Boomers Got Cuts and Bruises

Mister Boomer recently heard a discussion about playground safety, and was immediately transported back to his boomer days at the schoolyard. The differences between conditions and attitudes during our time and today are more than striking, starting with the entire concept of keeping kids safe.

These days, every playground has some sort of ground padding, lest the children fall and hurt themselves. These days all visible nuts, bolts and screws have to be covered, lest little hands become injured. These days bare metal is often sheltered from the sun, or a substitute like plastic is used, lest children burn themselves from sun-heated metal. Contrast these things with boomer playgrounds.

First of all, there was the ground. Whether below swings, monkey bars, teeter-totters or merry-go-rounds, there were four choices of ground surface: dirt, concrete, gravel, or, on some occasions, asphalt. Not much thought was given at the time to kids falling off equipment. Most of the time, kids flew off the equipment on purpose, like jumping from a swing at peak height. The merry-go-round spinner is hardly found on playgrounds these days, probably because the whole idea was to get it spinning fast enough to throw kids off to the ground. The results were scrapes and bruises. Boomers called that fun.

In boomer days, everything at the playground was made of metal for durability. Only the swing seats were the exception, though they could be made of metal in some areas. Swing seats were generally made of wood or hard rubber. In all cases, metal heating up in the hot summer sun could burn little legs and arms exposed by wearing shorts and short sleeves. A quick “ow” and play was resumed.

Climbing the monkey bars, or attempting to climb any equipment in a manner that wasn’t intended — a common occurrence — could result in cut fingers when grasping connection points bearing nuts and bolts. Kids often tried to climb up the side posts of the swing sets, or walk up the metal slide. Mister B recalls kids grasping the underside of the metal slide and making their way up as far as they could. For Mister Boomer, the monkey bars were often to blame for a little blood on the hands after a rigorous play session. Mister Boomer’s only broken bone resulted from his five-year old self’s attempt to stand on the metal slide. A fall off the side resulted in a doctor visit and cast.

It was common for children to head back to class after recess with cuts and bruises. In most instances, the kids were not even sent to the school nurse. In summer, it was Mister B’s experience that kids would not stop play unless it was something tremendously serious. A little blood on the fingers or scraped knee was a Red Badge of Courage, not the end of the world.

Mister B can only imagine how a teacher today might react to some blood on a child after recess. And what would happen if a kid appeared in school, covered in scrapes and bruises? In many states the teacher would be required to report the situation. What was an everyday thing for boomers is now the subject of an investigation of parental or other adult physical abuse.

So, which era is better? That may depend on how you define safety, and your point of view on raising children. On the one hand, boomers were allowed to make mistakes that resulted in scrapes and cuts and the occasional concussion or broken bone. It did not freak out our parents; rather, they seemed to take it in stride as part of growing up.

Mister Boomer suspects that some blogger fifty years from now will write a similar post about the days when he got carpel tunnel syndrome from spending so much time grasping a video game console, or texting. For the most part, Mister B is glad he was allowed to get scraped and bruised. It was part of play, and a lesson that there were positives and negatives possible for every situation.

What memories of playground cuts, scrapes, bruises, sprains and broken bones do you have, boomers?

Boomers Were Feeling Groovy

Slang words and phrases rise and fall in popularity during every generation. While some slang lingers on, rediscovered by following generations to breathe continuing life into the vocabulary, others disappear from use and are relegated to the dustbins of history. In this latter category is a slang word from the Boomer Years: groovy.

It is thought that the word had its origins from the phrase, “in the groove,” spoken by Jazz musicians up to three decades before the first boomers arrived on the scene. The phrase described the excellent playing and rhythmic flow of a musician who had tapped into his or her ultimate improvisation. In subsequent generations, athletes riffed on the phrase to describe their peak performance status as, “in the zone.”

For boomers, “groovy” appeared in the early-to-mid-sixties. It was used primarily as an adjective to express a happy, good feeling. Though often associated with Flower Power and the Flower Children of the Summer of Love, there is evidence of its use earlier than that in pop music. Pop music was and continues to be one way that slang words are perpetuated. Mister Boomer has four songs here as examples of the use of the word, groovy. So consider this your Jeopardy! category for the week: songs that have a use or variation of the word “groovy” in the lyrics.

A Groovy Kind of Love
The Mindbenders, 1965

Wouldn’t you agree
Baby you and me
Got a groovy kind of love

Mister Boomer does not know if there was an earlier use of groovy in a song, but this was the earliest he could find. Written by Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sayer, it was originally recorded by Diane and Annita in 1965. That same year, The Mindbenders, a group that had previously been the backup band for Wayne Fontana (The Game of Love, 1965), had a hit with it. Boomer-era musicians were so enamored with the tune that a series of singers covered it for the next half-decade, including Petula Clark (1966), Mrs. Miller (1966), Patti LaBelle (1967), Sony & Cher (1967), Gene Pitney (1967), and a host of others. Gen Xers probably remember the Phil Colins cover of the song in 1988.

The Young Rascals, 1967

Groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon

The song, with its soulful feel, described a variation of groovy, as if it was a throwback to its origins. This was the last album the band went by the name, The Young Rascals. After that, they used the name, The Rascals.

Reach Out of the Darkness
Friend & Lover (James and Cathy Post), 1967

I think it’s so groovy now
That people are finally getting together

The song peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Top 100. Ironically, the title is never actually sung within the song; rather, reach out in the darkness is the closest it gets.

59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
Simon & Garfunkel, released as a single in 1967 (B-side) and 1970 (A-side)

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

The song was included on the duo’s popular Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album (1966), but was never a hit for them on its own. A bit of trivia for you: Two members of the Dave Brubeck Quartet played on the song: Gene Wright (bass) and Joe Morello (drums). Simon & Garfunkel also performed it at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

In Mister Boomer’s experience, groovy never made it into the everyday vocabulary in his area; Mister B does not recall a single person saying “groovy”. In his region, neat, the ever-popular cool, or keen was used to describe a a happy, good feeling or something that was terrific.

Did you pepper your speaking with the word, groovy, boomers? What is your favorite groovy song?