Magazines Were Boomers’ Windows on the World

It may be hard for today’s generation to believe that before the advent of the Internet, boomers got the bulk of their information about everything from pop culture to international affairs through newspapers and magazines. Newspapers were as necessary as the delivery from the milkman, but it was magazines that truly captured the hearts and minds of boomer families. Television programming began to cut into the circulation of magazines, but Mister Boomer is pretty sure if you ask any boomer, he or she will tell you that their family subscribed to several magazines that were promptly delivered to their mailbox.

There was a magazine for every possible constituency, gender and age. Many had already been active for decades, while others got their start in the Boomer Era. For boys, there was Boy’s Life, published by the Boy Scouts of America (since 1911). As they grew to be teens, they might share dad’s copy of Popular Mechanics (since 1902). Burgeoning car enthusiasts had Hot Rod, first published in 1948, making it a true boomer publication. Road & Track joined the fun in 1952, having been sporadically published between 1947 to ’49.

Young girls read Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine. Fashion tips could be procured from Seventeen as girls became teens.

The fathers of boomers had a series of magazines aimed solely at the male market. Among the most popular were Esquire (first published in 1933), the aforementioned Popular Mechanics and Playboy (first published in 1953). There were also a host of other men’s magazine that included racy photos of women (for the time). Some may have piqued the interest of boomer boys when they discovered where their fathers kept their archive (but not Mister B or Brother Boomer; their father did not subscribe to any of them). Many of the magazines, such as Esquire, featured fiction by some of the up-and-coming writers of the day, including Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese, among others.

Boomer mothers had a treasure trove of magazines designed just for them. Centered around family life, child rearing, cooking and house organizing, these included McCall’s (1897-2000), Good Housekeeping (since 1891), Family Circle (since 1932), Better Homes & Gardens (1925) and Ladies’ Home Journal (1891).

Then there were the magazines shared by the whole family. These were either general interest, photo-heavy magazines like Life (1936-72), Look (1937-71) and National Geographic (1888), or news magazines like Time (1923), Newsweek (1933) and U.S. News & World Report (1933). Many families added Consumer Reports (1936), the first magazine to offer unbiased product testing, a handy resource in the age of boomer consumerism.

If there was a single magazine that bridged the gap among boomers of all ages, it would have to be Reader’s Digest (1920). Designed with 30 articles per issues, so people could read one a day, the magazine became the best-selling publication in the country for decades. Many boomers will recall their parents enjoying the columns, “Humor in Uniform” or “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” Many boomers will also recall that their friends and relatives, if not their own parents, kept the current issue in the bathroom for “library” reading.

Mister Boomer’s family subscribed to many magazines through the years. Mister B’s mother was partial to Good Housekeeping and McCall’s while his father enjoyed Life and Look, as well as Reader’s Digest. Brother Boomer got a Newsweek subscription when he was in high school. Mister Boomer and his sister did not subscribe to monthly magazines, but bought them on occasion. Mister B paged through Life and Look, and often used the photos for art projects for school, but his favorite was Mad, which he purchased sporadically between 1962 and ’68. His sister liked the celebrity photos of the Beatles, Bobby Sherman and Richard Chamberlain that she could get in Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, when the mood struck her to purchase them.

How about you, boomers? What magazines did you and your family subscribe to?

Boomers Say Good-Bye to Two More Influencers

This week two icons of the boomer era passed away: Doris Day and Peggy Lipton. Both of these women recorded albums and both of them were actresses, but the two could hardly be more different. The contrast between them happens to illustrate the evolution of the Boomer Generation from the 1950s into the 1960s.

Doris Day
Though she started singing at an early age, Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff wanted to be a dancer. Her training would come in handy years later, on the silver screen. Nonetheless, she began singing at 15, which lead to her first record contract in 1947. Singing with several Big Bands, Doris Day became popular with servicemen during WWII and later, Korea.

She had a bona fide hit with Sentimental Journey in 1945, recording with Les Brown and His Band Of Renown. The song became a symbol for servicemen returning home. Her first foray into acting came in 1948 in the film, Embraceable You.

In the early 1950s, she starred in a series of musicals, in which she acquired the wholesome image of the girl next door. She attempted to jettison her image by accepting grittier, dramatic roles, including starring opposite Jimmy Stewart in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1956. Her last film was With Six You Get Eggroll (1968).

While her acting career took off, she never stopped singing and recording. One of her biggest hits, Que Sera Sera, released in 1956, was used in the movie Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960) and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966). In 1968, it became her theme song for The Doris Day Show (1968-73) on TV.

Her real life was anything but the perfect world of the wholesome girl she portrayed on screen. She married four times, and in her autobiography stated that there was never any intention of projecting any image at all, by either herself or her publicist.

Peggy Lipton
While Doris Day began her singing career at age 15, Peggy Lipton started modeling at the same age. Her first acting job came at age 19, and she soon appeared on a variety of TV shows, including The John Forsythe Show (1965), Bewitched (1965) and The Virginian (1966).

Most boomers, however, will remember Peggy Lipton for the TV show that catapulted her to popular fame: The Mod Squad (1968-73), in which three young, groovy outsiders became undercover agents for the police. Ironically airing the same years as The Doris Day Show, Mod Squad, was one of the earliest shows to have a multiracial cast (tagline, “One white, one black, one blonde”) and one of the first TV shows to depict the counterculture that was growing among boomers. As a result, she became a fashion icon with her flower child image: long, straight blonde hair and bell bottom pants. Capitalizing on her TV fame, she released her first album of mostly covers in 1968, from which she had a hit single with Donovan’s Wear Your Love Like Heaven. She released a second album in 1970.

Ms. Lipton married music producer-legend Quincy Jones in 1974 and they divorced in 1990.

In later years, boomers saw her in a variety of movies and TV appearances. Most notably, she came back as a regular character in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (1989-91). In Angie Tribeca (2017), she played the role of the mother to the show’s title star, her real-life daughter with Quincy Jones, Rashida Jones.

As far as Mister Boomer was concerned, Doris Day was more for his parents’ generation. Granted, she was a terrific singer and actress of that time, but Mister B much preferred Peggy Lipton in The Mod Squad. Mister B did not hear any of Peggy Lipton’s records in his earlier years. She was definitely better on screen than on record.

What memories do you have about Doris Day and Peggy Lipton, boomers?