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Boomers Called Them “Four Eyes”

If you grew up during the Boomer Era, chances are you heard kids who wore eyeglasses referred to as “four eyes.” It was a derogatory term that made fun of the lenses kids had to wear, especially thick lenses that were additionally called “Coke bottles.”

In the early part of the twentieth century, the most common eyeglasses were the pince-nez variety; lenses that sat on the nose without support. Teddy Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge wore them. During World War I, the military helped advance the technology of eyeglasses that were supported by temples. After the War, that style replaced the pince-nez and continued into the Boomer Era and beyond.

By the 1930s, plastic frames hit the scene and fashion inched its way into the equation. World War II saw innovations in style and function, especially for sunglasses, but with a utilitarian purpose in mind. By the 1950s, women’s eyewear came in a myriad of shapes and colors, while men’s eyewear was more subdued in shades of black, gray or brown.

Lenses, on the other hand, were a different story. Although plastic lenses had appeared before the second World War, they did not catch on with the public, in no small part because of the cost, availability and they scratched quite easily. Consequently, for Mister Boomer and many boomer kids like him, eyeglasses he began to wear in the early sixties all had lenses made of glass.

The glass lenses had some serious disadvantages: they were heavy, and that made the plastic frames sink into the bridge of the nose, causing near-constant breaks in the skin and irritation; they were thick, and depending on the prescription, could make matters worse for those, like Mister B, who had the “Coke bottles”; and they were practically universally ridiculed. People who wore glasses were considered nerds, “braniacs” or overall lacking in social graces. A famous phrase from the fifties and sixties was meant as a precautionary note for girls; it stated, “Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

Contact lenses were not a choice for many of us. Lyndon Johnson wore them on occasion. Contact lenses were known for being hard to fit and uncomfortable to wear, until soft lenses were released in the U.S. in 1971. Mister B did not have contact lenses, nor did he want to have something stuck in his eyes.

By the late sixties and early seventies, strides in technology produced plastic lenses that were lighter weight and more scratch resistant. But for Mister B and boomers like him, more than a decade of breaking glass lenses and fighting to keep heavy eyewear on his nose had made its mark — literally.

Did you wear glasses as a kid, boomers? Or did you call anyone “four eyes?”

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

Boomers Benefited from Space Products

Fifty five years ago this past week, Russian army major Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Alan Shepherd, the first American in space, followed a month later. Thus began the Space Race. Congress got on board with funding this competition between the world’s two super powers, and continued as long as NASA articulated the clear mission outlined by President Kennedy, to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

After Neil Armstrong did walk on the moon in 1968, and subsequent moon missions followed, the race had been won. Public interest waned without the spectacular goals of the first decade and Congress began cutting funding for space exploration.

One of the arguments for continuing to fund space exploration was, and still is, that the country would benefit from the research and development necessary to tackle the challenging issues faced in living and working in space. The fact is, the lives of every U.S. citizen, if not most of the world, has been touched by products that were developed as a direct result of space research. Among these products are advancements in solar panel energy, water purification systems, implantable heart monitors, cancer therapy, computing systems, enriched baby food and even a global search-and-rescue system, among others.

Specifically, there are products that come closer to home for boomers and every American:

• Cordless tools: NASA needed a way for astronauts to be able to work outside their spacecraft, whether on the moon or in space, and having tools with an extension cord was not going to fill the bill. The original cordless tools came about thanks to the first moon landing.

• Digital thermometers; Boomers recall the glass tubes filled with mercury or mercurochrome that their doctors and mothers slipped under their tongues to take their temperature. The thermometer was disinfected with alcohol after each use. Today’s moms use the technology developed by NASA for use on the first space station, Skylab. A digital thermometer probe could be inserted into the ear and a temperature reading was returned in two seconds. Disposable probe covers eliminated the need for astronauts to disinfect the thermometer after each use.

• Memory foam; Again dating back to the first moon launch, NASA was looking for a way to cushion astronauts from the G-forces during blastoff, but also to soften the as yet unknown impact of landing on the moon’s surface. Researchers came up with what they called “slow springback foam” for the astronauts’ chairs. The foam would conform to the astronauts’ bodies, and spring back when the pressure and weight was lifted. Today we know it as memory foam, and it’s used in a variety of products, most notably, shoe insoles and mattresses.

• Scratch-resistant glass; Space exploration has been responsible for a variety of coatings for glass and metal. In this case, a solution was needed to protect the glass from space dust and debris that bombarded it during flight. The Foster Grant Corporation was the first to license NASA’s coating for use on sunglasses. Today almost all eyewear has a derivative of the scratch-resistant coating that was developed more than fifty years ago.

• Smoke detectors; The tragedy of the Apollo 1 fire on a test run in 1967, and on-board fires in later missions, brought home the need for a detector that could warn astronauts. In 1970, NASA partnered with the Honeywell Corporation to develop smoke detectors that also detected certain gas and radiation levels for the Skylab space station. Today many states and municipalities require homeowners to have smoke detectors in their homes.

• Cochlear implants; A NASA engineer’s use of a hearing aid led him to research how NASA sensing and telemetry equipment might help the deaf and hard of hearing. Today people who could not hear are discovering sound for the first time thanks to the cochlear implants that were developed from research NASA needed to create sensing equipment and navigational aids.

Most boomers recalled tasting freeze-dried ice cream at some point in their school lives, much to their dismay. Freeze-dry technology was developed for space travel. Mister Boomer recalls his family getting cereal with freeze-dried strawberries in the late sixties. However, contrary to what many boomers believed, Tang was not developed for space travel. It was invented by General Foods in 1957 and later sent on John Glenn’s Gemini space mission, and subsequent missions, to give astronauts some variety from the water and powdered milk that was the basis of their drinking choices. Teflon was also not developed for space. DuPont invented teflon in 1938, far removed from any space program yet conceived.

There were, however, many other enhancements and inventions that are now part of our lives, that could only be thought of as science fiction when we were young boomers. Today the promise of many more live-saving and life-changing products in the fields of health and medicine, transportation, engineering, computing and software are possible from the research needed for deep space exploration and landing on Mars. In fact, advancements are already being translated for public consumption. One out of every 1,000 patents issued each year are to NASA scientists and researchers. In robotics, exoskeletons that are being designed to assist astronauts in various atmospheric conditions are now helping paraplegics to walk; water purification research is helping countries around the world to filter contaminants from available water; and advances in miniaturization are entering the world of consumer and home electronics.

Boomers watched Star Trek every week in the early sixties, and heard the show’s opening narration of space being the final frontier. What we’ve discovered is that the further we aim out into space, the more we help ourselves back on Earth.

Are you aware of a space technology in your lives, boomers?

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

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)

The Christmas Lights Doorway Electrocution Incident

One year after Mister Boomer’s father had switched the Christmas tree bulbs from the large, teardrop-shaped glass bulbs to white mini-lights, he found them so satisfactory that he bought more, this time in multi-color strands. The Boomer brothers saw the extra strand of white mini-lights from the previous year and decided they needed to further decorate the home.

Brother Boomer laid out the strand and plugged it in to see if all the tiny white lights were still in working order, the way he had seen his father do it numerous Christmases before. When all the lights were securely in their sockets and lit, the boys looked around for where they could hang them. They chose the doorway arch that led down the hall to the house’s one bathroom and three bedrooms. The problem was, there was no way to secure the lights to the plaster wall. Mister Boomer grabbed the roll of generic transparent tape from the junk drawer. He and Brother Boomer set the strand of lights down, starting at the nearest electrical outlet, and taped the green plastic wires to the inside of the arched doorway with cellophane “Xs” every few bulbs. Even before the boys had finished, some tape was failing its duties. More tape was employed to buttress the gaps. Scotch tape brand would probably have had better adhesion capabilities, but the family wasn’t into buying more expensive brands unless there was a big sale. Three-quarters of a tape roll later, Brother Boomer plugged the lights in and the hall entryway became holiday-ready.

Wanting more pizzazz, Brother Boomer told Mister B to retrieve the clear glass flasher bulb from the tiny bag that came with the lights. In Mister Boomer’s household, all the elements were kept in the original packaging as long as possible. After reading the instructions, Brother Boomer dutifully removed the first bulb closest to the plug and replaced it with the flasher bulb. Now, when the lights were plugged in they flashed on and off every few seconds. Mister Boomer and his brother and sister admired their handiwork by turning the living room lamps off.

When Brother Boomer grew tired of staring at the flashing bulbs, he walked over to the entryway and, waiting for the lights to toggle off, leapt through the doorway before the lights could turn back on. Mister B followed his lead and made the leap. The boys motioned for their sister to join them, but Brother Boomer made the game more interesting by telling their 5-year old sibling that she had to time it right, because if she didn’t make it through before the lights went on, she would be electrocuted. She started sobbing and refused to try as the Boomer brothers laughed in the hallway. Brother Boomer tried to show her it was “safe” by making the leap through back and forth as the lights toggled off, but she was not convinced. He crossed over, grabbed her by the arm and tried to push her through, but Sister Boomer would have none of it, digging her heels into the carpet and screaming. Since Mister B’s parents were out Christmas shopping, pre-teen Brother Boomer was in charge, so her screams were to no avail. Finally, he dropped her arm and leapt back through the lights. This time he pretended to barely make it through and acted like the bulbs singed his hand.

Mister Boomer joined in his fun. The boys, laughing in the hallway the other side of the light field, tried to toss each other through the “killer” lights. When Brother Boomer pushed Mister B into the doorway, he was caught directly in the “beams.” He convulsed like the electrocuted characters he had seen in cartoons and collapsed on the living room floor. “You zapped him!” Sister Boomer said as a motionless Mister B suppressed a giggle. Brother Boomer leapt through and unplugged the lights. He tried to console his little sister and told her, “Don’t tell mom and dad. He’ll be OK in a few minutes. He was just stunned.” Sister Boomer ran over to the doorway and tried to pull the lights down. The cheap tape was already not holding, and half the strand was dangling loose. She stopped when Mister Boomer got back up on his feet, exclaiming, “Whoa, what happened?” Then the boys told Sister Boomer again that the lights were not electrocuting anyone and it was a game. She didn’t believe them. Mister B retaped the lights as best he could with the remaining tape.

When Mister B’s parents returned, the Boomer children were watching TV and the lights flickered on and off in the doorway. “What did you do?” shouted Mister B’s mom, pointing at the lights. “I don;t want you playing around electrical outlets!” “Leave them alone, it’s fine,” chimed in Mister B’s father. Sister Boomer shot the boys a dirty look, but she didn’t tell her parents what had transpired. But for the rest of the night, if the lights were lit, she would not step into the hallway. One of the boys had to unplug them first.

By morning most of the strand was on the floor. The tape wasn’t going to hold, so the boys gave up and took them down. Fifty-plus years later, Mister Boomer’s sister still tells this story of how her brothers had taunted her and tried to electrocute her with Christmas lights. While Brother Boomer still laughs, Mister Boomer is a little more apologetic, but explains to his sister that even back then he could not believe she was so gullible.

Did you and your siblings ever join in any reindeer games of your own, at the expense of your younger sibling, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Holidays,Pop Culture History,Technology and have Comments Off on The Christmas Lights Doorway Electrocution Incident

Boomers Watched Things Come and Go

In 1965 Barry McGuire sang Eve of Destruction, which in the Cold War era, put voice to the feeling that should we engage in a nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union, it would amount to virtual annihilation of the human species — a self-extinction.

Four years later, Zager and Evans sang about the future in more evolutionary terms with In the Year 2525. In both cases, though, the songs end with the extinction of the human species.

While some may say we’ve been living on the eve of destruction ever since the 1960s, we’re still here as a species, and still doing our best to change our way of life with technological marvels barely dreamed of fifty years ago.

Mister Boomer has noted many of the changes that have cropped up during Boomer Generation days in previous posts, but equally telling are the things that have disappeared during our reign. Like modern day dinosaurs, we’ve borne witness to the extinction of many things that were once commonplace, such as:

Telephones with Dials
The princess telephone was revealed in 1959, but it was 1963 before touch-tone dialing was available. That began the march to replace the dial phone with push-button versions; dials ruled the roost for decades earlier. Other than nostalgia and vintage models, the transformation was complete as no company has regularly produced dial phones since the 1980s. The push-button is now on the endangered list itself as touch-screen dialing is replacing it.

Televisions with Dials
In the late 1990s, Mister B took his portable TV in for repair. “Oh, wow!” remarked the repairman, “Channel dials!” Mister B’s TV was only a decade old at that point, but the 1990s saw an explosion of TVs with remotes, and the migration away from dials to buttons, then to nothing to change channels on the unit at all. Boomers recall that when they were young, there were no remote controls to change channels on TVs. In fact, many boomers will tell you that their parents used them as the channel changer. Now remotes are standard operating equipment, and are, in fact, necessary to operate the unit.

8 Tracks
Mister Boomer has discussed 8 track technology and the boomer connection before (8-Track Mind), but it is an obvious representation of something that didn’t exist before boomers were born, that disappeared completely when we were adults. Many boomers switched to cassette tapes, which are getting all but impossible to find now, and/or to CDs, which are also on the endangered list, as music streaming makes headway. Vinyl is making a bit of a comeback, but does anyone really think it will be the king of recorded music that it once was?

Phone Booths with Doors
No, not the Jim Morrison kind, we’re talking about a phone booth you could walk into and close a door behind you. They were getting rare in the 1980s, as kiosk-style phone booths replaced the full booth models. By the 1990s they were a rare sight on the American landscape. Mister Boomer holds a special nostalgic place in his heart for the indoor wooden phone booths that were in office buildings, restaurants, hotels and many more places. A good portion of these beautifully crafted booths were engineered in the 1930s and ’40s, and remained in service through the 1980s. They had a wooden bench and, when you grabbed the door handle and pulled it shut, a light went on inside the booth, creating an instant film noir scene to those watching from outside. Now, the only place you can see this type of booth is in old movies. The pay phone inside phone booths is also on the endangered list these days, as the proliferation of personal cellphones is making the need for pay phones obsolete.

Oral Thermometers with Mercury or Red-Dyed Alcohol
When boomers were young, our mothers or doctors would take our temperature with a thermometer design that was, at the time, already decades old. It was a glass tube tipped with metal at one end and filled with an alcohol-based red liquid, though some boomers will recall the silver mercury types. When the metal ending was placed under the tongue, the change in temperature was registered, over the course of a minute or two, by the markings on the glass tube. The thermometer was sterilized with alcohol after each use. Today digital thermometers have all but eliminated the mercury-tubed models. Digital versions can be aimed into a child’s ear and a temperature taken with a click of a button, producing an instant readout.

Refrigerator Freezers that Require Defrosting
Mister Boomer recalls seeing an episode of I Love Lucy where Ethel (or was it Trixie?) removes a bowling ball from the oven and places it in her refrigerator’s freezer. Mister Boomer’s mom had a similar tack in that she boiled pans of water, then placed them into the freezer. It was necessary to defrost the refrigerator’s freezer from time to time to remove the layers of ice that had accumulated on the walls. Mister B and Brother Boomer were often enlisted to help pry away the chunks of ice from the freezer walls, which they promptly smashed into the kitchen sink. Most freezers now have a defrosting feature that eliminates the need for the hand defrosting methods of our boomer years. As time goes on, freezer technology is improving to the point that ice no longer builds up on the walls, so the day may soon come when defrosting a freezer will be a thing of the past.

Vacuum Tubes
Before the age of transistors, TVs and radios operated with vacuum tubes. The tubes needed replacing from time to time, and in most cases, was an easy do-it-yourself fix with replacement tubes purchased at the local drug store. The incandescent light bulb is another vacuum tube on the way out. Boomers recall taking burned out bulbs back to the Con Edison store for free replacement bulbs, and now, various types of LED and CFL bulbs are slowly but surely replacing the incandescent glass vacuum bulb model. In 2012 the U.S. and other countries passed bans on inefficient and environment-harming incandescent light bulbs, with a phase-out planned. Congress has since defunded all efforts to eliminate the incandescent bulb, but the industry has retooled and moved toward newer models, sealing the fate of the incandescent bulb.

Ignition Points Inside Car Distributor Caps
The continuing technological revolution in car engines has eliminated the need for hand-calibrating of points inside a distributor cap. Most boomer boys will recall the little metal tool they used for such a procedure. It was like a Swiss Army knife in that multiple small shafts of metal were housed in a single case. Each shaft was a different width, and each was labelled. Once the car’s engine specifications were known, the proper point gap could be made by loosening a screw in the distributor cap, placing the proper measuring tool between the ignition points to gain the correct gap, and tightening the screw.

There are many more items that boomers will recall were commonplace in our day, and many more still that are now in danger of disappearing. What items that are now extinct make your list, boomers?

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

Boomers’ Labor Love Lost

The American workforce has changed dramatically since the Baby Boomer generation came of age. In our day the country was predominantly based on a manufacturing economy. The advent of technology, communications and globalization has altered the landscape for the generations that followed. As a result, there are occupations that were common when boomers were growing up that are either gone or disappearing in the present day.

Mister Boomer has discussed home milk delivery in the past, and the milkman (Home Delivery). A uniformed man driving a truck dedicated to delivering dairy products from a specific local dairy has pretty much disappeared. Convenience stores and supermarkets open 24 hours a day, and online food delivery have taken its place, though technology didn’t play that much of a roll in the change. Rather, a shift in the way of life is the cause — milkmen could delivery to the homes of Baby Boomers because moms were there full-time, and, without a second family car, they couldn’t easily get to a store to purchase the dairy staples the family would need every day. Now families most often have two working parents and two cars, so a stop on the way home from work is a better lifestyle fit than home delivery.

Likewise, Mister B has talked about gas station attendants and soda jerks. People just don’t live the same way as when we grew up. On occasion you’ll find an old-fashioned drug store with a soda jerk dishing up sundaes and milk shakes, or a full-service gas station eager to check your oil or wash your windshield, but these are rare and becoming rarer.

From personal observation, Mister Boomer will add bank tellers and store cashiers to the list. There is hardly a bank anywhere that doesn’t prefer that people use ATMs, or bank online. Neither of these commonplace technological marvels existed in our boomer days. A large percentage of retail stores have taken that model as their own and have installed self-service check-out stations. In both cases the companies don’t have to pay a person, with benefits, to do what machines — or customers themselves — now accomplish on their own.

Several articles in national publications delved into this subject of disappearing occupations, and two jobs categories in particular hit home for Mister Boomer: data entry and typists, and skilled factory labor. In both cases, technology and globalization are most responsible for the demise of the jobs. The reason these struck a chord with Mister B is that his parents used to work in those fields.

When Mister B and his siblings were all safely ensconced in high school, his mother went back to work. She had attended a trade school and became a keypunch operator, first for an insurance company, then a bank. A keypunch operator would “type” on a keyboard that would punch rectangular holes into cardboard cards. Stacks of keypunched cards were fed into a computer. In essence, she was a data entry worker. By the time the ’60s became the ’70s, keypunch had become a thing of the past as direct entry to computer databases eliminated the extra step. So Mister Boomer’s family saw directly how technology was changing work in American families.

Likewise, typing pools — or secretary pools — were common fixtures in offices from the 1920s through the 1960s. The pools were mostly made up of women who were employed to transcribe everything from letters to business proposals, contracts to manuals. Women could be utilized from the common pool, thus keeping them in a position where they were paid less, and were expendable should the company run into financial difficulty. Word processors and typists are now disappearing occupations as every worker is responsible for typing his or her own letters, proposals and the like.

Mister Boomer’s father, and most of his uncles, spent their lives in factories as machinists. These were skilled jobs that commanded great pay and benefits if you were lucky enough to be employed in a union shop. Mister Boomer’s father was not employed by union shops. Beginning in the 1970s, technology filtered into manufacturing plants in all forms. Robotics began taking over some jobs; first slowly, then accelerating as the decade wore on. In Mister Boomer’s father’s case, new, computer-operated machines were taking over the by-hand skill he had practiced for the previous 30 years. Through the prodding of younger management, he retired much earlier than he had originally intended.

Also on the list of disappearing occupations is the postal worker. We’ve been hearing for years that sending letters and business direct mail has dramatically waned with the advance of e-mail and overnight delivery services. This was once so much the bulk of the postal business that in the 1940s and early 1950s, postal workers delivered mail to homes twice a day. Couple decreased usage with the addition of technology in the form of sorting machines and the postal worker has become an endangered species.

Mister Boomer himself, like most of his friends, had a stint in a factory one summer during his college years. The work was tough, but the extra pay helped pay his way through college. Today the company he worked for no longer exists, but if it did, chances are robots would be doing the production-line job he once held.

As another Labor Day is celebrated, it is proper and just that we recall the hard work and dedicated service our parents — and our own generation — put into shaping the current state of today’s workforce. While the rate of jobs that are disappearing continues to grow, Mister Boomer can’t help but think that the same situation occurred for our grandparents. Yet as businesses related to horses and wagons were being replaced by cars, and oil lamps by electricity, new businesses were created that set the stage for their children’s generation to grow. Now that the world is only a live feed or text away, let us hope that the next generation will continue to be able to salute the workers who helped them create the World of Tomorrow we could hardly imagine.

Happy Labor Day, and thanks for your hard work, boomers!

posted by Mister B in Pop Culture History,Technology and have Comments Off on Boomers’ Labor Love Lost