Excerpt from The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Greatest Generation

by Tom Brokaw

The Greatest Generation
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  • First Published:
    Nov 1998, 412 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2001, 412 pages

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Print Excerpt


"What concerns me most about the future is the breakdown of the family. We were willing to make sacrifices so that I could stay home with the children. Now couples both work so they can be more affluent. We would rather delay gratification to ensure that our children had a nice home environment."

Alison Campbell shares similar sentiments. "During the war ... we learned to deal with deprivations - rationing, being away from our husbands and families. I look at my daughter's generation and their big influence was television - and that's created a tremendous demand for material goods. My brother and I used to play and build things but my grandchildren don't build things, they only buy them!"

And there are other memories of that time when her life took a sharp turn from the conventions of her upbringing. She has an indelible photograph in her mind "of getting to the shipyard at seven a.m., when it was still dark in the west, and the stars would be out and there would be these giant cranes, which looked like dinosaurs against the sky, and sparks flying from the big machines." It was a daily reminder that her world of Oregon affluence and California graduate school was forever altered.

These days, Scottie keeps busy as a docent at the Spencer Museum on the KU campus and as a student at the Citizen Police Academy three nights a week. She's also started discussing her experiences as a WAVE with her grandchildren and with students at elementary and middle schools in the Lawrence area - about what America was like during World War II.

And when Scottie comes home at night after a trip to one of those schools, or after a meeting of one of the committees she serves on at KU, or after a round of golf - she now rides nine holes and walks nine - she can, at the age of seventy-five, look back on a life of service and self-reliance, a life of strong values and of an unapologetic love of country.

When she goes into her modest kitchen in Lawrence, Scottie is reminded of that long-ago time when she began her life of service. When she was leaving the WAVES in 1945, the staff at the Joint Chiefs of Staff allowed her to take from the metallic war maps a handful of the tiny magnetic airplanes used to mark battles around the world. Then, they were symbols of terrible battles in distant places, of the powerful struggle to preserve freedom. Now, they keep in place on her refrigerator Scottie's reminders of what's coming up next in her long, rich life.

Use of this material may be made only for the purpose of promoting The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw, with no editing - except for length - or additions whatsoever, and must be accompanied by the following copyright notice: Copyright © 1998 by Tom Brokaw. All rights reserved.

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