The Year You Were Born:
In the World: World War II raged on as Germany invaded Denmark, Norway, and France. After the French surrendered, the Battle of Britain began as predicted by the United Kingdom’s newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
In the US: The first social security checks are paid out on January 30th. The Selective Training and Service Act is passed September 14th, becoming the first peacetime draft in US history.
In the White House: Franklin D. Roosevelt is reelected for an unprecedented third term as President.
In Food: The first McDonald’s restaurant opens in San Bernardino, California.
Also Born in 1940: Chuck Norris (March 10), Al Pacino (April 25), Ringo Starr (July 7), Patrick Stewart (July 13), Alex Trebek (July 22), John Lennon (October 9), Bruce Lee (November 27), Richard Pryor (December 1)
Your Childhood: 1940s
Games specifically designed for children, like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders, became popular, but new family games like Clue were also well-received.
Silly Putty was accidentally discovered when a General Electric Engineer was trying to create synthetic rubber.
Tonka Trucks became popular, letting young boys play with miniature versions of the trucks their fathers drove on the job.
The Slinky debuted in 1945 and became an instant hit among kids across the nation.
Best-selling children’s books included Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Curious George by H. A. and Margret Ray, and Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss.
This era was known as the Golden Age of comic books, when some of the first famous superhero comics were debuting. Many characters that remain popular today were created during this period of time, including Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, the Sub-Mariner, and Captain America.
Television hadn’t yet taken off, but kids nationwide still enjoyed tuning into radio shows with their families. Some of the most famous radio entertainers were Abbott & Costello. In addition to their regular programming, for a few years they also hosted a program especially for kids, The Abbott and Costello Children’s Show.
At school, children learned a lot about World War II. They learned what was happening in the countries where US soldiers were fighting, and were encouraged to be patriotic and support the troops in whatever way they could. Kids recycled old tires and metal to make new weapons, tore up strips of cloth to make bandages, and sent packages of food to the troops.
The Teen Years: 1950s
Some of the first famous “teen movies” belonged to the 1950s, and with them came some of the first teen heartthrobs. Leading the pack were Marlon Brando in The Wild One and James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause.
Other male teen idols included Frankie Avalon and Fabian, among many others. Of course, there were no shortage of female sex icons, either: Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren, and Marilyn Monroe, to name a few.
Teens couldn’t get enough of that new sound called Rock and Roll. Some of the most famous singers of this “devil’s music” were Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the king himself - Elvis Presley. Teens were enjoying a new level of freedom that shocked and at times scared their parents, and there was nothing adults hated more - and consequently, nothing teens loved more - than Rock & Roll.
At the end of the decade, a sad day came for all those teens who loved Rock & Roll. On February 3rd, 1959, a small plane crash in Iowa killed three Rock & Roll musicians: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “Big Bopper” Richardson. This day later came to be known as “The Day the Music Died,” as originally named in Don McLean’s song “American Pie.”
Girls wore poodle skirts, saddle shoes, and their boyfriends’ Letterman jackets. Guys wore black leather and denim jeans. The haircut of choice for girls was the ponytail, and all the cool guys wore duck tails and sideburns to emulate icons like James Dean and Elvis Presley.
Popular slang included “threads” (clothes), “cranked” (excited), and “cool it” (relax). You could be a “cat” (a hip person), a “nerd” (a not-so-hip person). You could also add “ville” to the end of just about any word, to create slang words like coolsville, deadsville, and squaresville.
Early Adulthood: 1960s
In the early ‘60s, the USA entered the Vietnam War, and many kids born in the early 1940s were just the right age to be drafted into it. Consequently, many of them were part of the anti-war movement that spread across the nation’s college campuses.
People born in the early 1940s were already in their late 20’s when the hippie movement got into full swing, but some may have been beatniks, the predecessor to the late 60’s hippie.
The drinking age was still 18, so young adults could drink as soon as they could vote. The right to vote wasn’t yet as universal as it is now, though - African Americans were still fighting for it, among other rights, in the Civil Rights Movement.
Over the course of the 1960s, young adults helped elect presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon.
Adulthood and Middle Age
As you grew older, you saw some major shifts in politics, culture, and the freedoms of various minority groups. Satisfaction with the government took a huge dip in the 70s thanks to the Watergate Scandal and the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, the Cold War with Russia continued to escalate through the 70s and 80s. Racial minorities continued to gain more freedoms, and the controversial policy of Affirmative Action helped them gain a presence in the workplace. Women campaigned for their rights harder than ever before, exemplified by the landmark case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion. Technology expanded in previously inconceivable ways, and as you grew older you saw the invention of the home computer, the laser printer, the MRI scanner, genetic engineering, mobile phones, and the internet.