven’t gotten this done?
I had hoped that by now we would have progressed enough as a civilization to make war closer to obsolete. I thought by 2015 countries would have found better ways to settle differences than still seeing who can kill the most people.
Remember when we made going to the moon so commonplace that it became downright boring in the 1970s? I thought we’d be colonizing planets by now.
But my purpose is not to criticize. It is to re-examine and reflect while I still have all my marbles. Because let’s face it, Boomers: our best days are behind us.
“Back in the day” we didn’t have cell phones, kids. There was no Internet. There were no video games. We rode bikes without helmets and in cars without seat belts while our parents chain-smoked with the windows rolled up.
Somehow, some of us have lived to tell about it. So sit back, relax, take a toke if you’re still into that sort of thing, and allow me to reminisce. It was a great ride. You just may not remember much of it. Perhaps I can help jog your memory.
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