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Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together

July 5th marks the 70th anniversary of the introduction of the modern bikini. Though mosaics and wall paintings reveal that women wore two-piece costumes in Roman times around 300 A.D., and as far back as 1600 B.C. in Minoa, it is Louis Reard who is considered the father of the modern bikini.

The French engineer introduced his “bikini” on July 5, 1946. He named it after the atomic test of the Bikini atoll in the Marshall Islands because he expected it would generate a burst of excitement equal to the atomic test. Little did he know bikinis would play a starring role in many movies of the Boomer Generation. Many are part of the classic moments of film from the era. Here are just a few:

Brigitte Bardo: The Girl in the Bikini (1952); And God Created Woman (1956); et al
When the bikini was introduced in 1946, it did not receive a warm welcome in the fashion world, especially in the United States. Some say it was the image of Brigitte Bardo wearing bikinis in various movies through the 1950s and ’60s that changed a few minds. Although the actress took on many types of roles that showcased her acting range, she was the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model before there were SI swimsuit issues. Many boomer boys spied their first bikini as worn by Brigitte Bardo in movie magazines borrowed from their fathers’ collections.

Ursula Andress: Dr. No (1962)
When James Bond (Sean Connery) sees Ursula Andress rise from the ocean in a white bikini with a diving knife strapped to her hip, even he had to pause. The scene became so iconic that it has been repeated and parodied ever since, including Halle Berry’s reinterpretation of the scene, rising out of the ocean in an orange bikini in Die Another Day (2002).

Annette Funicello: Beach Party (1963); Bikini Beach (1964); How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965); et al
Beach movies hit the boomer scene from 1963 to 1968. Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, previously of Mouseketeer fame, were recruited to play a teenage version of the Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies … on the beach. Annette Funicello’s bikini was a two piece in name only. It was stipulated by contract with Walt Disney that she not be allowed to show her belly button, so some would say her swimwear in the movies was downright matronly. The fun thing for boomers, though, was there were no such stipulations on the other girls on the beach.

Raquel Welch: One Million Years B.C. (1967)
Technically, beauty queen Raquel Welch isn’t wearing swimwear in this movie. Rather, it was a furry animal skin two-piece that became so iconic that the still publicity shot for the movie became a best-selling poster. Mister Boomer has to admit, he was among the boys who taped the poster to his wall. The role was originally offered to Ursula Andress, but by then her salary requirements were too much for the producers.

Jane Fonda: Barbarella (1968)
Directed by  Roger Vadim, Jane Fonda’s husband at the time, Barbarella was a campy movie trip to outer space fantasyland via hallucinogenic imagery, so naturally, bikinis would would have to play a part. Mister Boomer first heard about the movie when a neighbor returning from his stint in Vietnam talked about it. It was years later when Mister B first saw the film, but Brother Boomer saw it much sooner.

Shocking to many in its day, the bikini now is commonplace poolside and on beaches around the world. It has even been named the official athletic wear for women’s professional beach volleyball. Monsieur Reard used a grand total of 30 square inches of fabric for his original creation, while today’s versions run the gamut from modernly modest to barely there. Many movies featured memorable bikini-clad women throughout the boomer years. What is your favorite bikini movie moment, boomers?

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Boomers Say a Fond Goodbye to More Icons of the Era

This past week two bright lights of boomer pop culture were extinguished. Both were women whose names were hardly household words in the lives of boomers, yet boomers definitely knew of their work: Janet Waldo, the voice of Judy Jetson; and Margaret Vinci Heldt, the creator of the Beehive hairdo.

Janet Waldo 1920-2016
Janet Waldo broke into acting as a teenager with bits parts in films like What a Life (1939) and on radio shows throughout the 1940s. In 1943 she became the star of the radio show, Meet Corliss Archer, playing the role of the title character, a 15 year old girl-next-door. Her teenage girl roles would follow her throughout her career. She went on to appear on radio shows including The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and more than 100 animated and TV shows, including I Love Lucy (1952), The Phil Silvers Show (1955) and Get Smart (1966), to name only a few.

Janet Waldo became best-known to boomers as the voice of animated characters, most notably, Judy Jetson in the original The Jetsons TV show (1962). The animated show ran one season, but remained in syndication through 1983. In 1985 new episodes were created, then a TV movie, Rockin’ With Judy Jetson — with Janet as Judy — debuted in 1988. She reprised her role as Judy Jetson in Jetsons: The Movie (1990), but after her part was recorded, she was replaced by Tiffany when the studio decided the pop star would help the movie at the box office. She was quoted as saying she was hurt by the slight, and felt it was disloyal of Hanna-Barbera. Yet she expressed her gratitude for the relationship she had had with the studio and continued to work.

Throughout the the 1960s and ’70s and into the ’80s, Janet continued to lend her voice to cartoons. Among boomer favorite shows where she voiced a character were: The Atom Ant Show (1965); as mother-in-law Pearl Slaghoople on The Flintstones; as Penelope Pitstop on Wacky Races (1968); and Josie McCoy in Josie and the Pussycats (1970).

Her last credit was a voice role on an episode of King of the Hill in 1998. At 96 years old, Janet was the last surviving cast member of the original Jetsons. For boomers everywhere, she will always be Judy Jetson to us.

Margaret Vinci Heldt 1918- 2016
The world will remember Margaret Vinci Heldt for giving us the Beehive hairdo. She broke into the hairdressing industry in the late 1930, and by the 1950s, had her own hair salon — Margaret Vinci Coiffures — on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. She won the National Coiffure Championship in 1954, and through her industry accolades, was asked to contribute to Modern Beauty Shop Magazine on many occasions. In 1960, the magazine wanted to talk about the new decade and what hairstyles might look like, so they asked Margaret to come up with something new and different. Popular hairstyles in the 1950s were dominated by the Pageboy, Flip and French twist, so Margaret wondered if it was time to try something on top of the head. She said she was inspired by a pillbox hat that she owned. She had always wanted to create a hairstyle that the hat could be worn with, so the Beehive was born.

The new ‘do caught on in a big way throughout the early-to-mid 1960s with young film stars and top music stars, including Brigitte Bardot, Priscila Presley, the Ronettes, Audrey Hepburn, Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda and many more. After disappearing for a while, the hairdo is popular with celebrities once again. We have seen the B-52s (of course), Marge Simpson, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Penelope Cruz, Adele, Katy Perry, the late Amy Winehouse and many others, all sporting versions of the Beehive.

Mister Boomer enjoyed the Jetsons, but has to admit he wasn’t a great fan of the Judy Jetson character. George, Rosie and Astro were his favorite characters. Through the years, though, he certainly learned to admire the vocal greats of the era, especially the female greats like Janet Waldo and June Foray.

As to the Beehive, Mister Boomer has first-hand recollection. Not only did his mother don a Beehive in the 1960s, he had several cousins who also wore the ‘do in their high school pictures. Early boomers were teenagers when the Beehive appeared, so the timing was right for boomer girls to grab onto the latest hair fashions. As such, Mister B recalls the neighborhood girl who often babysat for Mister B and his siblings perpetually wore a Beehive; the hairdo just fit certain people or personalities. Though Mister B knew his cousins without their high school Beehives for decades after, the babysitter will forever be frozen in time with shellacked hair rising above her head.

What memories of Judy Jetson or Beehive hairdos do you have, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Pop Culture History,TV and have Comment (1)

Mister Boomer Turns Six

It’s our anniversary! We’re starting our sixth year of talkin’ ’bout our generation at misterboomer.com. A look back at the posts that marked the beginning of each of our new years reveals our mission to explore the personal connections we boomers had to the historical revolution that was the post-war years. This week, click the title of these previous postings and recall where you were when …

2010: The Sweet Taste of Success
Remember when we were young, and sugar was a good thing? Companies, in fact, thought so much of sugar that they could openly advertise their products as made with the real deal. No one advertised with more gusto than the cereal companies, and of course, we all remember those classic commercials for Sugar Pops, Sugar Frosted Flakes and Sugar Smacks.

2011: Boomers’ Cars Breezed Along … Without Air Conditioning
Yes, we are old enough to remember when air conditioning first began to be popular in new cars.

2012: Boomers and Pens: A Nib and a Click
Boomers lived directly in the path of the changeover from fountain pen to ballpoint pen and on to disposable pen.

2013: Boomers Said: “A Penny for Your Shoes”
Legend has it placing a “lucky penny” in a shoe was derived from the practice of putting a penny in a bride’s shoe on her wedding day to give the couple good luck and wealth. The penny loafer became a big deal for early boomers when Ivy League students began wearing them with their khakis.

2014: Boomers Said, “Let’s All Go to the Movies!”
Going to the movies was a real event for Baby Boomers. Movies and matinees and drive-ins … oh my!

2015: The Boomer Era Had Its Scandals
It’s hard to see any media these days without running into some sort of corruption and scandal. Yet we tend to forget that this is nothing new; the boomer era had its share of political, corporate and personal scandals as well. Two of the most famous involve the entertainment industry: the Quiz Show Scandal and the Payola Scandal.

Keep coming back to misterboomer.com each week for a look back at the way we were, how we grew, and who we became because of it all. Subscribe to the RSS feed and get notification whenever a new post is published. And, tell all your friends and neighbors to drop in through the Facebook link, too! Thank you for five memory-packed years!

posted by Mister B in Cars,Fashion,Film & Movies,Fun,Getting Older,Pop Culture History and have Comments Off on Mister Boomer Turns Six

Boomers Will Recall 1966

Hey, boomers! By now most of us have made our peace with the fact that we’ve been around for more than a half century; The oldest boomers will turn 70 this year, while the youngest will reach 52. A lot has changed in the past 50 years, and misterboomer.com has discussed many of these changes through the years. Now let’s take a look back at the way we lived 50 years ago. Set your Wayback Machines to the year 1966 and let’s take a look at what was going on in April, May and June of that year…

On the Domestic Front
• Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States.
• The Uniform Time Act was signed by the president, which simplified how daylight saving time was applied (April 13).
• U.S. population surpassed 190 million.
• The median income was $7,400, but more women were returning to the workforce, which helped boost household income by another $2,000. By 1967, 35% of women were working compared with 23% in 1957.
• The average price of a gallon of gas was 32¢.
•  The average price of a new home was $22,300, but on the resale market, the average was $14,200.
• The Supreme Court ruled that police must inform suspects of their rights upon arrest — known ever since as Miranda rights (June 13).
• Ronald Reagan became the governor of California (June 7).
• The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded (June 30).

Vietnam
• 250,000 U.S. troops were in Vietnam, including many early boomers (April 29).
• Anti-war protests were increasing. In May, tens of thousands protested at the White House and the subsequent rally at the Washington Monument (May 15).
• U.S. planes began bombing Hanoi (June 29).

Music
• Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde was released (May 16, though not advertised until June 25); completing his trilogy of rock albums, starting with Bringing It All Back Home (1965) and Highway 61 Revisited (1966). Two songs from the album became top-twenty singles hits: Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 and I Want You. Well received in 1966, Rolling Stone magazine named it number nine on its list of  The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Pet Sounds was released by The Beach Boys (May 16). Unlike Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, it received a lukewarm reception. It was heralded as the first rock concept album, even though it does not have a predetermined narrative. It is cited as the beginning of the psychedelic era, and took rock from music to be danced to, to music for listening. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named it number two on its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Hit singles from the album included Sloop John B, Wouldn’t It Be Nice and God Only Knows.

Space Race
• Russia’s Luna 10 successfully orbited the moon (April10), becoming the moon’s first artificial satellite.
• In the Gemini IX program, Gene Cernan became the second U.S. astronaut to perform a space walk (June 5). His extravehicular activities were supposed to include some work, and planned to expand NASA’s knowledge before a moon launch. But a bloated and torn spacesuit, darkness and a fogged visor prevented him from doing much but float around, as his U.S. and Soviet predecessors had done before him. Nevertheless, he logged two hours and ten minutes outside his spacecraft. Cernan later became the last man to walk on the moon in the Apollo 17 mission (December 19, 1972).

Fashion
• Many fashion historians believe 1966 was the pivotal moment in which styles of the 1950s were replaced with those of the 1960s.
•  The shiny vinyl look for boots, hats and rain gear was trending. Flowers and patterned shirts and pants were in vogue for men and women,
• The mini skirt, popularized by Mary Quant in 1965, reached peak popularity.

Mister Boomer had one more year of elementary school before entering high school. He was aware of much of what was going on in the country and the world by then: his class had written letters to relatives of classmates sent to Vietnam; he watched every space launch and followed newspaper stories about the Space Race; he heard the popular music of the day on his transistor radio, and Brother Boomer bought both Dylan’s Rainy Day Women and The Beach Boys’ Wouldn’t It Be Nice on 45 RPM records. Nonetheless, it was a time for Mister B to still be a kid. That summer his family would take a cross-country trip to Yellowstone National Park in their 1966 Ford.

Fifty years ago, 1966 was a pot on the stove on the verge of boiling over. The clash between generations was growing, and boomers were about to play a major role in politics, civil rights, fashion and music.

What do you recall about 1966, boomers?

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Boomers Are Still Ironing Out the Details

In a recent discussion among millennials and boomers that Mister Boomer was privy to, the subject of ironing came up. Mister B was surprised to hear that virtually all of those present said they had to at least occasionally iron clothing. Some, both men and women, said they did so weekly, while one professed to ironing every day! By contrast, Mister B avoids ironing like the plague. He refuses to buy anything that might need ironing, though many things still do. And what’s with that? Like robot maids and flying cars, we were promised that our clothes would never need ironing again!

The origins of ironing — pressing material with a hot implement in order to straighten and smooth fabric — are unknown. Yet there is evidence of the Chinese smoothing fabric by pressing with a metal basket filled with hot coals at least 1,000 years ago, and it may very well have happened sooner.

It was the late Middle Ages before people fashioned metal implements designed to smooth fabric. Then in 18th and 19th century England and Europe, glass “smoothers” were popular. These tools resembled hand stamps more than the irons that appeared in the 19th century. By the 1800s, irons were shaped implements that were heated on a stove for the express purpose of smoothing fabric. It was a hugely laborious task. Wealthy patrons could afford a dedicated stove and multiple irons, so one could heat while another cooled. Those less fortunate were forced to do without or reheat one implement over and over again. It has been noted that in Victorian households, laundry was a two-day affair; one of those days was reserved for ironing.

The first iron powered by electricity was patented by Henry Seely in 1882 in New York City. However, almost no one except the very wealthy or privileged had electricity, so it remained a novelty. It wasn’t until 1889 that a consumer-based electric iron was available. With it came the promise of relief of the drudgery of ironing that had been practiced centuries earlier.

Flash forward to the twentieth century, when the idea of ironing moved to finding fabrics that either needed less ironing, or none at all. Rayon, a cellulose-acetate product, appeared in 1924. In 1931 the DuPont Company invented nylon. It was the first fabric completely synthesized from petrochemicals. Nylon stockings arrived in 1939, and they were an immediate fashion hit with women in North America and Europe. At the beginning ofd the War, cotton was king with the US military, but nylon stockings production was interrupted as the military began to find uses for nylon. By the end of the War, manufactured fabrics comprised 15% of all fiber used by the military. A good portion of it was nylon, which was first used to replace silk for parachutes, then for tents, coats and other fabric needs.

After the War, nylon stockings production resumed, and nylon was used for auto upholstery and carpeting in the earliest boomer days. There was still no sign of the iron-free future that was predicted, until the 1950s, when new fibers became available. As manufacturers blended cotton with acrylics, the first articles of clothing advertised as “wash and wear” appeared in 1952. Development on blending cotton with synthetics continued through the 1960s and into the ’70s, giving rise to “permanent press” and “wrinkle-resistant fabrics” that could stand less ironing. This timeline coincided with the expansion of electric home dryers, which were available since the 1920s, but after the War is when they caught on with boomer families who could now afford them, and wanted the convenience. Thus started the foray into a future that promised less ironing.

Mid-century modern houses built in the 1950s and ’60s often had built-in ironing boards that, since ironing wouldn’t be needed as often, were hidden inside a cabinet or recessed into the wall. There was none of that in the Mister Boomer household. Mister B remembers that clothing literally went through the wringer in his house, so there was little doubt the items would need ironing. The circular washing machine in Mister B’s basement had a double-roller attachment above the washing drum. Mister B’s mom would pull pieces of the laundry from the drum and thread them between the rollers. His mom turned a crank with a wooden handle alongside the rollers and the laundry piece made its way through, extracting excess water that remained after the spin cycle. The extracted water was funneled down a chute to the concrete basement floor, where it slid into a drain. Then the items — clothing, sheets, towels or what have you — were clipped to a clothesline to dry. In the coldest winter months, laundry dried in the basement. The other seasons, it was hung outside. When dry, the clothing was ready to be ironed. His mother labored for hours, ironing shirts, pants, sheets and pillow cases on the folding ironing board in the living room. The board was kept in his mom’s closet when not in use, but in a small house with limited electrical outlets, it had to be brought out near the front door in the living room so the iron could be plugged in an available outlet and still reach the board.

Somewhere along the way Mister Boomer’s mother acquired a mangle, which was an ironing device popular in the 1950s and ’60s. Mister B was fascinated with the machine. It was a stand-alone metal contraption, with its own cover. When the cover was lifted, it revealed a large, fabric-covered roller approximately three feet long and a curved metal plate below it. The machine’s metal plate was electrically heated so clothing could be fed in between the plate and the roller, which pressed the garment as it moved through. Somewhere in the mid-60s, the machine disappeared from Mister Boomer’s basement. Perhaps it reached the end of its useful life and was discarded; Mister B does not know its fate. That left his mom to do all of the ironing by hand once again. Make no mistake about it, ironing was a woman’s job at that time. Dads were not yet “enlightened” enough to take on part of the household chores other than those on the outside of the house.

That brings us back to today, when advances in technology have delivered “no-iron” fabrics that everyone knows will eventually need a “touch-up.” So, the hand-held electric iron continues to be a necessary part of every household. Do you think once Google perfects the self-driving car that they might want to take on laundry that irons itself?

Do you have fun memories of ironing or watching your mom iron, boomers, or are they ironing nightmares? Have you reduced or nearly eliminated ironing from your lives or are we all doomed to a future tied to ironing boards?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Pop Culture History,Technology and have Comment (1)

Boomers Grew With Their Closets

Mister Boomer’s “closet system” came crashing down this past week in one tremendous snap, crackle, pop event. The plastic clips supporting the wire shelving became brittle over two decades of service, and, combined with the cumulative weight of twenty years of clothing, had sustained all they could stand.

Mister Boomer is not a hoarder, but like many boomers, he never wanted to toss something that still had potential for a useful life. This experience, however, displayed in graphic form that it was time for Mister B to take a look at the collection that filled his closet, and cull the herd lest the replacement shelving also meet an untimely, early demise.

While mulling which garments had won the restocking pool, Mister B came across some of his vintage clothing that harken back to boomer days of yore. One thing became abundantly clear in the light of day, though, and that was that items made in the 1950s and ’60s still held their style and grace, while those of the 1980s and ’90s were totally lame, dude. Those johnny-come-latelys would have to go. Mister B doesn’t have an extensive collection of Boomer Age shirts, but does have a couple of note:

Banded bottom shirt. Mister B has one dating from the late sixties. His circle knew them as “baseball shirts” even though in style they more resembled the shape of Eisenhower jackets than the two-tone long or short sleeve “baseball shirt” that has become so ubiquitous in our casual culture. Mister B picked it up in a vintage shop in the early ’80s when the nostalgia of his 1950s and ’60s upbringing swept over him, but hardly ever wore it because it just wasn’t in the best colors and was not that attractive a garment. Banded bottom shirts first appeared in the late 1950s and had their heyday in the 1960s. After a brief departure they returned for a while in the 1980s in slightly altered form. Mister B plans on returning it from whence it came, and will see if he can sell it at a vintage shop.

Iridescent shirt. Sharkskin fabric, so called because the weaving of contrasting thread colors produced a shimmering, iridescent effect, debuted in the high fashion of the 1950s, particularly for men’s suits and women’s dresses. It attained wide appeal in the 1960s for men’s and women’s clothing, then made its way to ready-to-wear. Mister Boomer once had a sharkskin suit, and loved it (Read: Our Sunday Best for Easter), so the opportunity to obtain a shirt (was it the 1970s or ’80s when he acquired it?) was welcomed. Mister B still likes the sharkskin, so he is unsure of the shirt’s future.

Mister Boomer has previously written about how boomers have witnessed the growth of closet space (Boomers and Closet Space: A Little Dab’ll Do Ya). Little did we know that we would need the expanding closet to hold not only our personal definition of the latest in wearables (adjusted for current body shape, of course), but also for the myriad of items that have made the long, strange trip with us.

For many boomers, value and thrift go hand in hand, so parting is a sweet sorrow we don’t look kindly upon. The older Mister B is getting, the more he finds he’d like to wear the clothing he fondly remembers. Maybe it’s a case of wanting the outside appearance to reflect the inside-his-head age? Who knows … What he needs to figure out now is whether there is enough space to add a freestanding wardrobe in his room.

How about it, boomers? Do you still have clothing remembrances of your salad days? Do they fit and do you wear them? And what does it mean for your closet space?

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