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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 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?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Film & Movies,Pop Culture History,Uncategorized and have Comments Off on Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together

Boomers Grew Up With Two-Tone Cars

Henry Ford’s Model T wasn’t the first car in America, but is considered the first affordable mass produced car. In his 1909 autobiography, Ford said he told his team that “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Despite the pronouncement, the first Model Ts built from 1908 to 1913 weren’t offered in black, but rather, grey, green, blue, and red, depending on the car’s style. It wasn’t until 1914 that Ford established the black-only Model T, which continued through 1927. Ford’s color choice had everything to do with cost and production. If all cars were painted black, there would only be the need for one paint and one area for painting along a production line.

Other auto manufacturers — and there were dozens — weren’t so limiting with their color choices. By the1920s, all car manufacturers were offering a multitude of colors. Cars like those produced by Duesenberg helped establish red or yellow as the colors of choice for sporty and fast cars, while green became a common color for touring cars, often associated with wealth. By the 1930s the roadways were filled with cars in a rainbow explosion of color. World War II helped change that.

At the advent of the U.S. involvement in the War all car factories shifted to the war effort to manufacture trucks, tanks and bomber planes. After the War, rather than pick up where they left off, cars became more basic once again, generally available in dark shades usually associated with earlier times as the companies ramped up their production capabilities. By the 1950s, the growing Boomer Generation enabled car makers to get back in the color game in a big way.

Soldiers home from the War got married and had children, creating the Baby Boom. This surge in marriages and population growth prompted an explosion in housing that established the suburbs, and, without the availability of urban mass transit, a strong auto market. By the mid-50s, auto makers were advertising affordable models as “second cars,” available in pastel colors meant to attract the women who found themselves home alone when their husbands drove off to work in their only family car.

Though two-toned cars had appeared throughout the history of the American automobile, most agree that the zenith of two-toned cars hit the showrooms between 1955-57. Virtually every manufacturer offered two-toned cars in a wide variety of shades and tints, among them Chrysler, Chevy, Ford, DeSoto, Plymouth, Cadillac, Dodge, Studebaker, Buick, Oldsmobile and many more. Unlike the two-toned cars of earlier decades, though, these new two-toned vehicles distributed colors all around the vehicle, rather than merely a hood, trunk or roof in a contrasting color. They were designed to illicit feelings of progress and the future, with sleek lines and plenty of gleaming chrome. It was the adding of chrome moldings that often served as the outline of shapes along the sides of the cars, creating color panels. Interiors and convertible tops could be coordinated to contrast with the body colors or match them, which was a relatively new approach to car design.

This 1955 DeSoto FireDome illustrates the transitional styling of early 1950s autos to the sleeker, flatter sides of mid-50s design. It also clearly shows an imaginative two-toned color breakdown, in shades not seen before that era.

This 1955 DeSoto FireDome illustrates the transitional styling of early 1950s autos to the sleeker, flatter sides of mid-50s design. It also clearly shows an imaginative two-toned color breakdown, in shades not seen before that era.

Chevrolet embraced the two-tone styling wholeheartedly to introduce its newly designed 1955 model. Gone were the bulbous fenders and rounded hoods of the post-war years in favor of flatter body panels, sculpted fenders and shaped bumpers and tail lights. Chevy had worked with DuPont and Ditzler to create a plethora of color choices, including metallic and metal flake varieties. By 1957 Chevy offered as many as 15 two-tone paint schemes, including the classic red and white still sought after in 1957 Chevys.

Though Mister Boomer was a wee lad in the mid-50s, he distinctly remembers the two-tone cars because his father and several uncles had one. Mister B’s dad traded in his bulbous 1950 Ford, with its chrome bullet in the middle of its grill, for a brand-new 1956 Chevy in white and green. Mister B and Brother Boomer also loved the car’s styling because a rear tail light — itself a streamlined red plastic bullet shape nestled in a chrome cradle — swung open to reveal the gas cap.

Mister Boomer’s uncles chose two-toned Chevys and Fords, ranging from a red and white 1955 Chevy Bel Air to a 1955 blue and white Ford Victoria; a classic 1957 Chevy in red and white to one of Mister B’s favorite car memories, a 1955 Chevy Bel Air in grey and pink. It’s hard to say why Mister B recalls these family cars so vividly, but chances are the two-toned paint schemes had a lot to do with them being etched into his long-term memories.

Manufacturers continued to offer two-toned cars throughout the fifties, but by 1959, the solid color car — punctuated by chrome — became the norm. Today many car manufacturers are once again dabbling in two-tone paint schemes. Most often, it takes the shape of a lighter roof color. Will this catch on to become a new trend or are two-toned cars best left as the memories of an era when the future looked bright and anything seemed possible?

Did your family have a two-toned car, boomers?

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

Boomers Helped TV Sales to Skyrocket

After more than a decade, Mister Boomer recently bought a new television. The shock and awe of what is available today versus even a decade ago — when the TV depth was wider than the screen itself — got Mister B thinking about TVs in our boomer days.

Fifty years ago TVs were a complex series of tubes and transistors. There were more than 90 manufacturers of TVs in the U.S. in the 1950s and ’60s, all to serve the growing Baby Boom population, while today there are none.

The explosion of TV’s popularity directly correlated with the Baby Boom. Immediately after the War companies geared up to make TVs. By the 1950s, more than 90 companies made TVs in the U.S. By 1964 more than 90 percent of U.S. households had a TV. Just ten years earlier, only 55 percent of the country owned a television.

Mister Boomer clearly recalls all the TVs his family had, from the time he was old enough to watch cartoons. It was much later that he read the name on the family TV — Muntz. As far as Mister B can tell, this was the first TV his family owned when he was born, and it lasted for more than a decade. It sat in the living room, the first TV with built-in retractable antennae. The tiny black & white picture tube was housed in a cherry or mahogany-finished wood cabinet.

Muntz began selling TVs in 1947. Earl “Madman” Muntz was a self-taught businessman, entrepreneur, inventor and electrical engineer. By dissecting other brands of TVs, he devised a way to cut the number of components within the workings. The result was a TV that was less expensive to produce than his competitors. Mister Muntz, always the innovator, shipped his TVs factory-direct to the consumer, so the cost savings could be passed along. Perhaps that is the reason Mister Boomer’s family owned a Muntz in his very early years.

Mister B was surprised to see that the Muntz model in this commercial coincides with his memory of the family’s Muntz.

By the time Mister B was a pre-teen, the Muntz was replaced by a Sylvania. It was somewhere around the late 1950s or early 60s, so it made sense that the cabinet to this TV was finished in mid-century blonde wood, which matched Mister B’s mom’s end tables to a tee. The TV was ultra modern, and had the controls in an indentation on the top right of the wooden cabinet.

Through various incarnations from 1910 to 1923, early versions of Sylvania concentrated on making and refilling light bulbs. In 1924 the company — then called Sylvania Products Company — began a quest to build a radio tube. They were so successful that it became their primary business. Only RCA manufactured more radio tubes. The company partnered with Philco to ship radios with tubes installed throughout the 1930s.

1941 saw the company shift production to the War effort. By 1944, a Radio and Television division had been formed as factories that had been making tubes for the Army and radar scopes for the Navy transferred their knowledge to the civilian world. The first Sylvania TVs were sold out of Sears, Roebuck & Co., in 1949. In 1963 the company began producing its first color TVs for public consumption (Mister B’s family stuck with black & white). The company merged with GT&E and became GTE Sylvania in the early 1970s. In the early 1980s the company sold the rights to the Sylvania brand and ceased TV production in the U.S. as that entity. Sylvania TVs are currently produced by Netherlands’ NV Philips.

The third TV Mister Boomer remembers was an Admiral. Also a black & white set, this one sat on a wooden rectangle that was painted gray and black, with clear plastic roller wheels attached on the bottom to move the TV into viewing position. There was no reason for the wheels in the Boomer living room, as the TV always sat against the only wall available, opposite the couch and window. This TV probably entered the Boomer household in the late 1960s. This is the set the family watched when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. It was also of note for Mister B because as his parents got a hand-me-down color console TV from his then-married Brother Boomer, the TV was relegated to the basement, where it stayed until Mister B moved out on his own. It was, therefore, the first TV he ever “owned.” He sold the TV in the early 1980s (it still worked, tubes and all!), buying his first color portable at that time.

Admiral TVs are still made — under the auspices of AOC International — but they are not manufactured in the U.S.

The last American-made TVs rolled off a production line in 1995, but now new companies — with new technologies — are on the scene, looking to produce the next generation of American-made TVs. Mister Boomer is just now trying to get used to HD, so what do you say we hold off developing those OLED TVs a while longer, OK?

What memories of your family’s TVs come to mind for you, boomers?

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

Boomers Misheard Lyrics Over and Dover Again

A mondegreen can be defined as an unintentional mishearing and misinterpretation of (usually) poem lines or song lyrics that changes the original meaning of the phrase. While the mondegreen has probably existed as long as there has been the spoken and sung word, mondegreens seemed to have reached a fever pitch of pop culture popularity during the boomer years.

The term “mondegreen” was coined in 1954 by writer Sylvia Wright in an essay in Harper’s Magazine titled, “The Death of Lady Mondegreen.” She was describing her misinterpretation of a line in a 17th century Scottish ballad that was supposed to read:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh where have you been?
They have slain the Earl O’ Moray
And layd him on the green.*

Instead, the writer recalls that as a young girl she thought the final line was: And Lady Mondegreen.
In her essay, Ms. Wright coined the term as way of describing what had previously not had a label.

There are many theories of why the number of song lyric misinterpretations increased at an astonishing rate in boomer years. First of all, there was much more music being played on the radio than previous decades, and those listening were most often using transistor or car radios, often known for their “tinny,” less than high-fidelity sound quality. Some point to the singers themselves; the lyrics to many songs were slurred or otherwise sung with various accents or personal vocal eccentricities that made it difficult to ascertain the correct wording. Others point to the nature of human perception itself: Since thought is to a large part based on our experiences, on hearing a lyric that doesn’t immediately register, the mind defaults to the nearest approximation of what it thinks the word may be — sort of the human equivalent to digital spell-checking.

Whatever the reason, mondegreens — even though most of us didn’t know the name for it — were a fun part of our boomer teen years. Once you’ve misheard these famous mondegreens, it’s hard to go back to the real lyrics:

Hold me closer Tony Danza, Elton John (Hold me closer tiny dancer)
There’s a bathroom on the right, Credence Clearwater Revival (There’s a bad moon on the rise)
‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy, Jimi Hendrix (‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky)
The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind, Bob Dylan (The answer my friends, is blowin’ in the wind)
Wrapped up like a douche you know the water in the night, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (Bruce Springsteen wrote it in 1973 as: Oh, cut loose like a deuce another runner in the night, but the Earth Band sang it in 1977 as: Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.)
Secret Asian man, secret Asian man, Johnny Rivers (Secret agent man)


Fun with mondegreens!

Perhaps the most famous set of mondegreens came from the song Louie Louie, in 1963. Never before had the mishearing of song lyrics brought on such a fuss on a national scale. The song, like a great many others in boomer years, was recorded many times by various artists. Written by Richard Berry in 1955 as a ballad, the song was performed and recorded in various incarnations throughout the late 1950s. In 1963, the Kingsmen from Portland, Oregon put their spin on it, reinterpreting the Caribbean-style ballad into a rock ‘n roll beat. The song was released in May of that year, then re-released on a new label in October. Sales were extremely light and it appeared the record would go nowhere until a Boston DJ named Arnie Ginsburg was given the record, and he chose to play it as his “Worst Record of the Week.” Boomers took notice, despite the deliberate pan. By December it reached the Billboard Top 100, and eventually rose to number two, very likely because of its mondegreen status.

Every boomer of a certain age knows the story: Many thought the singer had purposely made the lyrics unintelligible because they were laced with profanity and references to graphic sex. Boomers passed around sheets of paper at school that supposedly showed the “true” lyrics to the song. It became one of the most popular songs boomers would play at house parties, both for its raw rock ‘n roll guitar exuberance and perceived naughty lyrics.

As a result, the song was banned in several states, making it that much more compelling for boomers to try and figure out what the lyrics actually were. In 1964 a parent wrote to Attorney General Robert Kennedy claiming the song was obscene. The FBI was asked to investigate the complaint, and the agency conducted a two-year investigation. The conclusion of FBI experts was that the song could not be called obscene because the lyrics were “unintelligible at any speed.” The FBI interviewed a member of the Kingsmen, who denied there was any obscenity in the song.

Some bands thought they’d beat the mondegreen monster before it could rear its funny little head. In 1968 the band Iron Butterfly released Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida. Rock legend has it that the original title was In the Garden of Eden, but since lead singer Don Ingle was drunk in the recording studio, he slurred the words. The title stuck and the rest is history. Another story suggests Ingle was drunk, and when drummer Ron Bushy asked him for the name, he wrote it down as the mondegreen title we know it today. Still another says when the producer asked Bushy for the title, he was wearing headphones and gave him what he thought he heard. Despite the origins, the title and song remain a giant in the world of reverse mondegreens.

Sly and the Family Stone got into the reverse mondegreen winner’s circle in 1970 with the hit, Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). The lyric is actually a vernacular pronunciation of, Thank You For Lettin’ Me Be Myself Again.

Every boomer recalls mishearing lyrics, only to be corrected by a peer. Sometimes we’d still not believe that we were wrong and were now being given the correct lyric, and would play the record over and over, sometimes at 78 rpm to slow down the 45 in order to dissect each syllable.

Mondegreens persist today, though Mister Boomer questions what the future holds for the idiom. We are in an age of constantly being corrected as we type on our phones, in our e-mail programs and on our computers and tablets by “intelligent” agents. While that won’t stop us from mishearing a song lyric, our peers will be quick to note our ignorance since an Internet search is now only a few keystrokes away, at any time and in any location. Mondegreens don’t have much of a chance of reaching monumental status when the ants aren’t blowing in the wind … they’re already here.

What memories do mondegreens conjure for you, boomers? What’s your favorite mondegreen?

*Bonny Earl O’Murray

posted by Mister B in Fun,Music,Pop Culture History,Uncategorized and have Comments (2)

Boomers Go Fly A Kite

This year’s relatively mild winter belies the winters of boomer days when, by this time, we would have been desperately awaiting spring. Most of the snow would have melted, but the ground and trees were brown, and the sky was grey. A sharp wind was blowing, shaking our reality as the dot of sun beckoned us to play, while its rays struggled to warm our frozen landscape.

One of the first outdoor activities the neighborhood would engage in at this time of year was kite flying. The blustery winds of a Midwest March were perfect for launching our paper and wood flying machines, even if the bite of the cold numbed our fingers in the process. Boy or girl, regardless of age, could participate in the activity. For boomers, kite flying was another in a series of outdoor activities that required very little cost or training.

The neighborhood store readily sold kite kits for ten cents. Another ten cents would buy a ball of kite string, and you were in business. We could easily raise the money the same day we decided to “go fly a kite” by picking up a few discarded pop bottles (it was ALWAYS called “pop,” not “soda”). We’d quickly race back to our houses to rinse any accumulated dirt from our finds by using the faucet on the outside of the house. Glass bottles still wet, we’d rush back to the corner store. At two-cents apiece, it never seemed to take that long to accumulate the cash. All we’d have to do was follow the path that teenagers took on their walk home from our high school.

In the store, a cardboard box with the top third cut off sat alongside a glass display case that held a tempting assortment of candy bars, neatly arranged row by row. On this day, the money in hand wasn’t for sweet treats. Mister Boomer would browse through the selection of kites, looking for a color to “speak” to him. The paper kites were wrapped around wood strips and slipped into long, clear plastic bags. On the glass counter was a cardboard display of string balls. Kite selection and string ball in hand, the transaction was completed, and off we’d go to the nearest kid’s house that had a garage. It was easier to assemble our kites out of the wind, and we stayed a tad warmer in the process.

The kite itself was easy to assemble: Two wooden strips were joined by a piece of metal bent around them like a staple. All that was required was to turn the shorter strip perpendicular to the longer to form a cross shape. Each end of the strips had a slit notched into it. Unfurling the triangular-shaped paper kite, it was ready to attach to the strip by way of pre-placed pieces of string that conveniently slipped into the notches on the pliable, thin wood strips.

At this point, the kite took shape, but wasn’t flight-worthy yet. Down the central spine of the paper face were two dots that indicated the place to pierce the paper. Using a pencil tip we would do just that, then open our ball of string and slip the end through one of the holes. On the backside, the string was knotted. Flipping back to the front, the string was let out to give it a little slack between the two holes. A scissors cut later, the other end could be threaded through the hole and tied off like the previous end. This central string was the main line to which we could we could tie our ground-based string.

Flipping the kite over, we could see the paper was not as taut as we preferred. Mister B can’t say if this was a neighborhood or regional thing, or if it was the proper way to make a kite, but we’d tie off string on one horizontal end of the wooden strip and stretch it across to the other side, forming a bow by pulling the string before tying it off. Now the paper fit tightly over the wooden structure.

Next, a quick trip home to raid the basement rag bin. Boomer families kept rags for cleaning, but they sure came in handy when you needed to make kite tails. Strips of cloth were tied to a longer strip at regular intervals, creating Bow-tie shapes along its axis. Then it was tied to the bottom of the kite to act as a rudder tail and counterweight in the wind.

How you prepared string for your first flight was a personal choice. You could let it unwind from the ball as it came from the store, but most kids in Mister B’s neighborhood chose to tightly wind the string around a twig. If you found the right one, it would have a couple of knobs that could contain the string between them while offering space to grip the twig on either side when two hands were needed to steady the kite in flight.

Once the prepped string was tied to the central string, the kite was ready. Mister B’s block had far too many trees and telephone wires for kite flying. Inevitably, kites, trapped like live creatures rustling in branches and wires, were testaments to the hubris that got them there. Instead, happy to avoid a Charlie Brown kite-eating tree moment, we’d head over to the nearby schoolyard where the baseball field offered an unobstructed free range for flying.

While Mister B enjoyed the process of building the kite, he never became an expert flyer. First there was the launch: running over the uneven terrain and learning to time the release at just the right moment for your paper triangle to catch the wind. Then there was the stability factor. Here is where you’d see if you had indeed built a flyable kite: A tear in the paper, tautness too slack or too tight, cloth tail too long or too short, and your kite would not stay airborne for long. Once it was in the air, though, it was a thing of beauty.

Mister B recalls one time when the conditions were just right, and he launched a promotional kite he had received from the neighborhood Sinclair gas station. Fifty-plus feet up as he carefully let out more string, the kite seemed to hover in a sea of gray, its green dinosaur logo on a white triangle of paper holding strong in the breeze. The kite seemed to fly itself, and for one moment, Mister B’s spirits climbed up along the string and into the spring sky.

What memories do kite flying bring to you, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Fun,Pop Culture History,Seasons,Suburbia,Toys,Uncategorized and have Comments Off on Boomers Go Fly A Kite