Exploring Generations: The Lucky Few
Few people can say that they were born and grew up in the middle of some of the most significant events in their country’s history, but the Lucky Few can say exactly that. Also known as The Silent Generation, these Americans were born between 1930 and 1945—in the height of the Great Depression and World War II.
“I grew up in very meager circumstances on a poor farm that you couldn’t make a living in,” Art Laengrich, an early member of the Lucky Few, said. “My experience was not having much of anything and, indeed, going to bed hungry.”
Unlike their parents who knew life before the Great Depression, the Lucky Few entered into life knowing only the lifestyle of the Great Depression and World War II to follow. Below are a few of the influences, events and characteristics of that time that have shaped The Silent Generation.
World War II and the GI Bill
Many of the Lucky Few find that their memory begins with the events leading up to World War II. Laengrich was too young to go to war, but he recalls many of his relatives going off to war. He never felt entirely sure what they were fighting about, but he witnessed first-hand the jobs that the war created for his family and the opportunities following the war.
“Certainly more people had jobs; people were doing better—there was more food and some things were scarce, but at least people had some money to spend,” Laengrich said. “I remember a lot of propaganda over the radio about buying war bonds and so I was very much aware of what our country was going through in terms of doing special things to further the war effort.”
Laengrich was the first individual in his family to attend college and that was thanks, in part, to the GI Bill. Laengrich was one of many who took advantage of the education offered to them through the GI Bill. Generally, he found his generation to be more motivated to take advantage of educational opportunities so that his own family would not have to endure the hardships he faced growing up in the Great Depression.
“Being poor was not fun, and it certainly impacted my life long term in causing me to be fearful of being poor,” Laengrich said. “The GI Bill gave me an opportunity that I simply could not pass up. It gave me incentive to go work harder and to try very hard never to be poor again. I think in general my generation wanted to raise their family and provide for their family in such a way that their experience would not be duplicated by their children.”
The Golden Age of Radio
The Lucky Few experienced the first surge in live media as the invention of the radio gave way to its prominence in the American home. During World War II, Americans would tune into evening radio programs to hear news about the war, and they also enjoyed nightly entertainment through the radio.
“We didn’t have a television in the house, but we had a radio and we listened to the radio a lot,” Laengrich said. “As a young person I had some favorite programs that I listened to like the Lone Ranger.”
There is no question that Pearl Harbor is one of the most unforgettable events in American history. Pearl Harbor kick-started America’s involvement in World War II and the attack united the country in a stronger way than ever before.
“We were angry when Pearl Harbor happened,” Laengrich said. “Pearl Harbor was the event that brought all Americans together. Everyone in America loved America and we became very openly united and patriotic.”
Cooperation and Unity
Much like Laengrich described about the effects of Pearl Harbor, many events throughout the 1930s and 1940s fostered cooperation and unity among Americans. From the family efforts of poverty-stricken Americans during the Great Depression to war efforts during World War II, being a child during such important times greatly influenced the way that the Lucky Few entered into adulthood.