How old you are when something happens has a major impact on how you remember an event. Two people, alive at the same time, can have very different memories of the same event. “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” made it clear that, despite the men of SCDP belonging to the same generation, there are very distinct divides. While there are economic divides as well, this post will focus on the character’s ages and experiences.
Bert Cooper remembers events that no else in the office can. He was certainly alive and old enough to have clear memories of World War I, and would have been an adult during Prohibition. Sterling Cooper was founded during the Great Depression. Unlike many of the other characters, he was trying to earn a living during that era.
Roger Sterling was under ten when Prohibition was the law of the land, but he may have tried to sneak into a speakeasy. While he was a teenager during the Great Depression and would have clear memories of it, the wealth of his father would have insulated him from much of the hardships experienced by others. We know he served in the Pacific during World War II, which was a life-changing experience for him.
Don, as we have seen, was very young during the Depression. Unlike Roger or Bert who had memories of a time before economic hardship, Don probably does not. The timeline gets complicated at this point, but evidence points to the fact that Don was eligible to serve in World War II, but for whatever reason did not. He may have been eligible for the draft in the early years of the war. He did serve in combat during Korea, which aligns him with Roger, as a man who saw combat.
Harry has no memories of the Depression, and was removed from WWII by a degree, because he was too young to serve. He would have had to endure rationing. While the men fighting were not his peers, they would have the older siblings of his classmates, or possibly members of his own family who were slightly older than he was. Harry also would have seen endless WWII films at the movies, including newsreels, and radio broadcasts with the latest news from the front.
Peter may have a dim memory of the end of the war. He would have been young, but it’s possible he would have memories of a large parade, or people acting out of the ordinary, but would have little sense of what it all meant. While Don was fighting in Korea, Peter would have been learning about it through newsreels at the movies. Peter grew up with the fear of the bomb, and duck and cover drills at school.
I left off Lane Pryce for two reasons; I wanted to focus on the Americans, and I was unsure of Lane’s age.