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My Perspective: What era was the best to grow up in?

Every so often, my boys ask me questions that are pretty deep. Sometimes they pertain to living and dying. Sometimes it has to do with past relatives. Sometimes it is about religion. They usually catch me and my wife a little off guard.

When we were in the car the other day, my 9-year-old son, Noah, asked me this one…. “Do you think you were born at the right time in history or I do you think there was a better time to be born?”

I’m not sure I have ever thought about it quite like that. It was an interesting question. I tried to break it down in categories. And many of these categories could easily have a strong political tinge to it. I am not going down that road. There is enough of that to go around these days. This is what I came up with…

Overall Living Conditions I once took an online survey that asked, “What Era Should You Live In?” It asked some basic questions about my likes and dislikes and from that concluded that I would be most comfortable living in biblical times. I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. Although it would be great to meet all the “stars” of the Bible, the living conditions during biblical times have never looked very appealing to me.

Instead of going back that far, I decided to condense my answer to my son down a bit. If you looked back at the last 100 years and tried to figure out what would be the best time to be a child, what would your answer be? Would you pick the same time period as when you grew up? I would think most of us would pick the same, but it is interesting to think about.

I would think the years of the Great Depression would not be a good era to grow up in. Although, for those who made it through that period, they were probably stronger because of the hardships. It built great character. The ‘50s and ‘60s appear to have been an exciting time to be a child in America. It was a “simpler time,” but not so simple that you didn’t have adequate transportation, communications, education and medical care. It was a time of exploration and discovery. On the flip side, it was the height of the Cold War and Civil Rights movement which resulted in fear and uncertainty for many people in America.

What decade would you pick? Medical I was born with a small heart defect that was fixed when I was 5 years old. If I was born 10-15 years before I was, I would most likely not be alive today, as medical advances couldn’t fix what I had. So in that respect, I told him, I’m glad I was born in the 1970s. Overall, the medical field has advanced so far in the last 50 years, that it would be hard not to pick the 2010-current era on this one.

Music What is the best era to live in for music? This could open a lively debate between friends, especially if they come from different backgrounds, cultures and age demographics. For me, I would have to pick the 1960s. I really like music from all eras and genres, going back to the 1920s, but I think if I was stranded on a desert island and could only pick music from one decade to listen to, the 1960s would probably be what I would choose. Many of the songs from that era don’t make a lot of sense (example: Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do) but they almost all are fun to listen to and always seem to get people in a good mood. And the music wasn’t just coming from a radio. Dances were far more popular than they are today during this time in history. I think it would have been a blast to dance to the songs of the 1960s at a local dance hall.


Another category where opinions can jump all over the place. When you mention each decade, a certain look comes into my head.  At least that is true for me from about the 1920s to the 1990s. After the 1990s, I don’t have a clear vision of what fashion looked like. Is it just because it is too close to the present? Or is it just that all the fashions from the last 100 years are now combined and mixed together so no one look has risen to the top? This is a question for someone more in the fashion industry, I guess.

Automobiles I’m not a vintage car expert, but it seems to me the best-looking cars are from the late 1950s and early 1960s. Of course, cars today are much more efficient, more safe and more practical. It doesn’t seem anything has been able to match the “coolness factor” of the 1962 Ferrari GTO or 1957 Chevy Convertible.

Television TV has become a huge part of most of our lives in the last 100 years, so I thought I would include it in my list. This is sort of like music and fashion — you can make a strong case for just about any of them. There were a handful of good shows in the 1960s and 1970s, but I think the golden age of television really came in the 1980s or 1990s with shows like Cheers, Friends, Wheel of Fortune and 60 Minutes. Story lines started to have more substance, and shows started to get bigger budgets. At the same time, the development and expansion of cable networks started to push the networks and that competition resulted in better programs. At least that’s the theory I’m going with.  TV shows today are much more sophisticated and polished than the shows of that era, but many of the shows of today were influenced by those shows of the 1980s (and some from the 1970s). Again… just my theory. You could say Ed Sullivan, Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy should get the credit here, and I would go along with that, too.

Technology This could be making our lives better each year, or worse. Depends on the day. What do you think?

Answering his question Much like this column, my answer to Noah rambled on with a bunch of examples and a bunch of theories and opinions. I mixed in a couple of facts, but most were based on opinions. At the end of my explanation, I looked back at him in the backseat of the car, and he had sort of had a glazed-over look on his face. I think I gave him more than what he was looking for. He probably just wanted to know if I would think it was cool to live among the cavemen or dinosaurs. At any rate, I think the question was an interesting one. Bring it up at your next gathering. See what people say. Then bring it up around some teenagers or college kids and see how different their perception on recent history might be. Could be a fun exercise.

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