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Some of Mister Boomer’s Favorites of 2016

It’s the New Year, traditionally a time to look back in reflection and ahead with hope. In that spirit, please enjoy some of Mister B’s hand-picked favorites from 2016.

Boomers and Torn Jeans: The Evolution from Time-to-Replace to High Fashion
Our mothers fretted over our torn “dungarees” only to find a decade later that torn jeans were part of the fashion scene.

Boomers Twisted the Night Away
Mister Boomer explored the origin of the Twist.

Boomers Loved Gene Pitney Songs
Early to mid-boomers probably count Gene Pitney among their favorite singers of the ’60s.

Boomers Heard the Quotes of Their History
We were there, man!

Boomers Benefited from Space Products
Are you aware of space technology in your everyday lives?

Boomers Will Recall 1966
Fifty years ago from the year that just passed, the times they were a’-changin’.

Boomer Comparison: Drug Stores Then and Now
The local pharmacy sure has changed since we were boomer kids. Here is a comparison.

Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together
The role of the bikini in boomer-era movies is iconic and undeniably modern for the time.

Boomers Have Lived Through Many Eves of Destruction
The song reverberates even today.

Boomers Gladly Went Where No One Had Gone Before
2016 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the original Star Trek on TV.

Boomers’ Diets Have Changed Over 50 Years
Boomers watched the era of convenience foods enter the picture, and the American diet.

Boomers Saw Their Lives in “The Flintstones”
The technology employed in The Flintstones mimicked the space-age devices that were common in boomer households. The major difference was instead of electrically-powered devices, the action of the devices was powered by animals.

Here’s to another great year, and hoping your 2017 is boomer-ific!

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Film & Movies,Food & Beverage,Fun,Getting Older,Music,Pop Culture History,Space,TV,Uncategorized and have Comments Off on Some of Mister Boomer’s Favorites of 2016

Boomers Loved Troll Dolls

If you are a mid- to late-boomer, you probably remember troll dolls, the weird-faced creatures with crazy hair that stood up. They were around in the mid-60s and reappeared each decade after until the 1990s. The story is, though, the original maker was copied and most of the imitators commandeered the eighties and nineties. It was boomers who had the best access to the originals.

Now Disney has decided to take up the troll doll banner and will be releasing a Trolls movie this coming week. You can already see the blitz of toys and collateral merchandise growing on TV commercials in anticipation of what they must believe will be a blockbuster franchise.

As early as the 1930s, Thomas Dam, a Danish fisherman and former bricklayer and baker, created the doll for his daughter one Christmas because he couldn’t afford a present. He fashioned the doll from his imagination, carving the face and body out of wood, with inset glass eyes and sheep skin pieces for hair. Clothes were sewn for the doll, increasing its already unique qualities. Other people saw the doll and asked Dam to make one for their children. By 1959, the doll was being manufactured by the Dam Things Company and sold in Europe. It was made from rubber filled with wood shavings, but retained the original sheep skin hair.

Trolls originated in Norse mythology hundreds of years ago. They became part of the legends of Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Trolls were a non-human race that have been depicted as everything from human-like dwarves to., more often, giants. They resided in caves and dark places near stones, and were known for their skillful work with stone and metal. They sometimes have magical powers attributed to them, and could be oafish and evil or cunning and devious, but rarely were they ever helpful to humans. In most stories, trolls would turn to stone if exposed to sunlight.

The troll doll, called a Dam Doll, made its way to the U.S. in the fall of 1963 and was an instant success. Called Good Luck Trolls, they were produced by the millions in a wide range of sizes, from three inches high to more than a foot tall. The body was made of plastic and the hair, now a synthetic product, was dyed a variety of colors, most often bright orange or blue. The dolls appeared clothed in a variety of outfits or could be sans apparel. Boomer girls would brush the troll’s hair like they did with their Barbie dolls. To the best of Mister Boomer’s recollection, his sister did not have a troll doll. Nor did Mister B have any incarnation of troll paraphernalia.

Mister Boomer recalls seeing them everywhere, from the small ones inside gum machines to the popular six inch models (which did not include another four or five inches of hair) at the discount stores. Whole mythologies grew around the dolls, from assigning them sinister properties to calling them good luck charms. Older boomers had them hanging from keychains and car rearview mirrors.

Many companies copied the troll and sold them in a vast array of products, from coloring books to comics; dolls to TV shows. There was an attempt to bring back trolls in the 1990s, but it failed to catch the interest of the public. In 2005 Dam Things reclaimed control of the copyright and shut down the operation of its many imitators. In 2013 Dam sold the rights to use the troll image and name to Dreamworks, which was later purchased by Disney, paving the way for the upcoming movie.

Did you or someone on your family jump on the troll doll fad, boomers? Did you find them cute or ugly?

posted by Mister B in Film & Movies,Fun,Getting Older,Pop Culture History,Toys and have Comment (1)

Music Flashbacks: A Sign of an Aging Boomer?

Mister Boomer has flashbacks. No, not those kind of flashbacks, but rather, music flashbacks. They can happen any any point. Some are triggered by events and circumstances that remind Mister B of a song, or a situation of what he remembers doing when a particular song was played. For example, Mister B cannot hear Neil Sedaka’s Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (1962) without flashing back to his grandmother’s kitchen table. While spending a week at his grandmother’s house one summer, he had his transistor radio on and was putting together a model car on the kitchen table when the song came on. A mundane scene, but one that has been burned into Mister B’s memory banks, forever linking the song and the circumstance.

However, there is one aspect of Mister B’s music flashbacks he finds most intriguing, and that is that many mornings he will wake up with a boomer-era song in his head. It’s almost as if someone left the jukebox on all night, and in random rotation; what he hears on waking is what is playing at the time. What is most fascinating is, often the songs are those he has not heard in decades, and in many cases, he does not own a copy in his personal collection. There is that old chestnut many of us are reminded of, particularly as we age, that we can’t remember where we put our keys, yet we can recall song lyrics from fifty years ago. Guilty as charged.

Here is a sampling of some of the tunes that have danced across the neurons of Mister B’s gray matter recently when he awoke to a new morning:

Silhouettes — The Rays (1957)
This doo wop/rock classic was covered by many bands, most notably The Diamonds and Herman’s Hermits. While each of the groups had Top 10 airplay hits with the tune, the version by The Rays went to number 3; The Diamonds’ version, released just months after The Rays’, made it to number 5, but failed to make Billboard’s top sales chart; The Four Seasons’ included a version on their 1963 album, Ain’t That A Shame And Twelve Others, but it was not released as a single; Herman’s Hermits did their version in 1965 and it climbed to number 10. What’s odd for Mister B is he hasn’t heard nor thought about this song in eons, yet, one morning, there it was.

Stop! Stop! Stop! — The Hollies (1966)
The exotic-sounding chords of this Hollies hit made it a standout with boomers. Mister B enjoyed the song at the time, but again, he does not have a copy and hasn’t heard it in a very long time. Why are the lyrics so memorable to songs you don’t hear very often?

You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice — Lovin’ Spoonful (1965)
Stepping out of bed one morning, Mister B could only smile at this one. It made him remember his school days, when kids had a constant struggle to get people to like them, especially when they were discovering the opposite sex. Besides, for us old people, it’s still a cool tune.

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother — Kelly Gordon (1969)
Written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell, the song was originally recorded by Kelly Gordon. It was the Hollies who had the big hit with the song when they released their version that same year. Interesting enough, Elton John was playing piano on the Hollies recording.

Not exactly a favorite of Mister B, it was certainly one of the most covered songs of 1969. It has been recorded by dozens of artists, including Al Green, Cher, Olivia Newton John, Neil Diamond, The Osmonds, Jimmy Ruffin, Glen Campbell and Danny Hathaway, to name a few. Mister B isn’t at all sure which version made its way into his early morning brain, but seeing as the Hollies version got more radio play, that was probably it.

Let’s Live for Today — The Grass Roots (1967)
Tra la la la la la live for today, and don’t worry ’bout tomorrow … hey
Could there be a more descriptive sentiment to voice what was forming just before the Summer of Love than these lyrics? The song was an adaptation of an Italian song, but the lyrics were rewritten for an English audience and recorded in the UK by the Rokes and also The Living Daylights in 1966. The Grass Roots version made it a worldwide sensation. It is said to have become a real hit with servicemen in Vietnam, too. Seems an appropriate song for a boomer to wake up to, no?

Mister Boomer does not know why songs are making their way into his internal playlist, especially those that he hasn’t heard in quite a while. Perhaps it is a sign of an aging boomer tripping on nostalgia. Nonetheless, he’s glad (all over) to have such a vast, varied and fantastic array of music from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that his brain can choose from when he drops the record player arm on another day.

How about you, boomers? Do you have music flashbacks? What waking songs are blowing through the jasmine of your minds lately?

posted by Mister B in Getting Older,Music,Pop Culture History and have Comment (1)

Boomers Worked (and Worked) for The Man

Mister Boomer has explored many things that have changed since the heyday of the Boomer Era, and now here’s one more: workplace loyalty. As boomers entered the full-time workforce in the sixties and seventies, their attitudes toward employers and the workplace was relatively unchanged from what was put forth by their parents’ generation. That is, if you worked hard for an employer, you could stay a lifetime — throughout your working career. In return, your employer would take care of your interests with a living wage, healthcare, and a benefits package that included a pension on retirement. It was a reciprocal loyalty arrangement that went on after the War until the 1980s.

Fifty years ago nearly three-quarters of workers received some sort of pension from their employers. The idea had always been that a pension, plus Social Security, would sustain a retiree and dependents the remainder of their lives. Today that figure has flipped to less than one quarter. Some union and government jobs are the last remaining strongholds for individual worker pensions. What happened?

Most observers point to a variety of reasons for the change, including globalization, the dismantling of unions and chiefly, healthy companies cutting their workforce in the 1980s as a means of increasing shareholder value. Automation and outsourcing completed the picture — along with cuts in benefits like contributions to 401(K) plans, healthcare payments and pensions. Employers stated loud and clear that they would no longer be loyal (in the Boomer Era sense) to their employees. As a result, for many boomers, and subsequent generations, employees do not feel they have a compelling reason to stay with any given company for the duration of their working lives. Consequently, the stage was set for an increasingly high turnover rate. Some studies indicate that the average company experiences a twenty to fifty percent loss of employees who are changing jobs each year.

Today’s generation believes they must take control of their own working life because they have no other basis from which to work. It’s not that boomers wanted to be taken care of; on the contrary, we wanted to control our own destinies as well. It’s just that working used to be a mutually beneficial arrangement. That is changing rapidly. This translates to frequent jobs changes, which average every three to five years.

Evidently, Mister Boomer happens to be one of those last remaining long-term employees. He’s put in more than three decades with his current employer. Fortunately, he has not stayed in the same job description for the duration. Mister B actually did try to leave twice, but ended up not moving to another job. Despite his and his co-workers’ loyalty, his employer, as a small firm, provides some benefits, but certainly not a pension.

Like many boomers, Mister B still feels he can make vital contributions to the workforce. However, agism runs rampant in Mister B’s experience. Companies would rather hire fresh young faces than wrinkled remnants of a generation who once itself said, “Never trust anyone over thirty.” As time goes by, perhaps boomers will be given that second-chapter chance. If everyone keeps changing jobs so quickly, a boomer who feels he or she has a good five, ten or fifteen years of concentrated energy to devote to an employer should be an asset in hiring.

Are — or were — you part of the multi-decade loyalists in the workforce, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Getting Older,Pop Culture History and have Comments Off on Boomers Worked (and Worked) for The Man

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 Heard the Quotes of Their History

The older Mister Boomer gets, the more fascinated he has become with history. What is unendingly fascinating to him is that his generation has lived through some of the most amazing times themselves. When boomers hear these famous quotes, they will remember seeing, reading and hearing them as they happened. Boomers were there, man! This was our history. How many quotes do you recall?

“Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do ’em all together, I guess.”
— Elvis Presley, 1957
Protests against rock ‘n roll had already appeared from preachers and southern politicians, but focused on Elvis’ dancing as he began to appear in larger venues — first at state fairs, then on TV.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”
— President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 1961 farewell speech
Ike was warning of the rising influence of the military and its civilian contractors in the wake of World War II and the expansion of the Cold War.

“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
— President John F. Kennedy, 1961 Inaugural Address
We often don’t hear the latter half of his statement, though his entire Inaugural Address is filled with momentous quotes.

“… you don’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”
Richard Nixon, 1962 press conference
Nixon was Eisenhower’s Vice President from 1953 to 1961. In 1962 he ran for governor of California. After losing to Democratic incumbent Pat Brown and giving this speech, the prevailing thought was that this was his exit from politics. Six years later he became President of the United States.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
— Martin Luther King March on Washington, August 1963
An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people participated in the March, which was credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. History remembers King’s speech, which was truly one for the ages. Mister B recalls teachers quoting the speech in school only a couple of years later.

“From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 pm Central Standard Time.”
– Walter Cronkite, November 22, 1963
We saw the clip over and over of Walter Cronkite removing his glasses and tearing up as he announced the death of President Kennedy to a stunned nation. Mister B was in grade school when the news came. A television was wheeled into the classroom shortly after, and he and his classmates saw a recorded clip of the Cronkite announcement that night on the evening news.

“We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights. It is time now to write the next chapter — and to write it in the books of law.”
— President Lyndon B. Johnson, Joint Congressional Address, November 27, 1963
In his first speech before Congress as President, Johnson pledged his support for continuing the initiatives begun by the Kennedy Administration, especially championing civil rights.

“We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first — rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.”
— John Lennon, in an interview with the London Evening Standard, March 1966
Not much notice was taken of the quote at the time, but five months later a Birmingham, Alabama radio station repeated the quote and it appeared on the front page of the city’s newspaper. That touched off protests in the southern US when The Beatles were on tour there.

“Like every great religion of the past we seek to find the divinity within and to express this revelation in a life of glorification and the worship of God. These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present — turn on, tune in, drop out.”
— Timothy Leary, 1966
The psychologist who brought LSD to the counterculture first said the quote, which he claimed was given to him by Marshal McLuhan, in a press conference in 1966, then again on his spoken word record album that same year. In January 1967 he spoke the phrase to a crowd of hippies at a Human Be-in in San Francisco.

“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”
— Senator Ted Kennedy, June 1968, eulogizing his brother Bobby
Ted Kennedy spoke of his brother Bobby Kennedy often paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw’s quote on the campaign trail in his fatal run for president.

“That’s one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind.”
–Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon, July 20, 1969
At the time very few people claimed to have heard the “a man” in his scratchy recorded voice coming from the moon. Armstrong wrote the phrase himself. In a 1988 interview he said that if he didn’t say the “a”, he meant to. Decades of analysis on the recording suggests his Ohio accent slurred the “a” into the “for,” so most conclude he did, in fact, say “for a man.”

“It’s a free concert from now on.”
— John Morris, stage announcer at Woodstock, August 1969
When it comes to influences of the era — musical and pop cultural — you can’t record the history of the late sixties without mentioning Woodstock.

“… people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I am not a crook. I have earned everything I have got.”
— President Richard Nixon, press conference, November 1973
After accusations of involvement in the Watergate break-in scandal and that he cheated on his tax returns, Nixon gave a press conference that was memorable, to say the least. Two years later he would resign his office and Vice President Gerald Ford became the 38th President of the United States.

There are hundreds if not thousands of memorable quotes from the Boomer Era that have now been written into the pages of history. Mister Boomer recalls some with awe and wonder now, having been too young to fully understand the implications at the time, while others, he recalls had a huge impact on him, his fellow boomers and the nation even at the time.

Every boomer knows where they were when Kennedy was assassinated, and when man landed on the moon. How many of these other quotes played a role in your consciousness at the time or since then, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Getting Older,Pop Culture History and have Comment (1)