“I’ve lived way too long . . .” I’ve been telling that to my wife for at least thirty years now.
Where is the world that I grew up in?
In his book, Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War, William Manchester wrote of the background and culture of the World War II generation and though I am of the next generation (“Baby Boomers”), I can identify with most of what he wrote:
To fight World War II you had to have been tempered and strengthened in the 1930's Depression . . . You had to remember your father's stories about the Argonne, and saying your prayers, and Memorial Day . . . you had to have heard Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge and to have seen Gary Cooper as Sergeant York. . . . Esteem was personal, too; you assumed that if you came through this ordeal, you would age with dignity, respected as well as adored by your children. Wickedness was attributed to flaws in individual characters, not to society's shortcomings. To accept unemployment compensation, had it existed, would have been considered humiliating. . . . Debt was ignoble. Courage was a virtue. Mothers were beloved, fathers obeyed. Marriage was a sacrament. Divorce was disgraceful. Pregnancy meant expulsion from school or dismissal from a job. The boys responsible for the crimes of impregnation had to marry the girls. Couples did not keep house before they were married . . . You needed a precise relationship between the sexes. No one questioned the duty of boys to cross the seas and fight while girls wrote them cheerful letters from home. Girls you knew were still pure because they had let you touch them here but not there, explaining that they were saving themselves for marriage. . . . All this led you into battle. It sustained you as you fought, and comforted you if you fell, and, if it came to that, justified your death to all who loved you as you had loved them. Later the rules would change. But we didn't know that then. We didn't know. (emphasis added)