OK millennials, you should know this

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I was rifling through old photos the other day to scan and try to preserve them. One was a faded photo of my graduation at Monash University, the only photo I had of the day. Then I found a shot of my grade one class, 1958, Huntingdale State School. Yes, I am definitely a baby boomer.

I peered at the photo and tried to recall some of the names and faces. They all looked rather daggy and a motley group. The only boy I remembered, sadly, had a cleft palate – that was the one salient point I could grasp from my memory. On closer inspection, all the kids had something in common. They were all wearing hand-knitted school jumpers, some looking worse for wear, with an assortment of white shirts underneath, the collars at strange angles and often far too big for their small faces. They were probably hand-me-downs from older brothers or sisters or scrounged from older cousins.

I counted the number of students in the class and was horrified to realise that I had shared grade one with 43 other kids.

So, what am I leading to, I hear you ask? Well, I am a little weary of the attack on baby boomers and feel that some things need to be put right, particularly in the area of schooling.

We had horrendously large classes and, as a teacher, I cannot fathom how my teachers then managed a boisterous class of 40-plus. I whinge about having 25 students. I assume that some of those 40-plus students fell by the wayside, unable to fully grasp the nuances of reading and maths. Many would not have gone to university and, from my memory, a good deal of pupils I knew then did not matriculate. They were often expected by their parents to ‘get out and get a job’ to help support the family, many leaving school after Year 10 or Year 11. We had fancy names for those two years, your intermediate certificate for Year 10 and your leaving certificate for Year 11. Clearly, aspiring to higher education was for the lucky few.

It wasn’t just large class sizes that spring to mind about my boomer schooling. Woefully inadequate teaching is my memory of school hours. Hours spent reciting multiplication tables by rote and teachers hitting student across the knuckles with a ruler were commonplace. The rowdy boys were often ‘given the strap’ – a whack from a leather belt across their palms. I still remember their hands outstretched and then being savagely hit, often multiple times.  We didn’t do projects or sit around inventing inquiry questions that might take our fancy. We did what we were told and learnt to be meek.

None of the students I went through school with were indulged. We all made do with stationary and pencils from Coles, but there were no replacements to be had if you lost your set.  All the pencils were sharpened to oblivion and every page of an exercise book was used. We brought lunches to school in brown paper bags with the sandwich, mainly Vegemite on white bread, wrapped in greaseproof paper. Lunch orders were a rarity and icy poles or, later, Sunny Boys, a treat to be saved up for.

Holidays were just the school breaks, with kids hanging around the neighbourhood, finding tadpoles in the local creek or playing tennis or football on the street. Cars rarely bothered us and hardly anyone owned one. Overseas holidays were an impossible dream and, for most of the parents of the kids I went to school with, a desire none of them had a stomach for. They had escaped from Europe after the war and had no intention of going back. They wanted a better life here for their children.

We had few distractions and the phrase most often used by parents was ordering us to “go outside and play”. Television had only just been released in Australia. My best friend down the road had a set and I would wander down to her house on a Sunday to watch Disneyland, the height of excitement for a young boomer.

Our clothes came from our mother’s sewing machine or a kind relative or were hand-me-downs. Target and cheap clothes did not exist and to whinge about what you wore was to invite a quick smack across the legs or a stern rebuke for not being grateful for what you had.

So, for many of today’s millennials who attack us for squeezing them out of the housing market and generally ruining their world for them, our early life wasn’t exactly a bowl of cherries either.

Do you have a response to the millennials’ ‘OK Boomer’ assertions?

Dianne Motton teaches English at a secondary school in Melbourne, has always had a passion for travel and writes quirky stories about what she observes.

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83 Comments

Total Comments: 83
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    OK Boomers, we know ‘they’ won’t get it or believe it BUT I remember it well, was not scarred by it, was poor but, unbelievably, happy as a child AND I had a childhood unlike many children nowadays are allowed to. One comment only and probably of interest to the author and modern day teachers – When sent to the Headmaster’s office by our class teacher, as a result of misbehaviour, to receive punishment for same a couple of us devised a great strategy. Knowing we would be in for a couple of ‘The Cuts’ which was 2 or 4 belts across open hands held out to receive the cane. I would leave the classroom contrite and head for the coat racks and after 10 minutes or so I would ‘hang’ from two coat hooks for a while until I achieved some impressive markings and colouration on the palms of my hands. Then I would shuffle. sniffling, back into the classroom and let my teacher see how I had suffered and ‘learnt my lesson’ 🙂 Hah !! Once Again Good Triumphed Over Evil and I got away with it. There obviously was no communication between class teacher and Head Master in these matters.

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      And don’t forget if you went home and told your mum and dad you had been punished at school, you would get another lot from them because you probably deserved it!

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      Ah yes 🙂 That is when you had to play the Headmaster (Dad) against The Teacher (Mum) 😉 Luckily, in a way, The Teacher (in our home) sorted out the Headmaster when I was about 11 and The Teacher then did a GREAT job of teaching/raising us into adults.

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      Agree heyyybob – Primary School especially was not just far too over-crowded (40+ pupils in all classes, counted 45 in two class photos) but also a very early “life lesson.” In mine, a Catholic one (both girls & boys), the Nuns weren’t “great shots” with their thick leather straps & if someone didn’t own up re scratching back classrm wall/stealing someone’s pencils++ (minor stuff) – if none us dobbed in the perpertrator, as none of us did so as knew we’d get bashed up by he/she in the yard soon after, we all had to line-up for approx 6 straps on just the one hand (weren’t allowed to change hands) which as per above, we’re regularly missed hard throws & landed on the more delicate skin bit higher up – which bled. Yep, when dearly beloved parents asked why had bandaid on wrist, explained all in detail to ’em – they said “it’s your own fault, should have “bobbed ’em in!!” They just didn’t understand the school culture back then re never dobbing anyone in as would get bashed if did. Both my parents worked hard f/time when I was 8yo (only sibling 10yo) so we were supposed to be latch-kids ’til they got home – I wasn’t as t’was easy to unlock front door so happily played with neighbourhood kids approx same age in the streets/kicking ard the footballs we made from our parents newspapers & string (they didn’t want to waste their hard earned $$$s on anythng except for a home deposit), racing off to close park during hot days to cool off under the Council Sprinklers w/out sunscreen creams (not available back then) & all got almost “baked!!” Begged parents for a few yrs thereafter for a two-wheeler bike, adamanatly refused, never gifted one as said it was far too dangerous on the busy roads back then (haha!?) – bought one from savings re p/time Saturday job whilst @ (yet again) Catholic Secondary College – girls only. The 12 of us of approx then 25 Matriculation students (most left either in yr 10 or 11 to do Nursing, some type of apprenticeship or work f/time – jobs were easy to get back then) who studied Physics as loved it & Maths but bit more difficult to pass it as none of the Nuns were qualified to teach it so very stupididly employed a handsome young male PHD Uni student to “do the job,” who also drove a sparkling red sports car!!?? We 12 girls were rapt, just loved him, couldn’t concentrate – only one of us (not me) passed Physics that yr. I still managed to get a place @ the then very new Monash Uni. Most younger ppl appear to think that Uni was free back then, it wasn’t. My parents paid approx $1,000 in annual fees for both me & my 2yr older sibling – ave f/time wage back then was less than $50/wk. We “boomers” also had no 1st home buyer subsidies, no childcare Government assistance payments et al – our parents minded our kids if lucky enough to still have ’em/willing & able, as we were. Our 1st home mortgage % interest rate was 17% (in what was then “the backblocks,” 20+kms from CBD, still living it now altho’ needs many repairs et al) & 18% when worked our butts off to finally buy an Investment property (yep – take advantage of the ridiculous tax perks as were both working f/time by then) – no o’seas hols/cruises/expensive outings et al however enormously loved almost 25yrs of camping/water-skiing (when our youngest was approx 6yo) on the Murray River approx 3hr drive from home with 8 of our neighbourhood families ard our age as were their children re ours who became very close friends & still are 40+ yrs since. We ensured our kids were able to buy their own homes, with our help in their mid 20s, knowing that owning one’s home, as our parents always told us to work hard/save hard to buy your own home as it was the very best Life Insurance as we did & instilled in our children. I’m so fed up with Sco-Mo talking abt “working tax-payers” – we’ve more than earned our pensions & yes, we are still taxpayers re Howard’s GST on all essential utilities, cars, insurances, Council rates etc etc etc….including some foods. We so called & much maligned by some “baby-boomers” made this nation wonderful/fought against the Vietnam War/worked our butts off/didn’t have the pleasure of vast majority of “toys” our kids/grandkids enjoy but had happy childhoods playing outside kicking a hand-made toys++++. however instilled hard work into our now mid-age kids altho’ definitely not the huge availability of job choices now as was in our era thks to greedy Govn’mts sell off of almost all (except mining, good onya Clive Palmer, $85M spent in advertising to get Libs in office, protect yourself – not our beautiful country nor us) essential industries++++.

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    Going to school in Queensland had its own special mystique. Turning up the air conditioning meant opening the windows as far as possible. On some days it would be so hot that the bitumen on the parade ground would literally melt and get stuck to your shoes (if, of course, you were wearing any).

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      Same here in Adelaide Mark. In summer you melted and in winter you froze. Even by the time I’d started full-time employment there was no aircon. We were luckier than most, I worked for an oil company and we had a system of pipes running the perimeter of the office that pumped out (some) warm air from the boiler in the blending area.
      We also had no calculators, only Sumlock machines for adding up (a fancy abacus)’ a Ledger machine, Telex, and printing was done on a Gestetner so you went home ‘inked’ but in a different way to today’s version of ‘ink’.

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      So true Mark – no heating/cooling in any school back then….as well as @ home.

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    This story is completely true. Well said.

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    Not to mention us walking or cycling 2 miles (not kms) to and from school every day. I can rarely remember being driven to school before starting high school when I caught a school bus to a different town 14 kms away. Gosh – how did we manage! We had one rule – all walk together, and use the same route – always.

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      Oh yes….loved our group walks to Primary School (not quite as far as yours, only approx 2kms), especially when walked past the local “Cop Shop” as the 3 policemen were standing outside & kept a close eye on us all + knew us all by name. T’was bit embarrassed once when was told in front of friends “your Dad’s best mate is our “lockup,” found him in the gutter after 6 o’clock pub closing last night, let him know when u get home!!??”

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      Also o&w – on walk back home from Primary School one day was curious when noticed an envelope in the gutter, picked it up/opened it & had 200pounds in it!! I was 10yo, that was a huge amt back then, no name/address on nor in envelope, just the cash. Only thing I knew what to do with it was drop if off to the above “Cop Shop.” The Police men (no Police women that I knew of back then) & after they thanked me, said “tell your parents that they’ve done a great job raising you, you’re a very honest young lady & if we can’t find the owner of it in 3mths it’s yours.” Obviously I did, was feeling bit chuffed re compliments but never thought for a second that they wouldn’t find it’s owner. 3mths later they rang my parents (landlines only back then) & told ’em to bring me to the Cop Shop – we weren’t sure why by then by went there. They gave me that very same envelope & it’s contents adding that hadn’t been able to find an owner!! It went straight into my meagre bank a/c as insisted by parents that I do not touch it (couldn’t, didn’t know it’s a/c number) as didn’t ’til late teen, working p/time on Sat morns.

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    Yep, remember a time I was punished just for being in the wrong seat, but I kept my mouth shut. Yes bullies were around way back then. But leaving the school yard for a sec. I vividly remember to toys we had. No such things as computer consoles. My dad used to make wooden toys for Christmas gifts. My dad was very clever in that he purchased an electronic magazine and built our first TV. Rather rough looking all the parts placed neatly in a box made of wood.
    Yep we had it real good in our day. I believe it was called poverty in those days also

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      And the second or third hand bike dad refurbished. And the go carts made from orange Bose’s and old pram wheels and rope!

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      I was SO lucky, at 15, to be offered a 1939 250cc BSA motorbike by a kindly Uncle. However, Mum being so wise, insisted I could only accept it if I paid for it. The price was to be 5 POUNDS and I had to raise the money myself. Sold a lot of newspapers on a major intersection with busy tram stops, to raise the money when I was just 16 !! Proud as a peacock being the only kid at High School with his own transport 😀 Didn’t do my academic record any good but my ego boomed 😉

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    The article brings back many memories and it is easy to dwell on the sad and bad. Thanks heyyybob, for reminding me that most times I was unbelievably happy, and so close to nature, the smells, the sounds and the sights. Most of us actually got through it all.

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      Indeed Kez. The memories of playing/swimming in the clear River Torrens in Adelaide when you could, before it became a health risk. Being chased by swans because you were too close to their nests. making ‘canoes’ out of a sheet of old corrugated iron with the nail holes filled with melted bitumen from the street (Adelaide summers!) and being home ‘before the street lights come on’ 🙂

  7. 0
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    OK, Moanennials. I’m sick and tired of your endless whingeing, your attitude, and your non-achievement. Shut the hell up until you actually accomplish something – even a tenth of what Baby Boomers have contributed to the world.

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      Totally agree! Do the hard yards, go without for a change in order to have the bigger things in life like we had to. Don’t think you can cover your bodies in coloured tattoos and be out every night of the week and still save for a roof over your head. You got a much better education than most of us so put it to good use.

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      Probably spending most of their time trying to figure out how to fix the damage we have done before they can even think about improvements.
      When you are up to your neck in sewerage, that is the problem you face first, not what new fake problems that have been invented to win elections.
      How about us Boomers take some responsibility for the mes we have contributed to making and help clean it up.

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      exPS – the Pollies have wrecked our beautiful nation in past couple of decades, not we “boomers.” We neither nor knew that the Pollies would greedily sell off the majority of our transport (including roads), essential utitlities + allow privatisation of all the rest. We also didn’t know nor do we agree that our Pollies always have annual pay increases far far greater than our our own pay increases, if we’re lucky enough to get one @ all. And imho, we did not Invent (USA did) the now necessary burden of both the Internet & Mobile phone, the OAP was never “calculated” to include that $100+ & most of we Superanuuation poor (t’was only 2% when many of us were in our early 40s, none for casual or part-time workers ’til couple of yrs later ie: most wives/women with children) are forced to use both for far too many reasons to go into with u if u don’t know why. We didn’t now abt any of above, wasn’t presented to us during any Aussie Elections, including State ones (eg: Kennett selling our
      Vic Elec). The majority of us were happy both prior & during Bob Hawke’s very honest governence, not so much since altho’ one LNP PM, Howard, was honest re introducing a GST tax altho’ don’t think he was 100% honest that it would apply all our essentials, including many foods. I believe, & it’s been proven, that all the above has caused so very very many job loses so our kids/grandkids find it far more difficult than we did re getting full-time employment…..why the LNP stats now include just one day of paid work in their employment stats, making their unemplyment figures look almost decent…..a farce. I’m a swinging voter depending on their policies (didn’t vote for LNP last election as knew Clive Palmer spent $85M of his own money re advertising for the Libs so continue his coal mining production/wealth ridden exports of it too). We taught our kids to read by reading kids books to ’em @ bedtime, often played o’side with ’em re cricket/quoits/hide & seek +++, talked with ’em @ length as did with us/sorted out any anxieties they may had expressed by talking thru them & just enjoyed heaps of socialising chatter @ regular family dinners both @ our homes & out. These days, many of our teen+ grandkids (altho’ do still socialise heaps) have their mobiles within reach, spend more time on the Internet than talking to their parents no matter their parents insistance as do much of Internet “crap” after parents are in bed/asleep, so are sleepless. I know it well as have minded my grandkids many times/stayed @ their home when their hard-working parents took a well earned wk-end off, away & as now a “nite-owl” have taken their mobiles/lap-tops (necessary now @ Secondary Schools) off ’em when checked to see if they were asleep ard 2am – not. Social occasions also often marred as the teens just get together with their mobiles & exchange “things,” don’t socialise like we/their parents always did, still do. Is that enough to convince u that the vast majority of we Aussie/non-politician “boomers” haven’t made the “mess.” We also did not invent plastic & most have been trying to get rid of it all for many yrs, thankfully the Pollies finally agreed, recently. It’s the past couple of decades of political greed that is ruining our beautiful country.

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    Grew up in UK but similar upbringing, apart from the heat. Adults were always addressed as Mr or Mrs if close Auntie or Uncle. Always told to play outside, escaped to the woods with friends all day with not a thought of stranger danger. Walked for miles and thought nothing of it. Every child in the street at the only neighbour with a television for ” Watch with Mother”. Boys and girls received the cane or ruler at school for bad behaviour. All clothes hand made or hand me downs. Best days of my life.

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      Yes I grew up in the UK too so similar memories. As you say all clothes hand made or hand me downs including hand knitted jumpers. I remember sitting round the fire on a winter’s evening preparing for my little brother’s arrival. Mum making baby clothes, Nan knitting baby bootees and my contribution was hemming cot blankets that were cut down from old double blankets. Nothing was ever wasted. I always had to walk to school and would play outside unless the weather was really bad. No double glazing and sometimes the frosts were on the insides of the windows. Still the best memories of my life.

  9. 0
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    Yr Two, the boy in the seat kept pinching and punching me. If I tried to retaliate, he was always prepared. I asked the teachers to move me, but she wouldn’t let me. So, I waited. When he was not expecting it, I suddenly smashed his head onto the desk. There may have been some tooth damage, maybe? The teacher finally let me move. I don’t recall any punishment, or the reaction of boy’s parents. It was almost the Wild West, back in those days!

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      You reminded me rtrish. For at least one term, I sat next to a boy who rubbed his dandruff onto the desk. When he got a pile, he would blow it onto my side of the desk. He borrowed my ruler, rubber etc and blow the rubber bits to my side. He some times hit me on the hand if I tried to retrieve my things. I tried to complain but the teacher didn’t care. We were sitting down the back – don’t think I learned much at the time – I was pretty fed up.

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      Oh WOW – u would’ve been expelled if @ my Primary & Secondary School rtrish. Our whole class had to line-up for ard 6 hard leather hand straps if someone either damaged anything/physically hurt anyone/even just stole a pencil – if the perpetrator didn’t own up & we didn’t “dob ’em in” as often didn’t when knew we’d be bashed by him (yep, t’was always a male) asap if did.

  10. 0
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    What amazing memories,pledging allegiance to Queen and country,marching to our classes after school assembly so orderly can’t imagine todays children coping with these experiences.
    Sounds more like a military school so nationalistic makes me cringe.
    But such happy times

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