The Best of Times Alison Pressley

You are amazed that the newsagent, who is aged about 27, cannot tot up the cost of three items, totalling one pound twenty, without a calculator. You remember having to calculate in your head how much a dozen eggs at twopence-three-farthings would cost. You remember farthings. You remember liberty bodices, suspender belts, nylons, roll-on girdles, paper-nylon petticoats, winkle-pinker shoes, crisps packets with little blue waxed paper twists of salt inside, Duffel coats, black Bakelite telephones with exchange names and simple numbers, the single plug-in wireless set shared by the entire family, the black Ford Popular car, the first 14-inch television screen around which the entire neighbourhood gathered to watch the Coronation, the first portable transistor radios.

You read the Beano, the Eagle and Girl. You remember Suez. You benefited from the Butler Education Act. You sat in rows of desks with lift-up lids and ink-wells. Your history classes were about kings and queens, your geography about capitals and the jute trade. Nobody mentioned global warming or the threat to the ozone layer; the only anxiety was the bomb � which could be banned, if you marched and sang loudly at the end of the decade. You went to the pictures on Saturdays. You bought 78 rpm records of Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly.

You are a Baby Boomer, born after World War II ended, just in time to enjoy the innocent, secure, never-had-it-so-good fifties. You had a really fab time at your twenty-first birthday in the swinging promiscuous sixties�You hit your fiftieth birthday in the nineties�and the Millennium finds you still in your prime�

We were born into an innocent, optimistic world. Our parents had survived the horrors of World War II; the returning heroes, our fathers, came home to a world full of promise of better times to come. They were reunited with welcoming, lonely wives, and in a spirit of celebration and thanksgiving they conceived us � in unprecedented millions. We were the Baby Boomers, the fruits of joy after long separation. It was an auspicious beginning.

We were born in the years after the war, as Britain picked herself up, shook herself down and started all over again. In this world there was hardship, of sorts � but nothing like the Depression our parents and grandparents had endured. Rationing ad shortages, to be sure, but also relative luxury: peace, and growing prosperity. Our world was one of trust, and neighbourly concern. We played innocently in the streets and parks of our neighbourhood, unmindful of the dangers that lurk today. They didn�t exist, then.

We benefited from the Butler Education Act of 1944 and the construction of a �Welfare State� in the late 1940s, and grew into the healthiest and most widely educated generation ever. Our early childhood was by today�s standard austere, but by history�s standards it was full of largesse. We thrived and prospered under the post-war expansiveness, and when we reached our teens towards the end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties, we exploded. We became this � and perhaps, to date, any � century�s most influential generation. The �Swinging Sixties� still reverberate, still make waves. Its leaders still lead � although we are growing rather long in the tooth. The generations after us are beginning to resent us and our lingering influence: �Move over�, they say, �let us have our day.�

So, before we are swamped forever by the tidal wave of generations now happening and to come, let�s have one more celebration of us, the lucky geneeration who grew up in the best of times, in the best of places. Mindful of the second half of the quotation that serves as the title of this book (Dickens�s �It was the best of times, it was the worst of times� which opens �A Tale of Two Cities), it is here acknowledged that our childhood wasn�t perfect � but it was as close to perfect as it gets. Here�s a toast to the fifties � the decade that made us � and everything it brought, from the Woodentops to Elvis, from Liberty bodices to blue suede shoes.