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Last Updated: Friday, 18 August 2006, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
The last baby boomer?
The first of the baby boomers are hitting 60 this year - but for the tail-end of the generation, retirement is still a long way off. As part of a series on the noted post-war generation, the BBC's Laura Smith-Spark tracked down one of the youngest.

(l-r) Danny on bass, Stan on drums, Carlos Barientos III on lead guitar (2004)
The youngest baby boomers are still a long way from retirement age

Guitar-shop owner Carlos Barientos III may be one of the very last baby boomers.

The baby boom generation - those born during the period of increased birth rates and economic growth following World War II - is commonly accepted as running from 1946 to 1964.

Born at about 6.45pm local time on 31 December 1964 in Hawaii - the most westerly of the 50 US states - Carlos just crept under the wire.

But unlike the early US baby boomers, his coming of age was not shaped by clashes over civil rights and the Vietnam War.

The end of US conscription in 1973 meant seven-year-old Carlos had no concerns about the military draft - unlike fellow boomers George W Bush and Bill Clinton, celebrating his 60th on Saturday.

Instead Vietnam was something his father talked about a lot, Carlos says, "so that's how I know I'm at the end of the generation".

Cultural angst

Books have been written about how those born after the peak of the baby boom fell into its shadow.

Carlos Barientos III playing guitar at home in Hawaii, circa 1983
Carlos cites his musical influences as 70s and 80s rock
Perhaps the most famous is Douglas Coupland's novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, which picked up on the angst felt by those born in the late 50s and early 60s.

While technically part of the baby boom generation, he wrote, its cultural icons and memories were not their own.

Carlos, who lives in the small town of Aiea, situated on Pearl Harbour near the Hawaiian capital, Honolulu, agrees.

Rather than identifying with the sound of The Beatles and Bob Dylan, he remembers listening to John Travolta at high school - to be swiftly replaced in his record collection by rock acts like Van Halen.

"Then the 1980s was when MTV had just come out and we could put on the TV and see all the rock bands we liked," he says.

Ethnic mix

And unlike the early baby boomers in the 1960s, Carlos found little in the political and social landscape of the late 1970s and early 1980s to trigger the spirit of revolution.

Surfers off Waikiki beach, Oahu
The culture's different, the food is different, the language, we have our own accent
Carlos Barientos III

The clashes of the civil rights movement were in any case far removed from life in Hawaii, lying some 2,300 miles (3,700km) west of the mainland and closer to the international dateline than to Alabama or Washington DC.

Carlos believes Hawaii's geographical position and the fact its population is of very mixed origin has created a far more tolerant culture than that of much of the US.

"You are a US state but when you come here, it kind of feels like you're on your own here.

"The culture's different, the food is different, the language, we have our own accent.

"My next-door neighbours are black, Filipino, Japanese - the culture on the island is just mixed. I never was brought up with any idea of segregation and race."

The USS Shaw explodes during the attack on Pearl Harbour, 7 December 1941
The attack on Pearl Harbour brought the US into World War II
Encountering that kind of thinking while on the US mainland in the 1990s - having gone for a two-week holiday and stayed for five years - "was very foreign to me", he adds.

And while it is hard not to be aware of US history when Pearl Harbour is on the doorstep, schools also teach young people about their Hawaiian heritage, he says.

Diverse generation

His observations chime with a 2004 study by sociologists Mary Elizabeth Hughes and Angela M O'Rand, of Duke University, which sought to challenge the popular stereotype of baby boomers as being very much a homogenous mass.

Carlos's wife, Pua, and 18-month-old daughter Phoebe
Carlos's daughter Phoebe - part of the New Silent Generation?

The Lives and Times of the Baby Boomers points out that rather than all being white suburbanites who grew up protesting against the Vietnam War and going to Woodstock, US baby boomers are more ethnically diverse than any previous generation, largely because of immigration.

And despite coming of age after the civil rights era, many baby boomers continue to experience inequalities of income according to ethnicity and widely varied educational levels, the study says.

The generation's 19-year age span also means the dire warnings of a pension crisis when the baby boomers stop working may be overstated - or at least not as immediate as some fear.

As living proof, while the first baby boomers contemplate their imminent retirement, Carlos is running a busy guitar shop catering for the islands' many musicians.

Aged 41, he is married with an 18-month-old daughter, Phoebe, and devotes much of his spare time to his family, church band and trips to the beach.

As for being the last of a generation? Well, having a birthday on New Year's Eve in fun-loving Hawaii has its advantages.

"It's cool," Carlos says. "Everybody's happy and partying and loving life - and I can say 'it's my birthday today'."

Map showing the US and Hawaii






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