Boomers Got Vaccinated

In January of 2019, a national health emergency was declared by Washington related to a measles outbreak. The disease was thought to be eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, due to five decades of routine vaccinations, but as of this date nearly 400 cases have been reported in fifteen states. All of those states allow for refusal to get vaccinated based on personal or religious beliefs.

This situation brought Mister Boomer back to the boomer years, when vaccines were a routine step for school-aged children. When it comes to vaccinations for boomers, our parents were whole-heartedly in favor of having their children vaccinated: They lived through decades of horrible diseases, and, by the time World War II arrived, the prevailing thought of the country was to trust science and get on with finding cures. Mister Boomer feels this was particularly prompted by the scourge of polio that gripped the world into the 1940s. Traced back as far as Ancient Egypt, polio was a crippling disease that inflicted tens of thousands of children each year. Some surmise the Tiny Tim character had polio in A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. For the parents of boomers, though, it was the fact that their president — Franklin Delano Roosevelt — had what was believed to be polio in his late teen years. He covered up his increasing inability to walk by holding himself up at sturdy podiums and the Secret Service was diligent in seeing that there were no photos taken of him in a wheelchair.

In 1937, Roosevelt founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (later known as the March of Dimes), specifically with the intent of producing a vaccine for polio. The parents of boomers recall that schoolchildren of their generation sent dimes to the White House, doing their part in the search for a cure. Perhaps that is the reason that Roosevelt’s portrait is on the ten cent coin? Boomers will also recall how, each March, teachers were each given a cardboard sign that had slots for dimes in them. The teacher would remind children to ask for a dime from their parents. One by one, children could approach the sign on the teacher’s desk and slide their dime into the cardboard slot.

Roosevelt didn’t live long enough to see the development of a vaccine for polio. There was an epidemic outbreak of polio in the U.S. in 1952. Parents were keeping their children from public places such as municipal swimming pools, as a near-national hysteria added pressure to quickly release a vaccine. Dr. Jonas Salk was given a patent for his vaccination in 1955. It quickly became standard for all boomer children to get the vaccine. Today many scientists are suggesting that FDR did not have polio at all, but probably Guillain-Barre Syndrome. No matter which, by the mid-50s, boomer children were being vaccinated against smallpox, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and polio. It is more than likely the smallpox vaccination that gives boomers of a certain age that circular scar on their arm. The last case of smallpox was reported in Somalia in 1977. The U.S. stopped routine smallpox vaccinations in 1972, and the World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated in 1980. No cases of polio have been reported in the U.S. since 1979.

The 1960s saw more advances in vaccinations for boomers. Vaccines for measles were being tested as far back as the 1920s, but it wasn’t until 1963 when an effective version was released to the public. Vaccinations for mumps followed in 1967, and rubella in 1969. The three were combined into one vaccine in 1970.

Mister Boomer’s family was inoculated with all the vaccinations that were available at the time, but Mister Boomer and his brother had both measles and chicken pox in the early 1960s before the measles vaccine was released. The brothers spent a week suffering the relentless itching and light sensitivity that comes with it, prompting them to be quarantined to their bedroom, with drapes drawn, while all the neighborhood kids were out enjoying the summer sun. Fortunately, both brothers recovered without any ill effects; on average there were 450 deaths due to measles reported each year in the decade 1953 to 1963, the year when the vaccine was first given.

How about you, boomers? Do you have a vaccination scar on your arm? Did your family talk about vaccinations?

Dating Has Changed Since the Boomer Era

It should come as no surprise that dating has changed since the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the heyday of boomer-era dating. After all, two generations have grown — and dated — since that time. It should also come as no surprise, since, when compared to the dating practices of boomers’ grandparents — two generations earlier than boomers — the difference was more than striking between those two generations. Yet when Mister Boomer overheard a conversation on dating while on a recent walk in the park, it did surprise him in how fundamentally different dating is now to when boomers entered a courtship through dating.

As Mister Boomer proceeded one way, two twenty-something women were jogging toward him. Within earshot, Mister B heard one woman say to the other, “On our second date, we went to a cooking class.” “Oh, that sounds like fun!” responded the other. ” He planned the whole thing, booked it and paid for it!” exclaimed the first woman. “That’s really great!” returned the other excitedly, and added an exaggerated, “All right!” while offering the woman a high-five.

What was so notable to Mister B in his overheard snippet of conversation was how surprised the women appeared that this man planned the date and paid for it. Their emphasis on the words made it clear that twenty-somethings don’t necessarily expect that situation to occur. Yet it was commonplace among boomers.

Mister Boomer flashed back to his dating era, the decade of the 1970s. He was a late bloomer to begin with, but between working his way through college on a very limited budget, his lack of time and funds put a damper on his dating style. Mister B always dreaded the humiliation of rejection, first of all, since the man had to do the asking out. Secondly, he hated having to come up with an idea for the date. It was frustrating for him to try to plan for something without knowing if the woman would enjoy it, whether it was a dinner, movie, music event, picnic or other traditional dating venue. Next, there was the cost. The oil embargo caused gas prices to double overnight, then the rationing that required buying gas only on alternate days, based on license plate numbers, further complicated matters. Consequently, Mister B was careful to choose dates that did not require long drives.

That is not to say that dating practices themselves did not change dramatically during the boomer era. Boomers born in the late 1940s experienced a different set of cultural mores than those born in the fifties and sixties. The women’s movement, the anti-war movement, the introduction of the Pill and even rock ‘n roll all influenced the dating habits of boomers. Then there was the automobile. It played a crucial role not only as a means of transportation, but as the only privacy a young couple might get; it was common practice for both males and females to live with their parents until marriage. By the 1970s, that began to change.

Mister Boomer had a second flashback to the early 1970s. He had arranged a date, but nothing concrete had been planned. It disturbed Mister B since “spontaneous” was never a word anyone might associate with his dating life. When Mister Boomer drove up to the woman’s house, before he could finish parking, she bounded off the front porch and ran to the car. It was common practice for Mister Boomer to go to the door to meet his date (and probably her parents), then walk her to the car and open the door for her. Here, in one fluid motion, the woman flung open the car door, jumped in and stuffed a rolled-up series of bills into Mister Boomer’s front shirt pocket. On closing the door, Mister Boomer must have looked shocked, because she exclaimed, “Let’s go! We’re going to be late! We’re going to see The Man of La Mancha!” It was Mister Boomer’s first (but hardly the last) encounter with a woman who did not feel compelled to follow traditional roles in a dating relationship. After very little deliberation, he decided he liked it.

Do you recall dating situations from your boomer years that would be obsolete today, boomers?