But I know, if the world just passed us by, baby I know
I wouldn’t have to cry” — Styx, The Best of Times, 1981
Meet the Flower Hill Gang that rode the streets of St. John’s, Newfoundland from the late 1970s through the 1980s. Aren’t they a glorious bunch with their ape hanger bikes? I think the kid in the back and the one on the far left are riding 10-speeds. The photo has a very 1950s-era feel to it, but it’s pure Baby Buster genius. Baby Busters are what they called Gen-Xers before the Canadian writer Douglas Coupland solidified the Generation X label with his 1991 novel by the same name. (Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture)
Yes, the man who is often (and mistakenly) credited for naming Generation X (the evolution of the name is complicated), is Canadian.
The picture was taken in 1981. The source is Bob Williams, the boy pictured on the far right. He reports that the entire gang is still alive and in contact with each other. The other four boys are, from left to right, Darrell Williams, Chris Snow, Chad Hunt and Ed Harris.
In the nearly 10 years I’ve blogged about Gen X, I’ve rarely written about cohorts in other countries to the point of being a bit jingoistic. In reality, people born between 1961 and 1981 in countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland, etc., are all identified by the same generational archetype: Nomads. A total of four archetypes are outlined in The Fourth Turning, the prescient work of historian and demographer Neil Howe and his late co-author William Strauss.
Essentially, we all came into the world at the same point in history. We lived through similar social, political and cultural challenges and experiences. As such, we developed similar attitudes during two formative stages, early childhood and early adulthood. Basically, what I’m saying is those boys from St. John who rode those ape hanger bikes have a lot in common with boys who rode ape hanger bikes in St. Paul, St. Louis and beyond. Even though they didn’t know each other, they went through a lot of the same things.
In The Fourth Turning, Strauss and Howe explained four turning points (turnings) in history that essentially repeat themselves. They called them the high, the awakening, the unraveling and the crisis.
Every generation cycles through the normal phases of life: childhood, young adulthood, mature adulthood, old age. During mature adulthood (middle age) each generation tends to dominate. We are in the middle of a crisis turning now. During this time, the Baby Boomers will enter old age and Generation X will enter a period of dominance.
I have no more information about the picture of the boys on the ape hanger bikes, only that I saw similar spirits riding phantom gang up and down the streets of all the places I lived. Los Angeles, Colorado Springs, Dallas and half a dozen or so rural American towns. They were such a mystery to me; every single one of them. Especially those from broken homes who were raised by single mothers. During the summer, we missed them at the city pool and ballpark. They’d gone to see their fathers who lived faraway.
From the Book of Matthew
If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Get the Daily Photo
Please click here to subscribe to the daily photo via daily posts. If you would like to submit a special photo for possible publication, please email me, jenx1967 [at] gmail [dot] com.