PART 1 OF GENERATION SERIES: THE GREATEST GENERATION/SILENT GENERATION 1925-1945
The Roaring 20s and Prohibition started during the previous generation and continued into this generation. (See the G.I. Generation for information on the events.)
The Great Depression and World War II have been written about extensively, so I will cover them from a slightly different viewpoint. What that viewpoint is right now is unknown to me. I’ll just have to type and you’ll have to read it to find out!
- Born 1927- 1945.
- Went through their formative years during an era of suffocating conformity, but also during the postwar happiness: Peace! Jobs! Suburbs! Television! Rock ‘n Roll! Cars! Playboy Magazine!
- Korean and Vietnam War generation.
- The First Hopeful Drumbeats of Civil Rights!
- Pre-feminism women; women stayed home generally to raise children, if they worked it was only certain jobs like teacher, nurse or secretary.
- Men pledged loyalty to the corporation, once you got a job, you generally kept it for life.
- The richest, most free-spending retirees in history.
- Marriage is for life, divorce and having children out of wedlock were not accepted.
- In grade school, the gravest teacher complaints were about passing notes and chewing gum in class.
- They are avid readers, especially newspapers.
- “Retirement” means to sit in a rocking chair and live your final days in peace.
- The Big-Band/Swing music generation.
- Strong sense of trans-generational common values and near-absolute truths.
- Disciplined, self-sacrificing, & cautious.
To see how generations are targeted for marketing campaigns, see Resources below: 15 Key Strategies for Marketing to Different Generations
Before bad times came the fun and happy stuff.
Bubble Gum (1928 – )
I was soooo excited when I came to the invention of bubble gum! Yippeee!! One of my favorite SMACK parts of childhood. My sister was a smacker, cracker, and bubble popper. I loved watching her as much as my mother hated it.
Mickey Mouse (1928 – )
According to legend, Walt Disney planned to name the mouse “Mortimer” until his wife suggested the name of Mickey. So, let’s proceed to Mickey’s history.
In 1928, Disney released Mickey’s first two silent cartoons; audiences yawned. So Disney began work on a ‘talkie’ entitled, “Steamboat Willie.” Sound equipment had not been established yet on the west coast, so he had to take the animation to New York. Talking Mickey Mouse appeared on the big screen for the first time on November 18, 1928. After the success of Steamboat Willie, Disney went back to his silent cartoons to add sound; this time the audiences loved them. In the 1930s, Mickey appeared in comic strips which gained him fame around the world. His popularity was probably due to his everyday-man personality.
Take a look at Mickey’s photos and cartoons — his ears were always circular, no matter what direction he faced.
He wore white gloves so his hands would show up when they were in front of his black body.
His most popular cartoon was the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in the feature film Fantasia.
Shirley Temple (1928 – 1940)
Shirley Temple started dance lessons at age 3. She was discovered at a dance studio and chosen to star in the short film “Baby Burlesks [Burlesques.]” With every film after that, she received ‘two thumbs up.’ In 1933, she was the star in the movie “Stand Up and Cheer” which was a fantasy, depression-era film. After that, she rose to be the biggest star in the world. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called her “Little Miss Miracle” for raising morale during hard times. He said, “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.” The song I loved best was “On the Good Ship Lollypop.” I used to dance around the house singing it.
Of course, as with most famous people, there were ugly rumors. One was that she was really a 30-year-old dwarf. Another was that she wore a wig. Fans used to pull her hair to see if it was real. She complained that she wished her hair had been a wig since it was so time-consuming to get the curls right.
Shirley starred in 14 short films, 43 feature films, and over 25 storybook movies. She won a special Academy Award for “Outstanding Personality of 1934.” As she entered puberty, her popularity started to wane, and had no success as an adult actress. In 2005, Shirley Temple Black received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild. She is on the list of the American Film Institute’s list of greatest female American screen legends.
As an adult, Shirley Temple Black served as a representative of the United States:
1969-1970 Ambassador to the United Nations
1974 Ambassador to Ghana
1976-1977 Chief of Protocol of the United States.
1988 Honorary U.S. Foreign Service Officer
1989-1992 Ambassador to Czechoslovakia
1998 Lifetime Achievements celebrated at Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
In 1972 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She announced to the world she had breast cancer, and that she had chosen to have radical mastectomy surgery. Before her public announcement, cancer was not something that was openly shared.
Her autobiography, “Child Star,” was published in 1988.
J. Edgar Hoover, Bureau of Investigation (1924-1972)
1932. Hoover created the FBI Laboratory to examine and analyze evidence.
1933. The Bureau’s priority was to capture bank robbers. The most notorious captured were Machine Gun Kelly (1933), John Dillinger (1934), and Alvin Karpis (1936). After their capture, Hoover’s power was broadened. He denies the existence of organized crime and the Mafia.
1935. The Bureau was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI.)
1938. Operation Postorius. Two teams of German agents were dropped off by German U-boats in Florida and Long Island. One of the agents contacted the FBI and all of the spies were rounded up and convicted.
1939. The FBI became the leader of domestic intelligence and counterintelligence. Hoover created an Identification Division to compile fingerprints.
1940. The FBI starts following and wiretapping Robert Oppenheimer (before he was elected to head the Los Alamos project.)
1941. President Roosevelt grants the FBI full authority to wiretap persons suspected of subversive activities.
Hoover kept an extensive Watch List: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Americans_under_surveillance
Wall Street Crash of October 29, 1929 followed by The Great Depression 1929-1941
The Depression actually started in Germany, then hit other nations. In the U.S., the Wall Street Crash of 1929, also known as “Black Tuesday” began in late October 1929 and was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States. Lack of oversight by the government, banks, investors, and the stock market were the cause (at least that’s what I could figure out.) Excesses of the Roaring Twenties turned into joblessness and hunger. The Great Depression had arrived in America, and then the rest of the world. Failure was a domino effect: Stock market, banks, employment, farming, goods — everything.
An interesting note was that people blamed President Hoover, who expressed no real concern over the Depression. Shelters for the poor were nicknamed “Hoovervilles.”
The Depression-era motto was “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.”
Pot luck and casseroles became a common way to share food. Movies were out; card and board games became a way to have fun staying at home with family and neighbors. Radio was once again the first choice entertainment.Divorce rates dropped since people could afford them, but abandonment of families grew. “Riding the rails’ was a good way to get around looking for work — the riders were called “Hobos.” Although the Hobo’s life was dangerous, national homicide and crime rates went down.
From 1920-1945, these were some advertised food costs (food is based on 1 pound and cost in cents):
Bacon .52 Bread .12 Butter .70 Coffee .47
Bacon .47 Bread .09 Butter .56 Chicken .39 Coffee .51
Bacon .47 Bread .10 Butter .56 Chicken .42 Coffee .45
Bacon .38 Bread .08
Bacon .45 Chicken .41 Coffee .43
People who could, hunted and grew their own food.
City Life v. Country Life
Very few people had money, so most people were equal — nothing to eat, nowhere to live, nowhere to go.
My mother, who was born in 1922, lived in a small town in Texas. They had a small home where 3 girls shared a room and 4 boys shared the other. They had a cow, pigs, chickens, an ice box, and an outhouse. Her mom was a housewife, and her dad was a welder. Being in a small town during the Depression had so many more advantages of city-living.
She said they would trade food for different food or for needed services. Her father traded welding for food and other needed services. Bartering. But the people had things to barter with. They knew most everyone and helped those who couldn’t help themselves.
In the cities, families kept kitchen gardens with vegetables and herbs. Some towns and cities allowed for the conversion of vacant lots to community “thrift gardens” where residents could grow food. Pot luck and casseroles became a common way to share food.
Public Works Programs Established (1933)
President Roosevelt established Public Works Programs to financially assist those AFFECTED by the Depression and the Dustbowl. The programs included:
Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) – Enacted to increase farming prices while reducing surpluses. Now known as the US Department of Agriculture.
Civil Works Administration (CWA) – Four Million temporary jobs were created in construction. Nearly $200 Million was spent per month. The CWA was created under the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA.)
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) – Created 3 Million jobs (over 9 years) for unemployed, unskilled, and unmarried men age 18-28. The men were provided housing, clothing, and food; earnings were $30 and $25 had to be sent home. Their job was to conserve and develop rural government land. During its time, public awareness and enjoyment of the outdoors, parks, and natural resources developed (which has continued to this day.)
Farm Credit Administration (FCA) – This was enacted so farmers could keep their farms and continue to grow food for the nation. It later became the US Department of Agriculture (USDA.)
National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) – This Act suspended antitrust laws, requiring companies to self-regulate. The companies were required to write industry-wide codes of fair competition that fixed wages, prices, production quotas, and more.
Public Works Administration (PWA) – Unlike the Civil Works administration, the PWA was an agency designed to create large-scale construction projects (Hoover Dam, Lincoln Tunnel, etc.) Its goal was to spend $6 Billion to create jobs which would stabilize purchasing power. Private construction companies oversaw the work.
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) – It was founded to provide economic development in areas hit especially hard during the Depression. Its goal was to increase generation of power, flood control, navigation, fertilizer, and agriculture. States covered were Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina,Tennessee, and Virginia.
In 1935, the The Resettlement Administration created camps for migrant workers from the Depression and Dust Bowl. This allowed the workers cheap housing and the ability to stay in one place.
Betty Boop (1930 – )
Almost all of us know about Betty Boop, the femme fatale. BUT, did you know she was developed from a black scat singer at the Cotton Club in Harlem?? Her stage name was “Baby” Esther [Jones], where she started the well-known-phrase “boop-oop-a-doop.” She was so popular that she began being copied. Person A copied Baby Esther, then person B copied person A, then the studio picked it up from person B, then the lawyers were happy because lawsuits ensued as to who owned the rights to Betty Boop. Baby Esther stayed out of the fray.
And, did you know that Betty Boop got married?? You can thank the National Legion of Decency and the Production Code of 1934 for causing the shotgun marriage. The Code disallowed her cartoons to continue as they were because of the sexual innuendos. Betty’s cartoons went from Betty Boop to Betty ploop. She was no longer the bubbly Betty we knew. Her time ended in 1939.
Bonus Army March 1932
After World War I, the government promised World War I veterans a bonus to be issued in 1945. Since many of the veterans were unable to find work or feed their families, they formed the Bonus Army which marched to Washington DC. Tent cities were erected on government property.
The above photo (taken on July 28, 1932) shows the Marchers wielding pipes, and throwing bricks and stones at policemen as they try to remove the Bonus Army from camping on government property. Several lives were lost in these fights before the United States Army was called in to remove the marchers. The veterans who demanded immediate payment of their bonuses by the government lost its battle.
Repeal of Prohibition 1933
The 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition on December 5, 1933. One of the jokes about the reason for it’s passage was that “after fourteen years with nothing to drink the American people got thirsty.”
Aside from public opinion, the 18th Amendment was repealed because Congress thought the constitution should not create prohibitions or restrict rights; the constitution should restrict the government in order to ensure the broadest rights and privileges for Americans. The 18th Amendment took away rights from the states and from U.S. citizens.
The Dust Bowl is also known as the Dirty Thirties. It is considered to have been one of the worst ecological disasters caused by humans in history. There were over 100 million acres of land effected. There were many monstrous dust storms (the big ones you’ve seen in the Sahara.) Of the many dust storms, 14 were in 1932 and 38 in 1933.
What was it like living through it?
The dust storms were so damaging to health that children were often sent home from school in order to prevent ‘dust pneumonia’. Some days the children were forced to stay overnight since walking home and breathing in the dust was a serious health hazard.
Approximately two million people became homeless because of the Dust Bowl and the damage it did to their farms. In only one year, roughly 6,500 people were died while trying to hop on freight trains to get to other parts of the country to look for work. Attics caved in on people who knew to brush the dust off their roofs, but they didn’t realize the dust had built up in the attics.
Driving was extremely dangerous due to the blinding dust storms. Cars had to drag chains to ground the car from high static electricity caused storms; the chains helped prevent severe electrical shocks to people when they touched other people or objects.
More than 300,000 people moved to California to start over but because of the Depression, many of the farmers could not find employment.
What caused the Dust Bowl to end?
Franklin D. Roosevelt started having farmers trained on soil conservation and anti-erosion techniques, including crop rotation, strip farming, contour plowing, terracing and other beneficial farming practices. The government started buying starving cattle for slaughter, and the meat was returned to the farmers. Scientists had farmers plant trees in strategically planned areas that would help reduce wind. And it started to rain again.
Grapes of Wrath is an excellent novel written by John Steinbeck about the Dust Bowl and its depressing effects on farmers.
Social Security Act (1935 – )
1935 – Signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Benefits were only to the worker. Welfare started.
1937 – First Social Security cards issued.
1937 – First lump-sum payout for 17 cents issued.
1939 – Spouse and minor children of a retired worked added to those allowed coverage.
1940 – First monthly check issued to spouse for $22.54.
Amelia Earhart 1937
Amelia Earhart was an American aviator who mysteriously disappeared in 1937 while trying to circumnavigate the globe from the equator. Earhart was the 16th woman to be issued a pilot’s license. She was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928 as well as the first person to fly over both the Atlantic and Pacific. She formed and organization for female pilots called the “Ninety-Nines,) . In 1937, she started her trip to fly around the world starting from Oakland, California and over the Pacific Ocean. Her plane disappeared somewhere in the Pacific. Earhart was legally declared dead in 1939.