If there's one thing we humans like to do, it's label ourselves and one another. Sometimes those labels, applied to vast numbers of people, are obviously laudatory (The Greatest Generation). Sometimes they're pitying (The Lost Generation). Sometimes they're duly withering (The Me Generation). And sometimes, at least in the moment, they're just plain accurate.
In June 1954, LIFE magazine published an article titled "The Luckiest Generation" that, revisited 60 years later, feels like an almost perfect snapshot of a certain segment of American society at a particular moment in the nation's history. We'll let LIFE set the scene:
The morning traffic and parking problems [LIFE wrote] became so critical at the Carlsbad, N.M., high school that school authorities in 1953 were finally forced to a solution: they set aside a special parking area for students only. In Carlsbad, as everywhere else, teenagers are not only driving new cars to school but in many cases are buying them out of their own earnings. These are the children who at birth were called "Depression babies." They have grown up to become, materially at least, America's luckiest generation.
Young people 16 to 20 are the beneficiaries of the very economic collapse that brought chaos almost a generation ago. The Depression tumbled the nation's birth rate to an all-time low in 1933, and today's teenage group is proportionately a smaller part of the total population than in more than 70 years. Since there are fewer of them, each — in the most prosperous time in U.S. history — gets a bigger piece of the nation's economic pie than any previous generation ever got. This means they can almost have their pick of the jobs that are around. . . . To them working has a double attraction: the pay is good and, since their parents are earning more too, they are often able to keep the money for themselves.
A few things to point out here. First, and probably most obvious, is the racial makeup of the "teenage group" that LIFE focused on, at least pictorially, in that 1954 article: there might be a few people of color in one or two of the photographs in this gallery, but we certainly have not been able to find them.
Second, the nature of the boon — of the improbable and unprecedented good fortune — that befell these kids is not that they're spoiled rotten, or that every possible creature comfort has been handed to them. Instead, it's that they have the opportunity to work at virtually any job they choose. "They are often able to keep the money" that they earn.
So, yes, they were lucky — and compared to countless generations of youth who came before, all over the world, white working- and middle-class teens in 1950s America were, for the most part, incredibly lucky. But unlike the entitled creatures that most of us would count as the "luckiest" (and the most obnoxious) among us these days, the teens profiled in LIFE in 1954 don't look or feel especially coddled.
They look secure. They look confident. They look, in some elemental way, independent. They're learning, day by day, what it means to make one's way in the world.
In that sense, maybe they were the luckiest generation, after all.
Liz Ronk, the Photo Editor for LIFE.com, edited this gallery. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.
Apostrophes have two main purposes, to form possessives and to mark contractions. Correct usage of apostrophes is an easy way to prevent a loss of points on your papers. Unless you are showing possession or a contraction an apostrophe should not be used.
Possessives mark ownership or possession of an object or trait.
For a singular possessive the writer need only add ’s to the end of the word (even if it ends in an “s”).
For plural possessives make the word plural and add ’s. If the word ends in and “s” just add an apostrophe.
Using apostrophes with dates:
1950 references the year directly. 1950s refers to the entire decade.
1950’s is a reference to some fact or occurrence that belongs to the decade (e.g. The Twist was a 1950’s dance).
Though it may seem odd to have a number and letter next to each other without punctuation, the plural has no apostrophe.
Contractions are a way of marking omitted letters in informal writing.
|do not/don’t||I am/I’m||am not/ain’t|
|is not/isn’t||should have/should’ve||never/ne’re|
|come on/c’mon||you have/you’ve||of the clock/o’clock|
Contractions should generally be avoided in academic writing. The main exception is creative writing, where presenting a dialect or writing in an informal tone contributes to the story, but don’t overuse them. There are contractions that have fallen out of use and into misuse, such as “ain’t.” But that doesn’t mean they can’t still be used.