December 6, 2011

Grandparents of the world, I dub thee...

Day 340 of Vintage 365

A few days ago I was chatting on the phone with my mother and the subject of Canada's (and certainly by the extension the whole world's) aging population came up briefly. I referred to my mom as a baby boomer during our conversation (which, having been born in 1958, she definitely is - lucky lady!), then paused for a moment before placing a title on the generation that preceded her own.

When one thinks of the term "baby boomer", anything from a quaint, idyllic Leave it to Beaver scenario to a world rife with upheaval and immense conflict during the Vietnam War years of the 60s springs to mind.

No doubt this was a group of people that, by and large, differed radically from the ways in which their parents were born, the beliefs they upheld, the causes they lead, the fashions they wore, the music they sang, and the direction in which they drove society (before procreating and giving birth to Generations X and Y.

As a child of a Baby Boomer myself, I (like many of you as well) can call myself an Echo Boomer, if I so want, a term the was coined to describe the large wave of births that occurred in the 1980s and 90s as a result of the Baby Boomer generation reaching an age when many decided to start families of their own.

While the Baby Boomer generation (commonly defined as those born between the post WW2 years of 1946 to 1964) was certainly one of unquestionable change, upheaval, progress, strife, identity seeking, and innovation, it would be naive and wrong of us to look on the generation who proceeded them as being free of these same defining markers.

The generation that was comprised of Baby Boomer's parents was, as a whole, an incredible one. They weathered staggering adversity throughout the Great Depression and World War 2, dealing with a constantly faltering economy, scarcity of jobs, political unrest, broken families (when one or more parents left to find work on their own and/or went off to war), the advent of many amazing technologies and discoveries (from atom bombs to television), and lived in the shadow (and/or with their own personal memories) WW1 and the shattered society that massive battle had left from humanity to clean up.

In 1951 a Time magazine article called the generation (encompassing those born between 1924 and 1945) that proceeded the Baby Boomers as the "Silent Generation". This name, the piece's author said, stemmed from the fact that (in his view) the generation of youngsters during those decades were surprisingly less boisterous, preferring to keep to themselves, work hard, shoulder life's burdens, and steadfastly do what needed to be done, no matter how grim.

{For most born during the tumultuous years of the 20s, 30s and 40s life was anything but easy or peaceful, a fact which no doubt added to the desire this generation had to achieve the American dream in the post war years of the late 1940s and 50s. Image of a sweet, solemn faced little boy taken during the 1930s via ronramstew on Flickr.}


American journalist Tom Brokaw has also described this generation, which was composed of a smaller number of births than the (massive) one that followed it, as the Greatest Generation. This is a term that I greatly prefer over the Silent Generation, as I feel that name sometimes does a disservice to the achievements and actions that my grandparents' generation did for the world.

Not to mention the fact that, on the cultural front at the very least, the so-called Silent Generation was anything but, given the great number of incredible musicians, actors, writers, and brilliant minds who emerged from those people born during some of the darkest years of the 20th century.

Brokaw's title for second generation born in the last century ties directly into the immense contribution that people of that era made to the war effort (so much so that the term "GI Generation" is sometimes applied to those who were old enough to serve their country during WW2), and is certainly an apt one.

Both of of these terms for the youth of my grandparents generations sprang to mind as I chatted with my mom, yet instead I referred to it as the Chronically Vintage Generation.

One might smile and think I was just being cute by referencing my own blog and personal interest in the past, however as I went on to explain to my mom, I feel that it's a very fitting title because this generation (in my eyes at least) was the last to really adhere to many of the traditional values of society. More progressive certainly than the buttoned up Victorians, but a million miles away from the seeming relaxed, "if it feels good, do it" world of the 60s and 70s that would follow in a few short decades.

My grandparents' generation was one of tenacity and resourcefulness. Cliché as it may sound, they generally made do or went without, and in their world that was completely normal. Though certainly (then as always) there was wealth to be had by a select few, overall they were a hardworking, salt of the earth bunch who poured their blood, sweat and tears into riding out the hell that was the Great Depression and World War 2.

Perhaps because so much adversity had already crossed their paths, this generation wasn't chomping at the bit to do away entirely with many of the morals, customs, styles of dress, family values, and even some of foods of their own parents (which Gertrude Stein termed the "Lost Generation") and grandparents.

Though the world around them was rapidly changing and was often terribly uncertain, many of those who made up the Chronically Vintage Generation held onto and preserved the past and the way of life they'd grown up with. In general, they did not feel as possessed as the Baby Boomers they'd spawn to distant themselves from their own parents and many of societies longstanding traditions.

Like this very blog itself, they strove to keep a sense of the past alive by adhering to a relatively traditional way of life that kept one foot firmly planted in history, while the other (having fought to make it safe) stepped tentatively towards the future.

As such, looking with much love and deeply rooted respect for my grandparents and their peers, I here by dub those born between 1924 and 1945 as the Chronically Vintage Generation. You were, and will always be, worthy of remembering and looking up to with admiration.


  1. That was simply the best generation ever. My parents were/are the baby boomer generation as well. Fascinating post-love all the history. It's settled-I think you have to write a book! I know i'd buy a copy!!! xox

  2. Thanks for another lovely and insightful post Jessica.
    Love and hugs,

  3. What a beautiful article, Jessica!!! And I love the name Chronically Vintage Generation!!

    You know, both my parents and my husband's parents are part of that generation, and one of the things I also notice about that generation is their commitment to their marriage! My in-laws have now been married for 58 years; my parents, for 52 years. It seems that generation believed in keeping the vows they made, while many couples in my generation just toss in the towel when the going gets tough or when "someone better comes along." Maybe it's a result of weathering those difficult Depression and Second World War years that made them strong enough to not toss away their marriages.

    I am so far behind on my blog reading...and I have really missed you!! Hope you've had a great weekend.