Babies are born in the United States every day but it was back in the late 50’s when the baby boom began. This baby boom caught most Americans by surprise. For more than a century, the nation’s birth rate had been falling. Suddenly, there were babies everywhere. In 1954, the number of births topped 4 million for the first time. The baby boom lasted about 20years.
32.2 THE 1950’S: GROWTH AND PROSPERITY
The first baby boomers came into the world at a good time. For large numbers of Americans, the 1950s were a time of prosperity and progress.
For many businesses and industries, the baby boom was an economic boom as well. Demand for housing soared as millions of young couples looked for homes for their growing families. Developers kept upwith the demand by building large tracts of affordable houses in suburbs outside major cities. Congress helped many families but their first home by passing a law known as the GI Bill. This law provided veterans with inexpensive home loans. Factories worked overtime to produce everything from cars to diapers to washing machines. New fast-food restaurants like McDonalds provided young families withinexpensive and convenient meals.
Most baby boomers grew up in traditional families. Fathers left home each day to support their families. Mothers stayed home to keep house and take care of their children. One popular book advised women, “The family is the center of your living.”
For families living in the suburbs, the automobile quickly became a necessity.Many suburban homes had two cars parked in their driveways. Cars made people more mobile, and thriving businesses needed to ship goods by truck. As a result, the country needed more highways. That’s when the Interstate Highway Act began. As people spent more and more time in their cars, businesses began offering drive-in restaurant and theaters that allowed people to do their banking, eat mealsand watch movies without leaving their cars.
Television and Rock and Roll
The baby boomers were the first generation to grow up with a new form of news and entertainment-television. The first practical television system began operating in the 1940s, but the television sets did not become affordable until the 1950s. Besides providing fun and entertainment, television allowed Americans to see theworld in a new way. For the first time, people could see film of happening thousands of miles away within just a few hours of the event. The world suddenly seemed much smaller, and events in distant places became more important. In 1951, a radio disk jockey in Cleveland, Ohio, began playing African American rhythm and blues music that he called “rock and roll.” Teenagers loved the new sound. “Rock”became the music that the baby boomer generation adopted as its own.
32.2 THE 1960’S: SOCIAL CHANGE AND UNREST
By the time the first baby boomers graduated from high school in 1964, the good times of the 1950’s were giving way to a decade of social change and unrest. During the 1960’s, the country divided bitterly over the in Vietnam and issues of social injustice. Violence was in the air, fromrace riots in big cities to the shocking assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcom X. Baby boomers were caught up in these dramatic tensions just as they were beginning to question their parents’ traditional values.
As a group, the boomers who reached young adulthood were idealistic. Seeing injustice and violence in theworld, they openly challenged their society’s values and sources of authority. Many of these young people rejected the pursuit of money and possessions. Calling themselves “hippies,” they began “dropping out” of school, jobs, and suburban life. Journalists described the hippie movement as counterculture. Hippies dreamed of starting a new era of peace, love, and freedom. They let their hair grow...