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Born at the Right Time

Born at the Right Time: A History of the Baby Boom Generation

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Born at the Right Time
    Book Description:

    From Davy Crockett hats and Barbie dolls to the civil-rights movement and the sexual revolution, the concerns of the baby-boomers became predominant themes for all of society. The first Canadian history of a legendary generation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5710-6
    Subjects: History, Population Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  6. 1 Home and Family at Mid-Century
    (pp. 3-30)

    So much for predictions! The Dominion Bureau of Statistics commissioned Enid Charles, a well-known British demographer, to assess the implications of the 1941 census.¹ For Charles, the striking thing about that census was the steady decline in the Canadian birth rate. In the dry and unemotional language of the social scientist, Charles struck a warning note: In a land with so many resources, the Canadian population was in danger of failing even to reproduce itself. In 1941 the Canadian population figure was just over 11.5 million. Using the best demographic projections available, Charles predicted that by 1971 that figure would...

  7. 2 Babies
    (pp. 31-53)

    In the decade between 1946 and 1955, some 3.9 million babies were born in Canada. By 1961 the number had risen to 6.7 million. This generation, which would later assert itself to be distinct from those that preceded it, seemed determined to lay that claim right from the very beginning. Unlike all previous generations of Canadians, the vast majority of baby-boomers were born in the hospital. Home births declined rapidly as urbanization made hospitals accessible, and as medical and public-health authorities stressed the virtues of hospital birth. Only one in five of those mothers entering maternity wards across the country...

  8. 3 Safe in the Hands of Mother Suburbia: Home and Community, 1950–1965
    (pp. 54-83)

    It is a spring day in the early 1950s. Two parents, both still in their twenties, and their three-year-old child live in a small apartment in the city. It is clean and decent, but crowded, and promises to be more so with the arrival of a second child in about three months. The weather is pleasant, and the family piles into their Studebaker for a drive. Although the car is a recent purchase, and the Sunday drive still a novelty, marked by a sense of adventure, today the trip also has at least a vague purpose. Recently newspaper advertisements have...

  9. 4 Consuming Leisure: Play in an Era of Affluence, 1950–1965
    (pp. 84-110)

    How are you tackling the serious business of play? For it is a serious business – nothing could be more mistaken than the notion that there is anything trivial in a child’s preoccupation with its toys. That’s why modern science has applied itself so seriously to the formulation of a constructive, intelligent, and progressive program of play.

    Children have always played. None the less, the leisure world of the baby-boom generation is unique. The prevailing image of domesticity and of the nuclear family included a world in which children and parents are not just kin but companions and playmates. The...

  10. 5 School Days, 1952–1965
    (pp. 111-135)

    In September 1952, a revolution began. It was led by five- and six-year-old children, dressed in their best outfits and heading off to the adventure of Grade One¹ – the first wave of the baby boom, some 370,000 strong, was entering the school system in Canada. Not only were there more children than before, but their parents had higher expectations. Mass education moved upward from the elementary schools in the 1950s to the high schools in the early 1960s, and then to the universities. Governments, educators, and parents scrambled to expand a system pushed to the edge of chaos. Curriculum...

  11. 6 The Fifties and the Cult of the Teenager
    (pp. 136-158)

    In 1960 the first of the baby-boomers turned thirteen – the new decade and a new stage of life thus coinciding. This synchronicity is symbolically appropriate, for ‘the sixties’ became one of the great mythological eras of modern times and that mythology in turn created the mythology of the baby boom. It was in ‘the sixties’ (a period that actually extends, in historical terms, through the early seventies) that the baby boom became conscious of itself as generational force and began to think of itself as special, not for the economic affluence it had been given, but for the moral...

  12. 7 The Arrival of the Sixties
    (pp. 159-184)

    The sixties have assumed mythical proportions. The Kennedys, student protest, Vietnam, drugs, flower power, free love, and militancy mix together in a way that seems surreal by the staid standards of later years. It is also an age with a contentious reputation. Some look back on it as a time of hope and idealism. Others condemn it as the ‘decade that would not die, the decade whose long half-life continues to contaminate our own.’¹ Whatever the assessment, most would agree that it was an era of agitation and excitement, leadership lost authority. Ideological debate reasserted itself after the calm of...

  13. 8 ‘Hope I Die Before I Get Old’: The Rise of the Counter-Culture, 1963–1968
    (pp. 185-215)

    In September 1964 the Beatles came to Canada. Several thousand young people crowded the streets around Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Rumours sent people rushing from one entrance to the other in hopes of a glimpse of the ‘Fab Four.’ Police on horseback tried vainly to keep the streets clear, and excited fans had to be restrained by overworked officers. The mood was festive, however, rather than threatening. People sang their favourite songs, called the name of their most-loved Beatle, and waited excitedly to get inside. On dozens of transistor radios, the people listened to the latest hit songs. At...

  14. 9 Youth Radicalism in the Sixties
    (pp. 216-247)

    Just as youth style became politicized, so politics, at least radical politics, was appropriated by youth. Indeed, in the minds of many older Canadians, the hippies – with their long hair, beards, casual fashions, and lack of respect for authority – were indistinguishable from the political radicals – with their long hair, beards, and disrespect for authority. It was all a part of the generational rebellion. Dope smoking mixed with anti-Vietnam marches, university protests, and fiery rhetoric about the need to tear down the ‘system.’ It was all incomprehensible. Here was the most privileged generation in history, in one of...

  15. 10 Sexual Revolutions and Revolutions of the Sexes, 1965–1973
    (pp. 248-279)

    Along the walls of a school gym in 1965, Grade Nine students gather in a fashion dictated by custom and fear. Boys are on one side; girls on the other. Shy laughter and envy greet the brave boy who crosses the floor to ask a girl to dance. Others follow, propelled by the fear of being odd-boy-out more than by the desire to dance. Girls wait just as nervously, afraid that the wrong boy will ask, and afraid even more that they will be passed over altogether. Gradually the floor fills with awkward teenagers doing awkward dances and making stilted...

  16. 11 The End of the Sixties, 1968–1973
    (pp. 280-307)

    Ultimately all the strands of the sixties were linked by the generation that defined them. The adolescence of the baby boom was shaped by a strong current of romantic idealism. Though issues of alienation are relevant, the most potent force of the mid-sixties was the belief that personal and social improvement was clear and attainable. Get in touch with people and with your own emotions. Discover humanity. Involve the people politically and their innate sense of justice would come to the fore. The energy of youth would serve as a catalyst to overcome the stale and the shallow materialism that...

  17. Epilogue: A World without Limits
    (pp. 308-316)

    Concluding the story of a generation that is at the dominant point in its life cycle is an intimidating task. What, after all, can be said when the story is not yet over? What firm statements can be made about the significance of a life under way? One temptation is to conclude with anodyne noises about ‘no firm conclusion being possible.’ Yet, that is untrue. For, in some very fundamental ways, the world of the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s was unique, and that uniqueness disappeared sometime during the 1970s. It will not return.

    To link the 1950s...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 317-379)
  19. Credits
    (pp. 380-380)
  20. Index
    (pp. 381-392)