I have been watching a lot of Mad Men lately. When watching that show, it is obvious how different the culture was back then. Women were barely allowed to work in the office unless they were a secretary or an operator. Every executive had a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of liquor in his office that were enjoyed daily. There are a lot of things that people were doing fifty years
ago that people no longer do now. When our grandfathers were our age, let’s say around 1955 – 1965, what were they doing? What can we learn from their experiences?
1. Civil rights were at the forefront of political issues.
Your grandfather was dealing with the issue of civil rights, segregation and race relations. No matter what race he was, this was an issue he was no doubt facing. The structure of entire cities, such as Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles, were irreversibly changed because of racial riots that broke out two generations ago.
2. Your grandfather fixed his car by himself.
Nowadays, when a light comes on the dashboard, we will automatically take the car to the shop. We never think that we can fix the car by ourselves. With all of the electronics being used today, it’s easy to just leave it to the dealership to fix. Fifty years ago, however, it’s likely that most problems could have been fixed with some grease and a wrench.
3. He hitchhiked or picked up a hitchhiker before he turned 30.
My friend’s grandfather actually told us a story about hitchhiking across the United States after being discharged from the Army. It was a different time back then, and even though you needed to be careful, bumming a ride was common. Having a military uniform entitled you to the respect of many people in America. Something that could enable a military man to travel cross country using just a thumb. Think about trying to do that today!
4. He was in World War II, Korea, Vietnam or in danger of being drafted to Vietnam.
We are currently dealing with the war on terrorism, but your grandfather had to deal with the war against communism. That was a war that included an involuntary military draft, choosing people to fight who wouldn’t have chosen to fight.
5. He shaved his beard with a straight razor.
Four blades? Five blades? Try one single blade, shaped like a knife.
6. Your grandfather had a ‘guy’ for everything.
Even now when you talk to him, he mentions that he ‘knows a guy’ to help you with your problem. He knew someone at the butcher shop, the owner of the local hardware store and the local golf course attendant who could get him a tee time at the last minute. In an era of giant retail chains, we rarely have a ‘guy’ for anything. We just walk into Home Depot and ask one of the jokers wearing an orange vest which paint will work best for exterior trim. Who knows if he is an expert in paint or not, he is not your ‘guy’. Maybe we could benefit by spending a little more time and finding our own ‘guy’ for critical purchases.
7. He took pride in being able to fix household items.
Broken furnace? Squeaky door? No problem, add it to the To-Do list and I will get to it on the weekend. Men took pride in being able to repair everything in the house back then. No need to call a repair man to help fix something, your grandfather would get to it as soon as he had a day off. He was a plumber, a carpenter and expert electrician, all wrapped into one.
8. He was starting to provide a better future for his young family.
When your grandfather was your age, jobs were abundant and paid extremely well, as long as you committed to working hard. The American dream of owning a house with a white picket fence was born during this time. At your age, he was busy working to provide a better life for his children, who were your father and mother.
9. He was genuinely patriotic.
In the 1950s and early 1960s patriotism wasn’t just an idea talked about on Fox News, it was a common sentiment. America was coming off of World War II and there was a large amount of national pride. Rosie the Riveter had cemented the idea that everyone had pitched in and helped the United States win the war. This helped to reinforce a patriotic attitude that your grandfather still holds today.
10. Most importantly, no one was better at facing adversity than your grandfather.
He has been through more trying times than we might ever see in our lifetime. When he was young, the government was rationing every imaginable supply in order to help the war effort. Rubber, gasoline and even food rations were levied by the US government in order to provide for the military in the Alantic and Pacific theaters. This gave him a great work ethic and his inclination to not waste anything. He had a different viewpoint on work and career than some entitled members of our generation.
There are a lot of things we can learn from the experiences of previous generations. As the holiday season comes closer, I would urge you to realize the amount of knowledge that you can gain, not only from your grandfather, but from your entire family. Times definitely change, but you might be surprised how much they stay the same.