We just lost an old friend. His name was Martin. He was almost 89 years of age. Martin is one of a disappearing generation; an Air Force veteran of the Korean war, born in 1929, according to my calculations. 1929 was the year the stock market suffered a disastrous blow.
The crash in 1929 didn’t level off until 1932. Martin wouldn’t remember that time, being a little toddler, but how the collapse affected his parents established some basic life views for Martin and men and women his age. The parents’ conservatism and frugality was passed on to the children born at this time.
These kids were accustomed to gardens in every yard, canned goods in the pantry, and homemade clothes. Everything did not come from a store, and every single item, whether food or material goods, was utilized; certainly not thrown into the trash.
Martin graduated from high school, and eventually entered the Air Force, serving in the Korean war. This age group had experienced the nation at war (World War II) and lived daily with the rationing, the sorrow of losses close to them, and the fear that war invokes. The depression and war deeply influenced each one.
Conscription ended future plans. Students had to quit college and accept the call. This generation learned that serving your country was a privilege and a duty. This generation understood that their rights and freedoms required responsibility and accountability on their part. They understood what war could do and knew that national defense and safety depended on them.
In the middle ’60s this population was immersed back into society and family involvement. The wars were over for now. Men dressed well for work. They cared how they looked. This crowd bought suits, sweaters, dress shirts, cuff links, hats, and London style pea-coats. They wore long-sleeved dress shirts under their sport coats, and often sported ties. Jeans and work pants, boots, and overalls were work clothes. They were worn for hunting and working outside. These items were not worn out to eat, to go to a job, nor to church. Caps were worn while doing chores, but certainly never with daily attire.
One would not find a harder working generation than this age group. Men and women took their jobs seriously, followed the rules, worked the hours, trained their help, took responsibility, understood the need to please the public, and going the extra mile.
This generation understood hard times. And as a result they made room for fun. They were the generation of the 5 o’clock cocktails when friends gathered at different homes on a regular basis for an hour or two. Television soon came on the scene, and probably contributed to the demise of this custom. Perhaps meeting for coffee on a daily basis has been a substitute. Every town has an “old geezer” coffee gathering place today. This generation learned frugality from their parents; and the second World War certainly entrenched that mind set. Martin’s age group owned nice things but they were not wasteful. They took immaculate care of their things. They didn’t need “new” this or that. They lived below their means. They saved. Money was banked for the future. There was no need to spend every cent you made, and “if you already had one, you didn’t need to buy another.” They would “make do” with what they had.
Many of this crowd smoked and drank. They “perfected” those habits usually in the military. The knowledge of the damage these indulgences could cause was not yet in the public conscious. Above all, they took the responsibility of taking care of their families quite seriously.
Every gen has its characteristics and personalities. The pity is that we lose most of what the previous age group tries to pass on. We are self centered and we think our ways are best unless someone fills us in. Some customs are good, some bad, but there is always a treasured learning curve that could help us avoid future angst.
I just wish I had asked Martin more questions. What a great generation!
Judi Tabler lives in Pawnee County and is a guest columnist for the Great Bend Tribune. She can be reached at email@example.com. Visit her website juditabler.com.