At least twice a month I’m like “Oh great, another Boomer lecture on the value of hard work. Like, we’ve never heard that before. Oh wait, we have.”
Every single time we try to bring up the fact that there are actual systemic barriers in place that make it harder for us to succeed. But hey, it’s nice to see one of them finally admit that they had a little help from the good ol’ societal safety net and fair pay. Color us shocked.
Recently, a Redditor shared an exchange with his grandmother that was enlightening, to say the least. And he shared that exchange on Reddit’s anti-work forum:
I had a long sit down conversation with my grandmother over the Thanksgiving weekend. She’s almost 90, and is part of the ‘silent generation.’ Anyway – we were talking about work, and she told me she joined the workforce officially as a payroll clerk in 1951. She was an “old maid,” who had not gotten married when she was young, and didn’t until she was almost 30. She made .75/hr as a woman in 1951, the minimum wage. She says there was no reason she could not have supported herself on that .75/hr, because her expenses would have been much less than her income, as even rents around here would have been around 1/3rd of her minimum wage income.”
“We got started talking about it, because she told me she has seen some of the wild requirements for jobs these days, and wanted to tell me she had never even had to turn in an application for any of these jobs – her parents knew the owners from around town, and the knew she needed a job and the owner approached her about it. When she left there, she went to work as an office manager for a florist – same deal. They approached her. She didn’t even know the job existed.”
“There was also zero expectation that she move out of her home, even as an ‘old maid,’ and she continued to live there until my grandfather proposed to her, and she moved in with him after they married, in her very late 20s (still living at home at nearly 30), at which point, my grandfather didn’t want her to have to work, and supported both of them on his near minimum wage job as a ‘shoe cutter.’ She doesn’t remember exactly what he made, but less than 1.25/hr.”
“He never made good money in his entire life, only working at a single ‘low skill’ factory job, which was eventually offshored sometime during the Reagan administration, and my grandmother only worked part time, with little inhereitence from their parents (grandfather’s were poor, grandmother’s were middle class, but the inhereitence was a house, which they all fought over like animals ). However, they had everything. A new, standalone, home in 1962, with a 20 year mortgage, for an extremely affordable payment, new cars, and my grandmother is a self described ‘impulse shopper,’ who would buy all kinds of random sh*t she’d never use if allowed. They invested a lot of their extra money in AT&T, and literally left it there and watched it disappear when the government broke up AT&T.”
“My grandfather died around 5 years ago, but my grandmother is still living on SS and proceeds from selling their house for 10* what it cost them (never renovated, sold as it was built in the 60s). Anyway – when Boomers try to tell you life was hard during their lives, they’re not telling the truth. The minimum wage almost always supported a decent living, as intended, while they were up and coming. There was no ‘failing’ unless you just did not want to work, weren’t white, or drank and smoked away your paychecks (which many of them did).”
“Don’t let old folks gaslight you. They’re outright lying about what their financial lives were like, or the amount of ‘hard work’ they had to put in to have those lives. It is a mythology they have built for themselves, not reality.”
Folks responded to the post with their own stories.
“My grandma didnt graduate high school, maybe not even middle school and got a job at an investment bank on wall street, I think she took a few courses in bookkeeping but that was it. If I tried getting that job with those same qualifications they would throw my application in the trash Asap.” —
“Grandfather was a farm boy who didn’t go to college. Started as a department store stockboy, was the VP of a multi-state franchise by the time he retired, which he was able to do early. This could never ever happen today.” —
“My aunt sat me down on thanksgiving and told me she has a masters and a couple of diplomas, and she still gets turned down for jobs. And in that moment, I knew I was absolutely f*cked.” —
“I’ve had this discussion with my grandparents a thousand times. Seeing my struggles were a bit if a reality check, but the hurdle I could never overcome was inflation. Despite living it they couldn’t fathom just how much prices have changed over the years. I finally pulled out an inflation calculator to show her. Her 75 cent an hour job, adjusting for inflation, paid more than my degree required ‘good job.’ We only look lazy because we have to work twice as hard to make what they made and there just isn’t enough hours in the day. It creeped up on society so slowly that no one noticed until it was too late.” —
“You think that’s a laugh? My grandmother worked at Bletchley Park during the war, and her qualifications were ‘she’s quite bright for a woman’ (her words, RIP grandma). That was the standard for working at the Allies’ top code breaking site. Being ‘bright’. Somehow don’t think that would cut it these days.” —
Refreshing to see. For sure.