We’re baby boomers ‘cos our parents went to war

Baby boomers: (from left) Robin, Jacqueline and Nigel

Nowadays they talk about baby booms as occurring nine months after a specific incident – such as a national blackout – but the baby boomer generation refers to those born after the end of the Second World War.

In the US they give it a 20-year span with the first boomers born in 1946, based on the troops heading home in 1945. Statisticians (working out how many of us are left after 76 years) in the UK followed suit, giving the baby boomers generation a span from 1945 to 1965.

Personally I think they’ve got it wrong.

In the UK I see the baby boomers as born between 1946 and 1955. The age group that produced the first teenagers of the late 50s and early 60s and who can remember swing bands and rock’n’roll as well as the advent of the Beatles, Stones, etc.

No doubt there will be cries of outrage from those born from 1956 to 1965, who will feel they are children of the 60s, and my seniors born at the beginning of the war who see the mid-50s as their time with Teddy boys, and their girls, along with the DA for the lads and the beehive for the girls, or as part of the Beat Generation who later morphed into hippies and also drew in early baby boomers.

I set the shorter age range based mainly on the culture of the era and the changes that nine-year cohort of babies grew up with.

Many of those born 1950 onwards are likely to have had older siblings in the baby boomer group who would have caught the changes in music and general culture as it happened, passing it on, almost by osmosis to their brothers and sisters.

My brother Nigel was in at the birth of the baby boom, he was born in July 1946, our father, David Pierce, had served with the RAMC in France and then North Africa and arrived home in mid-1945.

David Pierce and Ivy Lloyd on their wedding day in Liverpool , October 1939, three days before he was shipped out to France

He and our mother, Ivy, had got married in October 1939 and after a two-day honeymoon in London he had been shipped out with the BEF to France, was left behind at Dunkirk but got out two or three weeks later after a tortuous journey with a convoy of the sick and the wounded, and after a short leave headed off to Africa and spent the best part of the next five years providing medical attention for troops travelling from Durban to North Africa and then being stationed at a hospital in the north dealing with wounded soldiers from battles such as Tobruk and Alamein.

Ivy, meanwhile, remained in Liverpool but still helped the war effort as an assistant in the chief air warden’s department.

My sister Jacqueline arrived just over two years after Nigel, in September 1948, and I completed the trio with my arrival in March 1950.

In our early years the main influences on us were obviously from our parents and we could not have asked for a better, more loving set of parents than the ones we were lucky enough to have.

One of their major influences came in the form of music.

My early recollections are listening to my father playing Welsh songs on the piano – he had a a volume of Songs of Wales which even in the late 50s appeared well used. I later found out why.

My grandfather Edward had given it to his English wife Kate on her birthday, 16th March (same as mine) 1904. She must have played often and various songs are marked as favourites of her children. My father’s favourite, apparently, was Y Deryn PurThe Dove. I know this because the slightly tattered, but still usable, volume is now in my possession.

But I digress.

As with many baby boomers our early musical introduction would be in the music our parents listened to. We had a large radiogram, a solid piece of furniture which, once the valves warmed up, could be tuned in to the BBC radio programmes, such as the Light Programme and the Medium Wave.

It had a second purpose, however, and that was to play 78rpm records of which my parents had quite a lot. As well as classical music they had a large selection of dance bands and swing, such as Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. They also had some fun records including White Christmas by Bing Crosby, The Laughing Policeman by Charles Jolly and Don Charles presents the Singing Dogs with Pat-A-Cake, Pat-A-Cake; Three Blind Mice; Jingle Bells; and Oh! Susanna.

I was still at primary school when my brother introduced me to the sounds of Radio Luxembourg. We shared a bedroom. He was now one of the original baby boomer teenagers – Bill Haley was the first to use the term in the UK in 1957 but any teenagers at that time were the wartime babies who had grown up to be Teddy Boys or beatniks with their girlfriends sporting beehive hairdos and skirts over layers of stiff petticoats or chunky jumpers, black Capri pants and not so stylish hairdos.

Teddy Boys on a London street in the 1950s and members of a beatnik community in Cornwall

The boomer teenagers reached that age in 1959 but it was still two or three years before they became the teenagers we know and love listening to rock, pop and blues.

In 1963, when I became a teenager, my parents bought a Dansette record player which could play the newfangled 45s and LPs and our first LP record came into the house, With the Beatles (November 1963), which is once again one of my prized possessions.

That was when my taste in music really broadened because Nigel would often bring the record player up to our room when Mum and Dad were watching TV, and sometimes I joined him and was introduced to Simon and Garfunkel, the Walker Brothers and Bob Dylan.

At the same time my sister Jacqueline was into more pop in the early 60s and from there I got a taste for the Animals, Alan Price and Georgie Fame.

In time, of course, I developed my own tastes and found myself enjoying a range from Lonnie Donegan and Tommy Steele, via the Troggs and to the Beatles, Cream, The Who, Rolling Stones – well I could go on but is a very broad taste in music.

This is what truly defines baby boomers as far as I am concerned. You had to have been introduced to the music of the 50s and early 60s at the time they were new, not secondhand. Those born in the second half of the 50s would have still been listening to nursery rhymes.

We ARE the baby boomers and later generations cannot take that away.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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