On May 12, 1957 at New York Hospital, in the heart of the Big Apple, I was born into the Baby Boomer generation. A few days later, my parents brought me to their new home in the “Garden State”…New Jersey. They took advantage of the low-cost housing movement which was prolific due to the new development of inexpensive tract homes after World War II.
My folks had their first home built in a new subdivision right outside of Manhattan. It was often cheaper to buy one of these suburban houses than to rent an apartment in the city. New York continued to bustle as the major point of entry to the “land of the free and home of the brave,” a melting pot of multiple nationalities and cultures, breeding the next generations of Americans.
I grew up in the era of the Flintstones, the Jetsons, and “Leave it to Beaver.” We had no cell phones, or computers, and indulged on T.V. dinners and Hamburger Helper while drinking Coca Cola in glass bottles. In the first 10 years of my life, plastic bags and bottles were in their infancy and we thought of them as an amazing, “space-age” products – never considering the long-term effects of their convenience.
Back in the 1950s, my dad started his dental practice in NYC. It was a 20-minute commute to the city from our family’s comfortable home that was set on a half-acre of manicured, emerald green lawn, sprinkled with an array of ornamental plants and a token apple tree. He also saw patients in the downstairs of our home. Yet, even though we lived in the “Garden State,” it was more important to display a good-looking lawn to the neighbors and his patients than to boast a bounty of healthy vegetables. This was the mindset of the times. I never saw one vegetable garden in my neighborhood, or any of my friends’ neighborhoods, at age 16, put one in our backyard myself.
As the suburbs built up, the commute into the city took up to an hour, so my dad eventually gave up his Manhattan office and saw patients only from the downstairs of our home. Our three-story house had a large basement so my dad converted a portion into his dental practice. Many of his patients from NYC continued faithfully to see him, even if they had to take a taxi to New Jersey. My dad was kind-hearted and personable, and excellent at his craft. A real charmer, he called everyone “love.” We use to tease my dad about acting like Fred Flintstone.
Soil to Soul Reflection
Observing my father’s interaction with his patients, I learned about diplomacy and how putting soul into your work made a big difference. My dad’s gracious and sincere nature, and his excellent customer service skills, kept his patients coming back for years.
When patients could not afford to pay for the dental work my dad never denied them. He either discounted heavily, traded for goods or service that his patients had to offer, or set up a long-term payment plan. NYC had a lot of “starving artists.” Much of the artwork on the walls of our home were paintings that came from his talented patients.
Learning this behavior from my father imprinted a permanent impression on me, and has served me well. Over the years, I have made many trades in the multiple businesses that I have created, incorporating my father’s soulful practices into my life, sharing peace, love, and compassion.
A Bit of History from the 50s, and Growing up in the 60s
With the birth of the industrial food complex, small family farms were in the decline and gardening was not in vogue. Imported ornamental plants spread like wildfire and landscaping became big business in the suburbs.
Eating meat in the 1950s was a sign of prosperity and was served at almost every meal. The trend grew from there. The first McDonald’s opened up in Des Plaines, Illinois in 1955 offering a 15-cent hamburger, initiating the “beginning of the end” for small time ranches. By the turn of the century, the establishments of fast-food restaurants and the demands for beef they would create would change our meat production into horrific, soulless, factory-farming institutions, and level our ancient rainforests for short-term beef production.
Dentistry was also becoming big business. With the rise in processed sugary food infiltrating the marketplace, my father’s dental practice grew, diversifying to include new bridgework options, and crowns to replace teeth that were too cavity infested to fill.
After World War II ended, many Americans were eager to have children because they were confident that the future held nothing but peace and prosperity. This mindset lead to the Baby Boom Movement which began in 1946 and continued through the 60s. Approximately 4 million babies were born each year in the United States adding to the 3 billion people already on the planet. My brother and I were two of them; my younger brother came at the tail end when the boom tapered off in 1964. There were almost 77 million “baby boomers.”
The times were changing fast. The Flintstones first aired in 1960 and TV became the primary entertainment for many American families.
NYC became a major hub for business growth and the suburbs sprawled as population growth boomed. Traffic was building on the George Washington Bridge, making the commute for many suburban dwellers a drag. Many people did not have the luxury of working from home. As more people flooded the metropolitan area, dealing with traffic became an acceptable evil.
In the 50s, the average cost of a new home was $16,000 and a gallon of regular gas was $0.31. People could avoid the high cost of living by commuting each day from the suburbs. America produced gas guzzling cars that could be driven for cheap. It was a status symbol to have a garage, and an even bigger deal if you had a two-car garage. Track homes and all the modern “necessities” became a way of life.
This new, coveted, habitual lifestyle took off like wildfire. For decades we would experience massive growth in people, businesses, and consumption. The USA, booming with babies and irresponsible consumerism, began the trek down a dark path of hoarding until our country was using 25% of world resources. This rapid growth pace had begun to show signs of spiraling out of control, yet everyone was caught up in the American Dream.
Fuel for Thought:
We are now fueling our society with decomposed dinosaurs while our children eat dinosaur-shaped Flintstones vitamins. The Jetsons Family would be proud. I am not.
Founder of Soil to Soul Solutions