The greatest generation

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Marriage and Family

Tom Brokaw interviewed a number of married couples from the “Greatest Generation.” One of those couples belonged to a group of four couples dubbing themselves “The Dumbos.” They had their beginnings as the women helped one another and met together often when their husbands went off to war. One of the women was Brokaw’s mother-in-law’s sister, Lois Gatchell. She “believes their marriages were strengthened by those months and years of difficult, often frightening separation in the early stages (Brokaw, p. 249).” Her husband Don said, “Expectations were different. We had a higher regard for marriage. You just didn’t divorce (Brokaw, p.249).” Brokaw explained, “…if they hit a bump in their relationship, they worked it out between themselves. They were too busy putting their lives back together, too grateful that they had emerged from those difficult years alive and together again, to dwell on the occasional hitches in their relationships (Brokaw, p. 249).”

Don and Lois Gatchell “remember life revolving around family, friends, church, and community, and all of the couples approached it as a team effort (Brokaw, p. 248).” After the war, “The Dumbos” continued to meet together for birthdays, holidays, and vacations. Their friendships remained strong and an important part of their lives. They had shared so many experiences together and helped one another through them.

Brokaw described the strength of marriages of this generation,

“They were also part of a generation accustomed to sharing and working together toward a common good. So many of these couples came from homes or conditions where life was a team effort. In the face of severe economic deprivation, illness, or unexpected death, the preservation and common welfare of the family was the collective goal. It was a conditioning they carried over to their marriages (Brokaw, p. 232).”
Sadly, Brokaw states, “Of all the new marriages in 1940, one in six ended in divorce. By the late 1990s, that number one in two (Brokaw, p.231).” Perhaps there was something to the adversity of The Great Depression and World War II that became a strengthening factor in marriage. Our generation has not had to suffer through a world war. For that I am very grateful! I would not wish war on anyone! A question one might ask is whether or not prosperity and peace are a type of adversity for this generation? Does it breed discontent where one has not had to sacrifice in service one’s life in defending our freedom or suffer the cruelties of war to appreciate the sanctity of marriage?

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