Some people think that 6 is an important number. And 7 is also an important number. But 67 doesn’t mean anything except to me. I will be 67 on Sunday.
67 years on earth, an earth that changed drastically over those six and a half plus decades. I’m sure you’ve gotton those emails detailing the way we were back in those olden days — before television, before polio vaccinations, before wireless telephones…..
A couple of years ago, I read a piece in the Albany NY newspaper that chronicled the history of my generation from a perspective that many share. I blogged excerpts back then, and I have gotten permission from the author to post the article here in its entirety. The author left out some things I might have put in, and put in some things I, personally, would have phrased and emphasized differently. I share it here because I think many of my generation feel the way this author feels about the past we have all shared.
This fall, I will be going to my 50th (now there’s a significant number) reunion of my graduating class from a co-ed Catholic high school. From past reunions, and from the growing list on Classmates.com, I can see that I — atheist, divorcee, vocal feminist — will most likely be the ranking odd ball.
For what it’s worth, I think they would share the following perspective on the past 67 years:
2005: My Generation is Going Gold
by Silvio Laccetti
Professor of Humanities at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ
We are the smallest generation. Once called the silent generation, we are the pivotal generation of the last 60 years. We are the Rock’ n Roll Generation, born from 1940 through 1945. My generation. This New Year, 2005, the first of our number arrives at the golden age of 65.
Sandwiched between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers, we occupy our own high place in America’s social history. We have served as foundation builders in key areas of American life, and we have cemented the social structure of the last 35 years. Our generation is recognized by many names.
Of course, as the Rock ‘n Roll Generation, we discovered and popularized the music that radically changed popular culture. In the early 50s, proto-rock ‘n rollers found the moondog music of black artists on obscure R&B stations. “Rock” became a cultural attitude, infusing the arts, theatre and even politics. We were the first modern generation of rebels, albeit rebels without a cause. We said rock and roll would never die and, for better or worse, it hasn’t.
Clearly, my generation is also the Atomic Generation, closely identified with the 1950s and their epochal changes. Domestic joy and tranquility contrasted with apocalyptic visions of annihilation.
On November 1, 1952, the U.S. exploded the first H bomb. Soon afterwards, fantasies of total destruction were regularly projected in film and slide shows in school auditoriums throughout the land. I can still remember the fear that gripped us while watching endless replays of that nuclear detonation. Goodness gracious, great balls of fire!
Luckily our trusted teachers taught us what to do. We learned to duck!
The Atomic Age was the most fearful aspect of a more generalized pathology — continuous, unpredictable Cold War. Brutal, atheistic communists ravaged our generation’s reality. To combat this threat, most institutions, including Hollywood and even the government, itself turned to the only help left- God.
The first Cold War Generation learned more about religion through popular culture than they did by any other means. GOD was inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. Biblical themed epics bounded at the movie shows and nobody objected. The last significant one of this genre- for us- was titled The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Everyone seemed to know He had the whole world in His hands.
As we matured into adolescence we became the Space Age Generation. When the Soviet Union beat us in the space race with their launch of Sputnik in 1957, we were to be the vanguard protectors of the free world. We began preparing for careers in astronomy, physics and rocket science (Science!) math and, of course, engineering. Excitement and challenge were in the air.
We reached for the moon and we helped the nation to get there. We seemed to be reaching for God, climbing a stairway to heaven. But down that stairway had come the Roswell aliens, and others from the dark side of the moon were on their way.
To be sure, not all our generational foundations were unsettling. We were the TV Generation, enjoying a pleasant life in black and white. We were learning to live vicariously as most people do now through technology.
In one special institution (for boys only at first) we lived actively and vicariously as well. We were the founding generation of Little League. Put me in coach, I’m ready to play.
Because we passed through so many mini-revolutions we were also the cement that binds much of our society together. We went from the 78 rpm record to the DVD recorder disc, from the typewriter to the Palm pilot.
Passing through these developments makes my generation a source of wisdom which is a valuable social cohesive never to be overlooked by younger people. We have been and are that proverbial bridge over troubled waters.
My generation was gut-wrenched into maturity in November, 1963 during the long days of national mourning for President Kennedy. Mature, melancholy and morose, our momentum as generational leaders of change quickly ebbed. Our place was taken by Baby Boomers all too ready and too eager to begin their work.
If 1963 was a year of innocence lost, 1965 was the pivotal year for America and our last year as “leaders of the new generation”. In truth, we were ready to abdicate. The face and course of America was to change forever in that fateful year.
A short list of events in that single year includes: the great escalation to war in Viet Nam; the shocking urban riots in Watts; a renewed but combative Civil Rights movement; Urban Renewal; the new Immigration Act. Out with the old, in with the new!
In New York City, the last great World’s Fair closed its gates and in November, the lights went out in the city. My generation was not the one that turned them on again.
Forty years later, it’s 2005 and most of us are staying alive (oops). Thanks to new attitudes toward seniors and second careers, and with continued help from medical advances we remain an undeniable part of America’s future. As veterans of four decades of change in which America became the sole world super power we still have much to contribute. We will not fade away.
Maybe 67 isn’t an important number, but along the way during these 67 years, I have lived through some identity-challenging events in both the Big Picture and LIttle Picture. Unlike some, I have shed my skin several times along the way, re-inventing myself to suit my needs at the time.
And so it goes.