Boomers “Dropped A Dime”

There are many idioms known from the Boomer Era that have worn well through the ages (“That’s cool” being one), while others have passed into the dustbin of history. One such phrase is, “Drop a dime.” Originally, the phrase was used in police jargon to ask informants to call them about someone’s illegal activity of which they were aware, and conversely, by criminal organizations to describe someone who “ratted” out a fellow member. From there, it spread into general use with a more literal meaning. When you asked someone to drop a dime on you, it was a request that they give you a call. Likewise, if you asked someone to drop a dime, they should call you. Sometimes the phrase could be joined by other phrases, such as “don’t be a stranger, drop a dime,” or “drop a dime and let’s talk.”

The connection between a dime and a phone call was a direct one: a phone call at a pay phone (remember those?) cost ten cents. The caller would literally place a dime in the slot, and it would drop through the phone, signaling with a ding to make the call. Prior to 1950, a phone call was five cents, which makes the phrase a true product of the Boomer Era. This rise to ten cents came about the same time that glass phone booths replaced wooden ones. By 1960, outdoor drive-up pay phones also were introduced.

If a boomer was traveling alone, perhaps for the first time, a boomer’s dad might say, “Drop a dime on your mother, and let her know you arrived safely.” He might also offer that dime to his child. The phrase was used by both generations with the same understanding.

The idea of always needing a dime to make a call was an important lesson to learn for growing boomers. Not only did boomers need to keep in touch with parents and potential dates, but even emergency calls needed coins before 1968, when the law Congress passed the previous year initiated the nationwide 911 system. This led some boomers to update their penny loafers by carrying dimes in the places pennies might previously have occupied.

In 1973, the cost of a phone call jumped from 10 cents to 20 cents, thereby signaling the beginning of the end of practical usage of the phrase.

Mister Boomer didn’t have much occasion to use the phrase himself, but heard it spoken among neighborhood kids and occasionally by his father. Yet Mister B was known to go to a phone booth to drop a dime on a girl he wanted to ask out. That was infinitely better than having to use the phone on the kitchen wall.

How about you, boomers? Did you use the phrase, drop a dime, or did someone ask you to do so?

Boomers Recall When They Were Stardust and Golden

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the three days of peace, love and music known as Woodstock. As Mister B has written in the past, he is one boomer who readily admits that he was not there, but rather, became more aware of the concert through the movie that was released in 1970. Watching it at a drive-in theater, a teenage Mister B could only imagine the extreme conditions these people lived though to see a concert — but what a concert! On the big screen was a sea of humanity exemplifying the youthful mantra of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll for the world to see, but they came for the music, and so did Brother Boomer and Mister B. Already a fan of The Who, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane, after seeing the movie Mister Boomer purchased music by Richie Havens, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival and perhaps most importantly to him, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Of all the performers at Woodstock, that was the one band Mister Boomer saw live a couple of years later.

Here is what Mister Boomer had to say about Woodstock when Richie Havens died in 2013: Boomers Get Themselves Back to the Garden

This is a photo of the Woodstock tie that Mister Boomer bought in 1970. Mister B wore it often at that time, since he worked his way through college in the retail world. He is currently awaiting the proper venue when he can don it once again.