The first part of this piece can be read here.
Let’s go out to dinner, yes lets, if you could afford it and if you were lucky you may have had in the seventies a Berni Inn near you, prawn cocktail and Black Forest gateau anyone? Mostly, though, if you wanted a meal it would have been a small restaurant or the restaurant open to non-residents in a hotel with usually not much choice, and if you were a vegetarian, seen then as something very odd, you were offered an omelette or the main dish served without the meat. Not much of a wine list either, mostly house Red or White or if you wanted to show off a bottle of Blue Nun, Liebfraumilch or Mateus Rose!
Mind you the menu was often in French with silver service from a uniformed waitress. Just to make you feel relaxed of course. Take the kids? You have to be joking!
Much better now with family friendly restaurants large and small specialising in food from all over the world and world class too, along with hundreds of wines to choose from. And unless you choose to pay over the odds no stuffy head waiters!
“It’s all the schools and education’s fault that we have these ‘snowflakes’.” Another conversation you hear all the time. Boomers will remember real schools, the discipline, the uniforms, the awful school dinners, the morning assembly, the corporal punishment, lines for minor transgressions of rules, and by the way the school day was a lot longer then and despite what some may tell you, the breadth of education (if you chose to accept it), depending on which school you attended, private, grammar or secondary. Not that good by modern standards, with many of the teachers having taken advantage of a short teacher training certificate course held after the war for ex-servicemen wanting to teach as well as many near-retirement older women teachers.
It was fine if you fitted the uniform, one-size-fits-all education but very unpleasant if you did not. Still, if you had ambition there was always ‘night school’. Schools were not the open, friendly places they are in the main today. College places were not open to all and university, in the main, out of reach for most people.
In many ways the first Boomers had the benefit of the good, the bad and the indifferent. After the end of the war, which Boomer was not bored stiff by the sayings you heard all the time, ‘pre-war’ this and that ‘during the war’ this and that, together with parental and social attitudes that had reverted to the 1930s while ignoring the ‘live now’ attitude that parents understandably had during the war and had quite forgotten, it seems, only a few years later?
The bad, well that was the failing infrastructure, poor slum housing, bomb sites, rising crime, street violence and an awful transport network.
The good, Boomers don’t remember the World War, any more than younger people today remember the Falklands, Gulf Wars and Afghanistan. Even more difficult today because so few have any contact with the military. Boomers had fathers and mothers who had served and older brothers who had done National Service perhaps in Korea or Aden.
Indifferent? The boomers were always going to be different, they were going to change the world, it was going to be classless, equality was going to be the rule, another brave new world but only better and different this time. It was time for change and for a short time from the early 60s until around 1970 that looked as if it was going to happen. Until the political agitation of the late 60’s, the industrial unrest, the political mismanagement, the national loss of drive and confidence and not forgetting inflation and the resistance to change displayed by politicians. Society in general along with unions and management put paid to the hopes and dreams.
For all that, Boomers enjoyed an ever-improving standard of living but, it seems, a collective memory loss. They were responsible for many of the social and material improvements we see today along with the many failures also now evident. Many, as they matured and became financially and materially comfortable, either didn’t see, or refused to see, what was happening around them or maybe it was because of them, now there is a thought.
An anthropologist once told me that people view life through rose-tinted glasses as clear memory of events – even personal ones – fade and are less reliable as time goes on until, after about 25 years, most are unreliable.
So perhaps we should take stock. I’m all for saying how it is and let’s face it there is more than enough to say how it is at the present time, but to suggest as many do that somehow things were better in the past, in the halcyon days of Wilson, Heath, Callaghan and John Major, when apparently the nation was at ease with itself with warm beer, flower shows on the green, along with raw sewage in the sea, smog in the air, slag heaps, rivers poisoned, lead poisoning from lead water pipes as well as air pollution from vehicle emissions from lead in the petrol.
Life in general is better today and there have been fantastic improvements that Boomers should be more than proud of, just as we Boomers should remember and be proud of the achievements of previous generations.
The young people of today – and I include the ‘snowflakes’ – are not responsible for all society’s ills. Boomers were not always ‘old moaners’. They once had enthusiasm, broke down class barriers, fought for equality, stood for right and wrong, had ideals. There were also downsides for which we are reaping the benefits of today. Let’s not forget, it also seems that having gained the maturity of years say 25 years ago when they were in their prime, they stopped.
Many seem to have adopted the attitudes of a previous generation, but instead of “well it was better before the war, or during the war” and all that, we hear “well it was better in the 50s and 60s”. I don’t think it was particularly, but if it was, for many life isn’t brilliant now. Let’s ask who allowed society to develop as it has. Boomers have to take responsibility for the bad as well as the good and not keep living in a world where most things were better in some far off time. 1970 is now a very very long time away.