Boomers Moved to Other States

It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and each year people travel home or to visit relatives and friends. Despite a worldwide pandemic, this year is no different, with an estimated 50 million people are traveling by air. While the pandemic portion of the scenario is a topic for another day, what struck Mister Boomer about holiday travel was how many people live far enough away from their childhood homes that they need to take a plane to get there.

Boomers weren’t the first migratory generation by a longshot, but circumstances combined during the boomer years to facilitate moving from one state to another. In fact, state-to-state migration has been happening since there were states. Patterns of this migration follow exactly what you might expect — people moved where the jobs were plentiful. According to U.S. Census data, the majority of people migrating from one state to another between 1930 and 1940 were moving from the mostly rural center of the country outward toward the coasts, where larger cities were located. Between 1940 and 1950, the move outward to the coasts continued, but people also moved to the upper Midwest, where numerous factories had been located. This trend continued between 1950 and 1960.

Between 1960 and 1970, when boomers — the generation with the highest population — began reaching the age of adulthood, migration patterns began to reverse, moving outward from the larger population areas. Some call it a “back to the land” migration, but the data suggests that opportunities for a better career and/or life were the major reasons for migratory moves. As technology replaced manufacturing as a major engine of the economy in the 1980s, boomers in the prime of their careers could pick up and go to the jobs they were offered, in some cases leaving one migratory state for another.

Compared to previous generations, when the twentieth century rolled around, more boomer men and women went to college. Many boomers will tell you they were the first in their families to attend college, and many of them got their education in another state. After college, some boomers chose to stay in the area, or moved to other states for job opportunities.

Boomers also had personal transportation. In the 1950s, the Ford Motor Company saw the advantage of advertising the sale of two cars for a family, so the housewife had a way to shop and run errands while her husband was at work. Some of those second cars became the first cars for young boomers. (Mister Boomer was raised in an area where no family had more than one car, until boomers reached driving age.) At that point, used cars were plentiful and cheap. Boomers could buy and maintain their own vehicle (or with parental assistance) so they could drive to jobs or college.

A third circumstance that facilitated an easy migration from state-to-state was the completion of the Interstate Highway System in the early 1960s. To sum up the reasons why boomers were able to easily migrate to other states:
• Personal transportation was readily available
• Road travel was simplified by a new highway system
• To pursue higher education
• To pursue job and career opportunities

In terms of migration, Mister Boomer and his siblings may or may not be typical of the Boomer Generation. Mister B grew up with a large extended family that lived fairly close to one another; some aunts and uncles lived within blocks of each other throughout their lives. Yet as cousins grew up and attended college, were drafted into the Army or pursued other opportunities, several began moving away, including Mister B and his siblings. Currently Mister B and his two siblings live in three different states, none of which are the state in which they were all born.

How about you, boomers? Did you leave your home state for greener pastures and now go home for the holidays? Are your children living out of state and coming home to see you?

Boomers Took V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N in the Summertime

It’s summertime, and the living is easy … at least for kids home for the summer break. It’s commonly repeated that summer vacation from school was tied into the agrarian economy — that the break was needed so kids could work the family farm. However, that myth is simply not true. Up until the Civil War, there were several school calendars followed across the country. The majority did link directly to the agrarian schedule, and that meant kids would have more time off in the spring (for planting) and fall (for harvesting.) There was a winter term, and a summer term. There were no summer vacations.

The same was true for their parents; summer vacation was not part of the American culture. In fact, work was considered preferable to time off, and the mantra that hard work leads to the reward of financial success remains part of our national psyche to this day.

Naturally, the wealthy always could take time off any time they wanted. Even then, religious leaders vilified leisure time, proclaiming “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” Nonetheless, by the mid 19th century, doctors began to speak out on the benefits of time off to relieve fatigue. It was around this time that the railroads crisscrossed the country, facilitating travel and sparking a new hotel industry. The first summer vacations from school were created at the request of this elite class to bring their children away with them. People began to head to the seashore “for the fresh air” or natural springs “to take in the waters,” and therefore, improve their health. Religious communities established resorts as a way of controlling people’s free time, lest they be tempted into drunkenness, idleness, and God forbid, real fun.

By the 1930s, time off from work, even for middle class families, was commonplace — at least in Europe. Britain passed its first paid vacation requirement (one week) in 1939, around the same time France guaranteed a worker two weeks of paid leave and the world labor market was advocating the 40 hour work week. The U.S. went its own way.

After World War II, the economy was booming. In order to compete for the best worker candidates, some American companies offered paid vacation as an incentive, though it almost never exceeded a week. It wouldn’t be until the 1970s that the vast majority of U.S. employers offered at least a week of vacation time to all full-time employees.

The U.S. does not guarantee paid vacations, the only rich nation in the world to not require it by law. As a result, a quarter of American employers do not provide paid time off for full-time workers. By contrast, the European Union requires 20 days paid, while France, Brazil and Finland offer 30 days. Today, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that an average employee with ten or more years on the job gets 10 days off per year, including holidays.

Mister Boomer recalls that in the 1950s, since a good number of his uncles worked at union jobs in factories, they received two weeks off. Mister B’s father, however, received one week. The extended family got together for a two-week camping trip every year. For Mister Boomer’s father, however, it meant dropping his family at the campground over the weekend and heading back home to work for a week. The following week he would join the family for his week of vacation.

By the time the Interstate Highway System was well underway in the early sixties, Mister Boomer’s father had earned two weeks off. He was anxious to, as the commercials urged, “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet” (even if it was a Ford). It was then that Mister B’s family took vacations by car and drove down Route 66, went to the White House in Washington, DC, saw the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, counted bears in Yellowstone National Park and gazed at the Grand Canyon over the course of the decade. None of that would have been possible without two things that occurred during the Boomer Generation: the spread of paid vacation time, and summer vacation from school. Of course, like the railroads had done a century before, the Interstate Highways allowed people of even modest means to travel.

Did you spend part of your summer vacations traveling with your family, boomers?