Thursday, April 30, 2015

The first postwar generation : the High School kids of 1957-1959

Born in 1951 in Victoria BC, between 1957 and 1959 I returned to my birthplace and lived at the corner of Cranmore and Hampshire in Oak Bay, a wealthy suburb of the greater Victoria BC.

My tiny Catholic primary school was over on Trent and I had a long, long twice daily walk (at age 5 !) along the street that was fronted by the city's big High School and Junior High School.

So while I clearly remember the nuns and lay teachers at my own school, you will excuse me when I say I don't remember the kids of my own boring age at my school but much preferred to constantly examine close up the glamorous seeming "Big Kids" at the High School.

These were mostly kids born between 1941 and 1947 , the first wave of my own postwar generation - now incorrectly called the Boomers.

To put it in context, if the Dylan, Baez and the Grateful Dead had lived in Victoria, they'd all be attending High School in these years - so you known the sort of generation I'm talking about.

Years later, I learned that 1950s Victoria was supposedly locked into a British Victorian time warp.

Perhaps - for those over the age of 30 .

But my sense then (and now) was that the young people there acted as if this was just California North Extended right down to our fair share of classic beatnik types.

After all it was far cheaper and quicker to fly to exciting San Francisco than to go to staid Toronto.

I knew then from my TV how teens in California of the 1950s acted and this well-to-do , urban High School in my provincial capitol was clearly no different - the Hot Rods were exactly the same, the clothes too and even the lingo.

Not living at this street corner till late 1957, I obviously never knew any of the earlier postwar high school kids.

I mean this group's older brothers and sisters - born in the mid to late 1930s, who had shared their parents' wartime patriotism first hand.

As a result, I can't say for certain that the two groups of siblings were clearly very different in outlook.

But we know for a fact that this generation I saw before me twice daily never thrilled to the stoic British endurance of the Blitz years - only knew of bombing as seen at Hiroshima and Dresden.

They never got uplifting accounts of prewar BC's eugenic successes in Hygiene class - knew only of Auschwitz's better known example of applied eugenics.

If the Staten Island born Baez was any example, they did indeed think and act differently than their slightly older siblings.

(Some people even date the birth of the entire folk protest age to the moment when Baez became the classic 'overnight star'.

She had appeared on stage, unannounced, as a last minute addition to the first annual Newport Folk Festival in July 1959 and was an immediate nation-wide media sensation.

I was still living at Cranmore and Hampshire at the time, but knew nothing of her until 1961.)

And the war years truly were "The Great Divide" that made these 18 year olds' thinking closer to that of eight year me than to their slightly older siblings.

My first book will go back to the wartime years these high schoolers were born into, to understand what effects it had upon them and upon me ....

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