My mum as a little girl

The Quiet Achievers

Can you paint a portrait of an entire generation?

Can you paint a portrait of an entire generation?


This was the question posed by an article in the 5 November 1951 issue of Time

It said that whilst the ‘younger generation’ of the day had inherited many things from their parents, there was a notable difference:

“Youth today is waiting for the hand of fate to fall on its shoulders, meanwhile working fairly hard and saying almost nothing.  It does not issue manifestos, make speeches or carry posters. It has been called the Silent Generation.”



Over the past year, I’ve given talks to those ‘youth’ (now in their 70s +) and shown some of my work recording people’s stories. One in particular – Love at ‘The Embassy’ – strikes a chord with many.  Watching the above excerpt you can probably see why.

(scroll down to see the whole film I made about Betty’s Story)

How life has changed

No generation has ever lived exactly like the one before it, but in the 20th Century, these changes were marked.  Technological advancements in every aspect of our lives made quite certain of that.

I’m interested in how values and attitudes shift between generations. Much of this has come from changes in how we live, and there is a great opportunity to pass on lessons which have taken a lifetime to learn.

Can you guess what the following images from the past are? (hover the mouse over or flip to reveal):

Arriving by ship

playing in the street

The dunny

Doing laundry by hand

Patching a bike tube


Veges in the backyard

Children at work

Walking to school

(without mum or dad)

Telling your own story

(or encouraging others to tell theirs!)

I truly believe that people’s life stories and history are precious. My grandfather for example died in a work accident well before I was born (in fact when my mother was just a young adult). How could she have known the morning she said goodbye as he left for work would be the last?

My grandfather’s photographs

Rachel Freed, in her HuffPost article The importance of telling our stories  recommends choosing one powerful story that best defines us and our life, and to describe it as vividly as possible, making reference to feelings, thoughts and sensations. She goes on to suggest:

  • Letting it sit for a few days.
  • Going back, rereading and embellishing if more has come
  • Being alert for ways we can extricate and free ourselves going forward
  • Writing a legacy letter to someone we care about who may enjoy and benefit from it in the future.

In my own work, I often ask people to bring photographs to our chat, as these provide a very useful talking point. They can also form part of a life story e-book.

Lessons of a lifetime

I loved talking to Betty and recording her memories of growing up in Perth, going to the Embassy Ballroom and catching her first glimpse of the man who would become her husband.

Hers is a story of gratitude, hard work, patience and — if you watch to the end — a charming modesty.

All the things which we associate with her “silent generation”.


I’d love to tell you more about how we can record your mum’s or dad’s (or both) story in either enhanced e-book or video format.  For a free 1-hour consultation, please contact me on 0438 738 054 or

Richard Seale

Founder, Front Porch Films