, Newburyport, MA


December 11, 2013

The different old days

I hate the expression “the good old days” because they really never were that good, just ... well, different. Lately, to the millennial generation, it seems the times we live in are difficult, dangerous and hopeless. They are difficult and dangerous but not hopeless. We’ve been through tough times before, actually much tougher, and we came through stronger and more resilient. I tell my children to be optimistic, strong and tough and we will have good times again soon.

My father told us stories about growing up during the Depression and literally not knowing where your next meal was going to come from. Unemployment was three times today’s rate and there were barely any government programs to help people. It was an extremely difficult time in our country and many millions of people were affected and barely survived.

And barely a decade later, my father was a 19-year-old young man just out of high school carrying a rifle through France. World War II stopped the world in its tracks and forced incredible sacrifices on the American people. Food and fuel were rationed. The freedoms we enjoyed were severely curtailed. For four years, it seemed time stood still as the entire population of America focused on fighting the enemy. In the end, of course, our toughness prevailed and we benefited with a decade of prosperity.

I’m a boomer, and our generation came of age during the late 1950s and the escalation of the Cold War. I remember the absolute terror of hearing the air raid alarms and we were frightened to death as we practiced air raid drills, convinced we would be burnt beyond recognition in a nuclear holocaust with the Russians.

I remember in sixth grade coming home from school and finding my mother sitting at the kitchen table smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. “We’re going to have a nuclear war with the Russians,” she said. Of course, she was talking about the Cuban missile crisis and we didn’t know until years later just how close we came to an all-out atomic war. I can remember like it was yesterday sitting on the top step with my sister listening to the bomb shelter salesman talking to my parents in the living room. “You know it’s only a matter of time before we have World War III,” he said. “Don’t you want to survive?” he asked.

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