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Unified Patriots by Vassar Bushmills

The Law of Generations

The Law of Generations is a simple rule about how families in America change from one generation to the next. Unlike much of the world, because of freedoms unique to America, and the constant flow of new blood to our shores, no two generations are the same. This isn’t about genealogy. It’s about a thing we share with every other American, regardless of their station in life, from doctor, to lawyer, from rich man to poor man. For we all rose from the same sort of people. This is how many of them looked in 1940.

Besides being interesting, this will be illuminating, for the American family has shaped the development of America since the very beginning at Jamestown and Plymouth, and you need to know how that works for you and your family no matter when your First Settler came onshore.

But here I only want to walk you through a photographic essay of what your family looked like in 1940, when your great grandparents were no older than you are, and your own parents mere gleams in their eyes. I am quite sure none of you can believe these sort of people are among your ancestors, only 75 years ago, but they are.

We all live in three-generation worlds made up of child-parent-and grand parents. At 20 you’re still the child at the front of that equation. But as you grow to have children, your grandparents drop out of the family memory book, and the three-generation process re-starts with you now in the middle as the parent than in the front as the kid.

What is most often lost is that fourth generation, the great grandparents, for very few children have any memory of them. So I want to give you a peek at what your great grandparents looked liked, and your grandparents as children, and the sorts of lives they lived in 1940. The choices weren’t as wide and varied as they would soon become.

I know that for 20-something Millenniasls thinking in terms of quarter- or half-centuries is like studying ancient history. But your own family’s ancient history is found in these photos, and if you search around, you will find similar photos buried away in family albums at home that no one bothers to look at anymore, since all the people in them have passed away. You should be interested in them, and begin to consider just what sort of history will be in your own children’s backpack as they grow up and finally move out to be on their own.

For 2016 Millennials these third and fourth generations are the real kickers, simply because of the unbelievable changes that occurred in America between 1940 and 1975. My grandfather was born in 1897, and died in 1971. In our last conversation he told me the greatest thing he ever witnessed in his lifetime was the building of the Panama Canal, which covered an entire section in my high school history book in 1960. An engineering marvel in its day, I doubt it even earned passing mention in your modern history books.

Faro and Doris Caudill, homesteaders. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Faro and Doris Caudill, homesteaders. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

This is from a small farm town in New Mexico, 1940. Their name was Caudill, typical small farmers, they were probably in their 30′s here. It was a hard life[…]

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