Boomer Rose Rose gets help from grandson Michael Rose, 16, in Cuy ahoga Falls, Ohio. The boomer generation spans nearly two decades. (Phil Masturzo / MCT)
Akron, Ohio —The youngest baby boomer turns 50 this year. The big 5-0. A quinquagenarian. Half a century. Holy colonoscopy!
While today’s kids may think 50-year-olds roamed the earth with dinosaurs, others think they are mere youngsters.
“I see them more as my children,” said Rose Rose of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, who turns 68 this year, making her among the oldest boomers. “To lump all baby boomers together is really sort of stretching it. There’s a big difference in baby boomers.”
Those born between 1946 and 1964 are considered the baby boom generation — even though there’s nearly a two-decade span between the youngest and oldest. This leads to folks assuming that boomers have had, or are having, the same life experiences. But social commentator and author Jonathan Pontell says that’s ludicrous, and there’s a lost generation between baby boomers and Gen-Xers.
Several years ago, Pontell coined the term “Generation Jones,” which describes those born between 1954 and 1965. In the ’70s, that age group popularized the slang term “jonesin’” or “jonesing” — craving or yearning. Jonesing, he added, has turned out to be a core personality trait of this new generation because of expectations that have been unfulfilled.
If you’ve never heard of Generation Jones, you likely will soon. Research groups, the media and educators are starting to use the definition. Next year, Random House is publishing Pontell’s book of the same name.
Boomers, as defined by the U.S. Census, were the swell of infants born following World War II. By the end of 1964, 76.4 million baby boomers had been born in the United States.
“The whole premise of basing a generation on the fertility rates of that generation’s parents is absurd,” Pontell, 55, said recently during a phone interview. “There’s no generation before or since the so-called baby boom generation that was ever based on birth rates. Generations stem from ... formative experiences, not head counts.”
Pontell decided to call the lost generation “Jones” because it represents a large, anonymous group of people. “It could be Smith,” said the Cleveland native, now living in California. “The second half of the boom had far more births, (causing) Jonesers ... to face the pipeline often clogged by boomers and then competing with even bigger numbers around us. So each point in the life cycle, whether we were trying to get into college, getting first jobs, first homes, has been a tough ride.”
Pontell believes the Jonesers have a more difficult time financially than the boomers born between 1946 and 1953.“Boomers in general have had a pretty good ride. And boomers had big expectations that were often realized,” he said. “The boomers were not left jonesing.”
There’s no denying that the youngest boomer is at a different place in life than the eldest. Rose has three grown sons. Her firstborn is 47, just three years younger than “Joneser” Gene Fitch of Hudson, Ohio, who will turn 50 this year. Fitch has two teenage boys; Rose has grandchildren the same age.
The teen years for each group was also much different. “Ben Hur” and “West Side Story” won Academy Awards in the early ’60s. During that time, “The Andy Griffith Show,” “My Three Sons,” “The Addams Family” and “The Beverly Hillbillies” debuted. And Alfred Hitchcock freaked out teens with “Psycho.”
“I remember the Hula-Hoop contests at the State Road Shopping Center, my dad buying me a transistor radio, and paisley hip huggers,” Rose said, chuckling.
During their teen years, the youngest boomers watched shows like “Three’s Company,” “M*A*S*H” and “Dallas.” The films “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “Ordinary People” won Academy Awards. The toy of the year in 1980 was the Rubik’s Cube. And many longed to be a preppy.
“I had ‘The (Official) Preppy Handbook.’ It was kind of like the dummies’ guide to being a preppy,” confessed Fitch.
But perhaps it was the music that set baby boomers apart from those who came before and since. When the oldest boomers were children, the rock ‘n’ roll revolution began. The year that the youngest boomer was born, and the oldest turned 18, the first Beatles album was released in the United States. And while some of the older boomers went to Woodstock, the youngest were left behind.
The Vietnam War is a significant event in the middle and older boomer’s lives. Although people like Rose personally knew peers who were drafted, the youngest didn’t have pals who served there.
“I remember that we had the television news on every night and watched the casualty and killed count,” Fitch said. “To me, it seemed like we were always at war.”
But an incident involving his godfather, who was home on leave from Vietnam, showed him firsthand the effect war can have on a human. “When I was very young ... my sister and I were on a swim team. He came to watch us. He was socializing and enjoying himself while my parents introduced him to friends. That’s when a starter pistol, used to begin a race, went off. He hit the ground and rolled.
“That’s always stuck with me, though I really didn’t understand why he did it,” Fitch said. “I knew he was in the jungle and because I was so young, I just wanted to know if he ever saw monkeys and other animals.”
As for the famous hippie vibe associated with the 1960s, Pontell says while the youngest members of the generation were too young to participate, they still felt its effects. “We were impacted (by the ’60s), but we weren’t a part of it,” Pontell said of the Jonesers. “While some of the (older) boomers still refer to themselves as ‘children of the ’60s,’ really they were well into their teens and 20s. They were out changing the world and we were the ones being formed by those changes.”