Truly our greatest generation

By Mark Carpenter – 

It is a sad and sobering thought. There just aren’t that many of them left any more. That fact hit me last weekend when I went to a gathering at my parents’ house for their 65th high school reunion. What used to be a crowded, loud, and usually boisterous group of people, had now narrowed down to a small group of seven. This time there wasn’t much talk of life in 1952 when they all graduated from high school, but more of their plans for the immediate future, sounding more like a group of 2017 graduates.
I have always had an envy for this group, and many times sat entranced at their reunions listening to their stories of growing up in a small town in a much simpler time, many of them coming from poor families who struggled to fond their next meal, and now all of them success stories in their own right. Yes, they truly were our greatest generation.
Many times I have wished for that time machine that could take me back to 1950 when they were all in the midst of their high school years. No cellphones, no computers, no advanced technology, no fast foods-just meals at home with Mom cooking, Saturday afternoon westerns at the local movie theater, no trips to the mall-just get your clothes at a local store or maybe some hand-me-downs from your siblings, gathered around a radio in the evenings for news and entertainment. That all sounds quite wonderful to me.
Think about the history that this generation has experienced. World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, and the list goes on and on.
Being a sports guy, I always envy the athletes this generation got to grow up with, sports figures who were real heroes from a distance, remember there were very few games on television then, if you were fortunate enough to have a television. How about Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, Bob Cousy, George Mikan, Rocky Marciano, and again the list goes on and on.
Last night I got in my car and drove to Great American Ball Park for a professional baseball game, much different from the stories I have heard about my Dad and his friends hitchhiking from Ripley to see games at old Crosley Field. They are the greatest generation, we are the spoiled generation.
As you read this, many of you will be preparing for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, with plans that include parties and cookouts, many times forgetting the real meaning behind the holiday. Grill your hot dogs and jump in your swimming pool, but never forget the generation that made that possible for you. The soldiers who stared down each other from across a wide open field on the final day at Gettysburg, the Band of Brothers who battled German forces back and forth in the forests of Europe, the soldiers who nearly froze to death at the Battle of Chosin, and the young men who bravely ventured into the jungles of Vietnam to encounter an unseen enemy. When you don’t have to get up and go to work next Monday, take a moment to think about the real reason why.
If I had the time and resources, I really would like to someday try my hand at writing a book. Finding a topic would be simple, I would tell the story of the group of people that were gathered at my parents’ house last Saturday night. The only worry is that by the next time they meet, the number will be even smaller than seven.
So, take a few moments this weekend and try to imagine a life in America 65 years ago. I do it all the time, I just need to write more about it. One of the men who was there last weekend recently lost his wife and is about to embark on a 9,000 mile trip across the western United States- just him and his sports car. Yes, that is our greatest generation.