Born in Brooklyn, N.Y,. just four months before The Stock Market Crash that preceded The Great Depression of the Thirties, one would think I might have grown up with some sort of complex over some perceived sense of responsibility for ushering in such a devastating dark grey journey for many adults around me. But that didn't happen. All my psycho-analysts have agreed to that!
My own explanation of my happy childhood in that generation is that I was simply too young to understand why so many of my uncles were around the house for long periods of time. I simply took that fact for granted; it was a normal and nice nice thing to have your family around so much of the time.
My father and my maternal grandfather were fortunate or opportunistic enough to be able to work very hard, putting in long hours six days a week. Too, my mind never seemed to turn to the questions a more mature and less sheltered child might have thought about.
Well, in fact, my two younger brothers and I did have a very happy childhood, unaware of the fact that we should have been worried about the world in a depression that endured for most Americans for twelve years only to turn around when the attack on Pearl Harbor launched a rapid wave of massive re-employment as America tooled up for a second world war which was to "employ" some thirteen million in the uniformed armed forces and put American women and the men who were less able or over the age of thirty-six and under seventeen to work as members of the greatest force of civilians ever assembled to be part of the "war effort".
So during my first decade in this world, I didn't understand the poverty and unemployment around me and in the next half decade I was to become quickly educated in the facts of life and death during a war when we had to learn how to prepare for air raids, live with rationing and the loss of men who would never return to a job in a peacetime life.
But the more I have thought about through my childhood years, through the adult decades since then, the more I realize that my brothers and I had a happy childhood in spite of living through a great depression followed by a great world war was because of the deeply nurturing love we were given in an environment of a family that laughed, played, sang and cried together, seated Sunday after Sunday in a house full of grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I also believe it was that kind of life for many Americans who Tom Brokaw so aptly called that time, "The Greatest Generation:.
The environment in which we lived did shelter us from the fears and hopelessness that many might have felt had Franklin Delano Roosevelt said to Americans, "My friends, the only thing we have to hear is fear itself." In one way or another, throughout the 48 states, American families insulated themselves from the worst of the anxiety with a set of solid values that taught us right from wrong, sharing, caring for others which also had the reward of making us all feel good about life and raised our self esteem in making other people happy with us.
No, it wasn't Utopia, it was a tough time that we somehow got through it with a sense of unity and sacrifice for our country..
Why bring this up now? What is the resemblance of that decade and a half to the past decade and a half wrapped around the turn of the twenty-first century?
For me, there's a kind of of deja vu between these two eras: depression, rampant unemployment, people in debt and, worse still, city, state and federal governments that are ridden with debt.
Seems to me that while history repeats itself, the societal cultures of different times have a lot to do with our reaction to similar situations.
Now, I leave my story for another day hoping you may explore your own reflections with us.
Yours, for a civil exchange of rambling thoughts and ideas,