Why the baby boomer generation is the toughest 387



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We played in long grass with thistles in it, sat on burning hot concrete, mixed up concoctions of mud and dandelions, even tasting some for good measure, then let the dog drool on us, and went in to eat jam sandwiches with dusty hands. We survived. We didn’t have a hand sanitiser, or parents who forced us to come in before the darkness fell. We rolled up to the house as the moths came out and buzzed round the lights.

I lived in England as a child, I was allowed out after breakfast, and headed across the fields to a farm where my friend lived. I walked across a lonely wooden bridge across a railway line, dodged a vicious farm dog and stayed to play all day. I was not the most brave or most adventurous child, in fact I was a quiet little child, yet this freedom I had was normal. For the boys, billycarts, skates, and physical combat games were part of everyday play.

Most boys had at least two scabs on each knee and the skin off their elbows. They threw stones and played football on concrete playgrounds, they often had a bike too, nothing flash, but a means of transport at least. Rules about bike helmets hadn’t yet been invented. They cycled to the sea shore and then came back when they had been cooked by the sun all day. Sheets of skin came off a few days later and they compared the size of the shed skin. This was a badge of honour, peeling off skin layers.

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My husband tells me they used to walk for 5 or 6 miles to a play area with a stream and slippery rock walls, then they would walk home again, battle scarred and starving. He remembers ice on the windows of his bedroom, and no heating, how many children today could deal with that? Yet we did. We also had to sleep some nights in an air raid shelter, which was a real toughener. We became used to uncomfortable. We never whinged, because that meant a big tongue lashing from Mum and bed with no pudding.

Picnics were rough affairs with slab of cake and lemonade that had become warm in the sun. Sandwiches always contained some sand, we expected it. Imagine the finicky children of today, so protected they often refuse the most delicate offerings. We wolfed it down sand and all, and then ran back in the sea. I used to love that feeling when we drove home, skin warm from sun, sand on my toes. It was a happy memory. Children now expect gourmet food, and every ‘mod con’. All we had was a plaid blanket on the grass. We would travel there in a battered old car, with sagging upholstery, and no seat belts, heads out the window in the breeze.

Because it was England we were taken to the pub Saturdays, all dressed up, then left in the porch with a packet of chips and some violent red fizzy drink. No children allowed in hotels in those days. We entertained ourselves, while Mum drank a half of shandy, my brother put booby traps on the step for the drunks to trip on. We weren’t watched, except for a head round the door now and then.

Parties weren’t catered for by large companies, by the time we got to eat sometimes the cream buns had the cream licked out, and the toffee apples were melting. We fought like mad playing musical chairs, and got our heads pushed down when we played apple bobbing. I can remember having fun though, and getting chased in a kiss chase game. Shock horror! that would be censored now.

We walked everywhere, all my friends walked to school; I never remember any going by car. When they were older they might be allowed to cycle. I hated walking on really hot or cold days, but we still did it. We had to be very sick indeed to stay home. It was about the only time we got cossetted. A blanket on the couch; and cold drinks. Even then we had no nicely flavoured medicine; it was all pretty disgusting . Now it’s cherry flavour, or a pretty raspberry hue. Anyone who managed to swallow cod liver oil as I did was considered brave even then.

Are we really doing our children any favours by shielding them from all discomfort, how will they ever learn that life is not a bed of cotton wool?   I didn’t feel deprived, I was loved and kept clean, and well fed, and Mum scrubbed all our clothes and the house. The important things were taken care of, and it certainly made me appreciate life when it became easier.


Tell us your thoughts below: Do you think we were bred tougher and kids these days are wrapped in cotton wool?

Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

  1. We did it tough by modern considerations, Jacqui, but it was simply how things were when we grew up. As I said to someone else recently, we used to hunt the cows out of the swimming hole in the creek before we could get in it ourselves… the same creek from which we drew our house water. It’s a rare thing for me to suffer bacterial infections and wonder if it’s because of the development of antibodies within my system as a child. Thanks for a great article!

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    • Totally agree John Reid. Tough compared to today’s generation but what about our parents, grand parents etc. The further back you go the tougher it gets and may do in the future – who knows?

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      • I don’t know the description for the 30s.—40s.but reckon we had to be tough after WW2 .Paving the way for the 50s—-60s

      • Totally right previous generations had it so much tougher Be interesting if their were mortality records for children survival rate back then compared to today

  2. Reckon our parents were the toughest & WE were the luckiest!

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  3. Oh so right! young parents of today would be utterly horrified at what we got up to and what we experienced.

  4. I think we did grow up in a very adventerous time compared to the Gen Y. I walked bare footed through snake infested bushlands to my friends place – our roads when not sealed for many yrs so in the wet weather it was muddy and cars got bogged kids loved to see that. Spent all day out till dark personal safety was no an issue – swam in creeks….got sunburnt ever summer…..collected tadpoles….listened out for the ice cream man to come along on Sunday with his musical truck noise.

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    • I got bogged on our street before it was sealed, as did others!

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      • Pam happened to us on a new housing plot, used to leave the gum boots at the end of the road in builders shed, so the kids could change. Mud was a bigger part of life not long ago, and still is if you farm.

  5. I agree. Walked everywhere. Dad’s car was always an old bomb and mum didn’t drive so it was walk. Used to play out in the street till mum called us in. Had to eat what was put in front of us. Good childhood memories.

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