October 20, 2014

Horse 1779 - The Silent Generation

I was watching CNN's documentary series "The Sixties" on SBS One, and in particular the episode about the space program and the Apollo missions. One engineer said that:
"My generation is the generation which changed the moon from an object to a place."
That sounded to me like this chap had tickets on himself and (probably quite rightly) wanted to give himself and his generation a giant pat on the back.

It's an interesting thought though. All twelve men who walked on the moon, all of their ground crews, flight engineers, mission controllers, spacecraft fabricators etc. were all members of the Silent Generation.
The Silent Generation precedes the Baby Boom and comprises those people born between 1930 and 1945. This is the generation that was born and grew up during the depression and the Second World War but were too young to have fought in the war - that generation was previous one again, with the imposing name of the Greatest Generation.

Think about this, the epitomes of cool James Dean and Steve McQueen, were both members of Silent Generation and arguably the cultural high-water mark of both the teenager and coolness happened with the film "Rebel Without a Cause" in 1955, which came out when the earliest of the Baby Boomers were turning 9 years old.
The civil rights movement, women's liberation, the moon landings, the beginnings of widespread air travel with the Boeing 707 then 747 and even Concorde, were all the doings of the Silent Generation.

It's interesting to think (well at least I think) that practically all of the coolest cars in history were designed, styled and built for the Silent Generation.
The 1959 Mini, 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air, 1959 Cadillac de Ville, 1952 Mercedes-Benz 300SL, 1954 Jaguar D-Type, 1961 Jaguar E-Type, 1964 Ford Mustang and 1964 Ford Cortina.
I take particular note of those last two because in 1964, the first of the Baby Boomers were turning 18 years old, and although the cars which followed in the 1960s and 1970s were more "modern" and even a few of them were quite cool, it is as though the Silent Generation had closed the door of coolness behind them.

What I find really strange is what happened when the Silent Generation began to assume power. They whole scale destroyed everything. The first of Silent Generation turned 50 in 1980 and under Prime Ministers Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard in Australia and Thatcher and Major in Britain, the trophy cabinet was upturned and all the silverware sold for sixpence and a pocket full of rye.
After living through a period of unprecedented economic growth, the policies which followed were to rip up the road behind them. Curiously, there have been no Silent Generation Presidents of the United States. I don't know what that means exactly but there was a jump from Carter, Reagan and Bush 41 who were all Greatest Generation presidents to Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama who are Baby Boomers.

The comment that "My generation is the generation which changed the moon from an object to a place" may have been true for a short period in history but in December 1972, the place turned back into an object. The door of coolness remains firmly shut.

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