Posted by: krpooler | February 26, 2011

Lessons from the “Greatest Generation” ~ The Spice in a Story


     Before cell phones, twitter, the internet, video games, microwaves, garage door openers and even TV, there was a generation that survived the Great Depression of the 1930’s, fought an honorable war in the 1940’s as they were coming of age and went on to rebuild America in the 1950’s. Their patriotism was high, work ethic strong and priorities clear~God, family, country. They have earned their title of the “Greatest Generation.” They danced to Big Band sounds, pulled together to fight  World  War II,gathered around radios in parlors to listen to FDR’s  Fireside Chats and made their own fun.

     Personally, I feel very fortunate to have been born a “boomer”  as I have been the beneficiary of hardworking parents who instilled their values of God,family,country in their children. Of course, they were old-fashioned to me as I came of age in the 1960’s especially when they prevented me from wearing makeup or attending boy-girl parties until I was sixteen.

      But the older I get, the more I appreciate what they have given me.

     Then I read this post on Any Shiny Thing by my writer friend, Lynne Spreen, about the lessons she has learned from her Greatest Generation mother. Hop on over. It is delightful.

      And, it reminds me of my own parents, Bob and Kitty, who  devoted their lives to taking the lessons they had learned from growing up at a time when money was tight and went on to provide while making sure their children were self-sufficient, responsible and respectful. At eighteen, they kissed me goodbye and wished me well as they sent me off to nursing school. They had already taught me about God, the pride that came from earning my own money, the importance of  education,  the basics of common courtesy and  the value of family~no matter how bad things would get, my family would always be there for me.

     While critics may carry on about the glut and futility of memoirs, author and scholar William Zinsser, the Father of Memoir, reminds me in this post that these boring and ordinary true life events are the very  ingredients that will enrich my story. What better way to preserve history than to tell  stories experienced against the background of the times; to capture its spirit and character.

       I have never known a hungry day in my life,but my Mom tells me of opening an empty cold box to find nothing. Then she regales me with stories of warm summer nights when her uncles harmonized barber shop tunes under street lamps. My Dad told me of bullies who taunted him  in the school yard  about the knickers he was forced to wear until his older brother,Dick came to his rescue. They were poor but they both had loving families. They made their own fun. Now, these are treasure troves to share with the next generation, the torches of light that will be passed forward to preserve a time that will never be seen again.

     I am told to write what I know. I know that I want to share the great legacy of love that my parents passed on to me. I hope my tribute will be a fitting one. The lessons from my “Greatest Generation” parents will be the spice in my memoir.

What lessons have you learned from the Greatest Generation?

What is the spice in your story?


  1. Kathy, I agree that a memoir is a fantastic way to preserve memories, the history of our culture, and a slice of time in America. As beautifully as you write, I can’t wait to read yours.
    PS Mom still makes sandwiches with “oleo” instead of mayo. And to tell you the truth, I miss being able to fry things in leftover bacon grease!

    • Thanks,Lynne. Yes! Oleo and bacon grease-now those were the days. We boomers were one generation away from hard times but we surely did benefit from the parents who survived them and went on to provide so well for us. I really want to keep those memories alive for my grandchildren. Thanks,as always ,for adding to the discussion.

  2. Kathy, my parents, too, were of the Greatest Generation though, unlike you, I came along a bit too early (1942; I’m not sure what generations that is) to quite be a Boomer. Still, the lessons I learned from them (we weren’t poor, we just didn’t have much money) are much more appreciated in this time when so many are having to downsize, give up things, learn new ways to economize, etc. It’s hard for me to believe they can find it so difficult to recycle, reuse, etc. I remember phrases like, “Use it up, make do, or do without.” and such. Never thought I’d be grateful for that lesson. Thanks for a great post that brought up memories. Sam

    • I agree,Sam. Those memories are so precious and those lessons, so priceless. “Make do or do without. If you don’t have the cash, you can’t have it” were familiar messages. I appreciate you stopping by, commenting and keeping these memories alive.

  3. Yes, Kathy! The Greatest Generation, many of them at least, are too modest to think their story bears telling; we, their successors, however, know otherwise! How fortunate you are to be able to re-tell those wonderful old stories, to be able to preserve a slice of Americana for successive generations. How I wish my late father had written down some of his stories for us — the wisdom and courage and decency they exhibited earn them the title as Greatest Generation!

    • Hi Debbie, you summed it up so beautifully with”the wisdom, courage and decency” of our greatest generation parents. How blessed we are. Thanks for stopping by. I always appreciate your perspective.

  4. I learned to save aluminum foil, grocery bags, and plastic bags, rubber bands, and scraps of paper. I learned how to cook “real” food from scratch, and from my great-grandmother I learned how to make potato soup: water, potatoes, a little milk, a little onion. Dumplings: flour, one egg, a little bit of cream. Drop in when the potatoes are done. A whole pot of that soup probably costs about $1.
    I learned that socks can be darned, that a sewing machine can repair and alter clothes, and that ironing is like meditation. That you can count on hard times, but with creativity, you can grow your own food, you can cook it, and that you never give up. These values came from someone born in 1873, and who knew how to live through hard times.
    Thanks for another great post, Kathy!

  5. Wow,Linda Joy, your treasure trove of memories is overflowing! Sharing these gems reinforces my gratitude for all my ancestors endured so that I could live a comfortable life. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing these treasured memories. These rich details truly represent the flavor of the times.

  6. Dear Kathy, you have taken us to a different town and we are following you to exibit what we have been collecting in our treasury. My father was born in poor family,but he knew self respect and hard work from his parents. He knew how to save money and use it wisely. After retirement as accountant he started his own business and flourished. My mother had the same values. They sacrificed a lot for their children and I wish they sat down for one hour/week with us to discuss the ‘stuff what goes on’ instead of working so hard. They were strict. Indirectly,they would teach me a lot of good things. Their threats were strong, but their love was stronger. I miss them so very much. I have passed on their values to my kids.

    • Hi Smita,
      Thank you for sharing your powerful story of the love and sacrifice of your parents. Those who survived hard times have given us so much. The lessons are blessings that we can pass on to our children and grandchildren. Thanks, as always, for stopping by. Your ideas are greatly appreciated.

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