In continuing my “generations” blog theme, I wanted to share a personal story pertaining to “The Greatest Generation.”

Every year now, families mourn the passing of those who belonged to what Tom Brokaw coined “The Greatest Generation.” These were “the good warriors,” born from 1909 to 1928. The experiences that bound this generation together, however, did not begin with World War II. Before they fought, they grew up watching their parents lose jobs, scrimp and save during the Great Depression. And that frugal mentality stuck.

Last year, I mourned the passing of my Uncle James. Lester, my father, and the eldest of his siblings, had a warm spot in his heart for James, his only brother. He waited a long time for him to be born, because his four other siblings—Carol, Gertrude, Mildred and Agnes—were girls. James had a sunny, quiet disposition, and I could tell that he adored Lester.

Growing up on a Wisconsin farm, I didn’t see much of Uncle James, who lived far away “in the cities” and serviced organs for a living for Schmidt Music. I was surprised that such an occupation existed! James always drove his family to the farm to see ours during the holidays.

What I remember most about my uncle was how he and his wife Marion, along with my father and my mother Sigrid, took off on an adventure to far-away Florida during the cold Midwestern winter of 1955. I had just turned thirteen the month before.

My dad wanted to check out the new humped-back Brahma beef cattle newly introduced to Florida. He dreamed of moving south to warmer weather. He yearned for the freedom of not being tied down to dairy cows. My mother was bogged down with children to raise. She had never traveled beyond the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  She looked forward to the first vacation she’d ever had.

In my family, tales begin and end with the year and make of a car. This one is no different.

1949 Nash. Photo Credit: Google Images

1949 Nash
Photo Credit: Google Images

My younger siblings and I watched Uncle James and Aunt Marion pull into the dirt driveway of our farm in a 1949 Nash. We all gathered around to take a look.  The front seats could lie flat, fitting into the rear seats to make a bed. Marion and James would sleep in there, and Sigrid and Lester would pitch a small pup tent each night. The Nash was stuffed to the hilt with all manner of food staples. The four planned to purchase fresh food and picnic along the way. They would cook outside on a small camp stove most nights.

My mother talked about how difficult it was to sleep in a pup tent alongside the road; one night, they climbed back into the car to take refuge from the cold. The next night, they checked into a motel, but that was the only time. They may have stopped at a restaurant once or twice.  Frugal to the max, the four drove for about 4,000 miles on $45.00. That Nash averaged 25 mpg. My mother bragged about buying tangerines for ten cents a dozen, grapefruit for seventy-five cents a bushel, and carrots for five cents a bunch. Wieners cost 29 cents a pound.

The four travelers were awestruck by images of the south: vibrant roses blooming in Georgia; gray moss choking shade trees; tobacco fields stretching as far as the eye could see; and finally, lush Florida farms full of winter vegetables, pineapples and peach trees. But what I remember them talking about the most was how they were shocked to see separate restrooms for the colored folks, even separate entrances at drive-in theaters. Living in the rural Midwest, they had never seen nor imagined such blatant discrimination!

That Nash was a real trouper! It limped home the last four miles with a second flat tire—and without a spare. After business hours, no service stations had been open. There was no way to repair the tire. The four tired passengers stumbled into our farmhouse at midnight. I heard a ruckus, but being a teenager, promptly fell back asleep. The next morning I found that, finding all the beds full of sleeping children, Aunt Marion and Uncle James had simply crashed on the floor.

My father never fulfilled that dream of heading south until he moved to Texas upon retiring! Living so far away, he wasn’t able to see much of Uncle James in his later years. Aunt Marion was always very sweet to my mother, who was trapped on that dairy farm and eventually raised nine children there. Sigrid didn’t get out much, but she often talked about that Florida escapade. Who knows? Perhaps those tales of adventure fueled my own lifelong dreams of traveling! 

About the Author: Lois and Günter Hofmann lived their dream by having a 43-foot ocean-going catamaran built for them in the south of France and sailing around the world. Learn more about their travel adventures by reading Lois’s award winning nautical adventure trilogy. Read more about Lois and her adventures at her website and stay in touch with Lois by liking her Facebook page.


I’m furious. I’m angry. No, I actually want to cry. Why? Because I’m feeling left out yet again. Over our morning coffee, Gunter pointed out to me yet another article about the baby boomers, “The Generation that Changed the world.” By the end of 2014, every boomer will be 50 or over. This time, the article is in AARP, that magazine that arrives mysteriously in the U.S. mail when a person turns 50, at the height of his or her earning power, barely thinking about retiring. The magazine is the voice of the American Association of Retired Persons. Always and forever, the attention is placed on that huge generation that began in 1946, at the close of World War II, and ended in 1964.  Last Sunday, Parade magazine carried an article about Jane Pauley’s monthly TV special and her recently released book, “Your Life  Calling, Reimagining the Rest of Your Life.”

I grab the AARP article and read it voraciously, searching for any mention of my generation. Of course, there is none. The article blithely skips from The Greatest Generation—who was “lost all the time” with no GPS in their cars and having to understand the Dewey Decimal System to look things up—to speculating how Generation X and the Millennials will run the world.

It is as if my generation, 1929-1945, never existed! Leaving us out is more insulting than not even having a name! A few have named us. They call us “The Silent Generation.” Apparently our voices were overtaken by all those screaming babies! In a scholarly study published in 2008, we are called “The Lucky Few.”

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Some of us gained international fame: Elvis Presley, Neil Armstrong, Martin Luther King, Sandra Day O’Connor, Colin Powell. Others of us broke through glass ceilings to allow the big rush of baby boomers to storm through. I remember sitting in the main conference room of a Fortune 500 corporation, the only woman, waiting to present the business strategy for my department. I had to endure the slow slide of the foot of the V.P. sitting next to me inching up my leg. I pretended not to notice. He didn’t believe in women in the Board Room and wanted to throw me off my game.  While attending a conference in Washington D.C., the only woman in the audience, the speaker joked that “women belonged in the kitchen.” Overcoming adversity, we businesswomen took it all in stride and marched forward, paving the way.

Perhaps we are indeed lucky. We “silent few” have always been the scouts, the forerunners. It is we who were the big brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles who showed the way to this huge crop of baby boomers! When I retired from business as CEO of a publicly held company, I reinvented myself by sailing around the world with my husband on a 43-foot catamaran.  During our eight-year circumnavigation, I noticed that many fellow cruisers were paving the way for a new, less-consumptive lifestyle—one that values the great outdoors, yet leaves a clean, pollution-free wake. With my “In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss” book series, I have reinvented myself yet again, so that I can share that rewarding lifestyle with those who follow. And because I’m of that “lucky generation,” I can demonstrate that it works. I’ve already “been there, done that.” And I vow to be silent no more!