Boomers Celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 90th Anniversary

Mickey Mouse became part of the cultural landscape a couple of decades before the Baby Boom, which is marked this week with the character’s 90th anniversary. Though Mickey the character and the cartoon appeared years before the Baby Boom, it played an integral part in the Boomer Experience. In the early days of television, old Mickey Mouse cartoons were viewed by boomers for the first time. As they grew old enough for their parents to take them to movie theaters, boomers experienced Mickey cartoons on the big screen, perhaps for the first time, in color. There is no mistake, though, that the true connection boomers developed toward Mickey Mouse was through the black & white TV that sat in their living rooms.

Boomers watched the evolution of Mickey Mouse from the early days of Steamboat Willie (1928) to the body changes in the character of the 1930s, and on to the 1940s, where Mickey acquired the basic shape that most boomers recall. At one point or another, every boomer saw Fantasia, which featured Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The movie was released in 1940, but boomers continued to view it decades later. Mister Boomer recalls college-aged boomers going to see the film in the ’60s and ’70s, while under the influence of mind-altering substances. (Mister B was not among that group.)

After his movie success of the 1940s, Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories appeared in 1953, and Mickey was center stage once again. The series of comic books included many of boomers’ favorite Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Chip ‘n Dale, Pluto and a host of others. By the mid-50s, Walt Disney Comics were the best selling comics on the market, claiming sales of three million per month.

Walt Disney, ever the marketer, wanted a way to generate interest for the opening of his theme park, Disneyland, which was scheduled to open in 1955. He came up with a TV show called Walt Disney’s Disneyland (1954-58) that helped to finance the park. The show included cartoons and short segments, and introduced boomers to the Mouseketeers. In addition, it was Mickey Mouse’s job to relay regular updates on the park’s construction progress, and what kids could expect to experience when the amusement park opened. Toward this end, Walt carried on conversations with Mickey on screen, one of the first combinations of live action and animation broadcast on TV. Walt Disney’s Disneyland went on to become Walt Disney Presents (1958-61), Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (1961-69) and The Wonderful World of Disney (1969-79). All featured roughly the same format, which was an attempt to make a variety show for kids. And all featured Mickey Mouse.

Though boomers were familiar with the mouse at an early age, it can be argued that boomers got on a first-name basis with Mickey with the debut of The Mickey Mouse Club (1955-59). There was not a boomer anywhere who could not sing the show’s opening song: Who’s the leader of the club/That’s made for you and me/M-i-c-k-e-y, M-o-u-s-e. The show introduced boomers to Annette Funicello as one of the Mouseketeers. She would go on to star in many Disney films, most notably her seven beach movies of the 1960s (see: Who’s the Leader of the Club?)

Mickey Mouse merchandise was available as far back as 1933, but most boomers who had Mickey merchandise started with Mouseketeer ears. When Disneyland opened in 1955, the ears became a symbol of the theme park, and a valued souvenir for boomers.

Mickey Mouse was never Mister B’s favorite among Disney’s cast of characters. Neither he nor his siblings had mouse ears or any Mickey Mouse merchandise, though they did have some of the comic books and watched The Mickey Mouse Club on a daily basis, right after school. It wasn’t until 1970, when his family drove to California for a cousin’s wedding, that he went to Disneyland. As a late teen, he didn’t find the place very interesting, and discovered that the worst earworm in the history of earworms could very likely be It’s A Small World. Fortunately, no costumed Mickeys approached the family. This wasn’t the ’50s, man, and Mickey just wasn’t that cool. In fact, the very name “Mickey Mouse” became synonymous with poorly-made merchandise or half-baked plans that were destined for failure.

Despite all the history that surrounded the wholesome bubble of Disney’s world, Mickey Mouse has survived to the ripe old age of 90.

What memories of Mickey Mouse do you have, boomers?

Boomers Say Good-bye to More Generational Influencers

Boomers will remember 2017 for many things, not the least of which is the collection of notable deaths of movers and shakers that helped to form the cultural, political and technological landscape that was the Boomer Years.

Jeremy Stone (January 1, age 81)
A scientist, his pro-arms control and human rights advocacy landed him on Richard Nixon’s “enemies list” in 1973. He authored two books in the 1960s: Containing the Arms Race: Some Specific Proposals (1966) and Strategic Persuasion: Arms Control Through Dialogue (1967). Stone served as president of the Federation of American Scientists from 1970 to 2000, contributing to policy debates on the nuclear arms race for more than 30 years.

Dick Gautier (January 13, age 85)
Boomers will best recall him as Hymie the Robot in the Get Smart TV series.

Mary Tyler Moore (January 25, age 80)
Boomers will always remember her on The Dick Van Dyke Show and of course, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She was definitely a mover and shaker of the cultural zeitgeist. Mister B feels other sources can do far better justice to her importance than he can on this list.

Irwin Corey (February 6, age 102)
This comic was known to boomers as “Professor” Irwin Corey. Malapropisms, double-speak and mangled language defined his comedy on The Steve Allen Show and subsequent appearances on numerous variety shows throughout the 50s, ’60s and ’70s. Mister Boomer enjoyed his antics.

Chuck Berry (March 18, age 90)
Boomers first heard Berry when Maybellene was released by Chess Records in1955. He wrote and recorded Johnny B. Goode in 1958, a genuine rock classic. It was chosen to be on the Golden Record that contained sounds of human achievement and went out with the Voyager I spacecraft launched in 1977. Chuck Berry was the first inductee in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1986. Hundreds of musicians, including The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, said they were greatly influenced by his music. Stars of the boomer era don’t get much bigger than Chuck Berry.

Sylvia Moy (April 15, age 78)
Boomers probably don’t know her name, but they know her music. She was a producer for Motown and wrote many hit songs, including Uptight (Everything’s Alright), I Was Made to Love Her and My Cherie Amour, all of which were hits for Stevie Wonder.

Victor Gorbatko (May 17, age 82)
While the U.S. had their original group of seven astronauts, the Soviet Union had their cosmonauts. Major General Gorbatko was one the original group of cosmonauts. He began his training in 1960, but didn’t make it into space until 1967. He went back into space, as a research engineer, in 1977 and 1980. Without our Soviet counterparts, there would have been no Space Race, and arguably, no moon landing to finish the 1960s.

Sheila Michaels (June 22, age 78)
A member of the Congress of Racial Equality, Sheila Michaels began using the title “Ms.” in 1961. When she was introducing the term on a New York radio station in 1969, Gloria Steinem heard the broadcast and named her magazine Ms., in 1972.

George Romero (July 16, age 77)
Boomers knew Romero as the film director who made scary movies. He is known as the Father of the Zombie Film after releasing Night of the Living Dead in 1968. Mister Boomer recalls the film as one of the scariest he ever experienced in that time.

June Foray (July 26, age 99)
Ms. Foray’s death struck a personal chord with Mister Boomer when news broke. See Boomers Lose a Giant Voice of Their Cartoon Youth.

Jerry Lewis (August 20, age 91)
Love him or hate him, Jerry Lewis became a part of the comedic fabric that formed in the boomer years. Mister Boomer, for the most part, hated his comedy. The only thing Mister Boomer liked him in was The Nutty Professor (1963).

Joe Bailon (September 25, age 94)
Born in 1923, Bailon is one of those people who worked behind the scenes, though his name was well known to boomer custom car enthusiasts. It was Bailon who was credited with creating Candy Apple Red, the quintessential hot rod color of the 1950s and ’60s. The shimmering, metallic look was achieved with a three-coat process of a base coat, color coat and clear coat. Joe Baillon went on to create a series of metallic colors. The boys in Mister Boomer’s neighborhood talked admiringly about Candy Apple Red cars they saw, and how they would use the Testor’s paint version on the model cars they were building.

Hugh Hefner (September 27, age 91)
Boomers everywhere remember Hefner as the publisher of Playboy magazine. For many boomer boys (not Mister Boomer, however), the centerfolds of their father’s Playboys were their first glimpse at the unclothed female form, thus the beginning of their sex education. For many boomer girls, the magazine and Hefner’s Playboy Clubs exploited women and propagated the notion of male dominance in the society.

Fats Domino (October 24, age 89)
A giant star who helped to break color barriers in the early days of rock ‘n roll, Fats Domino gave the world hits such as Blueberry Hill and Ain’t That a Shame in his own New Orleans-inspired style. An influencer of the nth degree to early rock and first-decade boomers, he had the first rock record to sell more than 1 million copies (The Fat Man, 1949).

Robert Blakeley (October 25, age 95)
Another man whose name was hardly a household word, but his work was known by every boomer. Blakeley was given the task of designing the first Fallout Shelter sign. He suggested the image of the three upside-down equilateral triangles and the orange-yellow and black color scheme in 1961. The signs would be painted in reflective paint so that they could be seen in subdued light with only a flick of a lighter.
Recently, New York City announced it would be removing most of the Fallout Shelter signs in public spaces, because their rusted and deteriorated condition now presents a hazard in themselves, and the info they intended to relay was misleading and incorrect from the start. (See Mister Boomer’s post: Signs of the Times: Fallout Shelter Signs Were A Common Sight for Boomers)

Charles Manson (November 19, age 83)
The horrific murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others in 1969 brought Manson to the boomer public. His cult-control over his followers turned them into cold-blooded killers. Manson and many of his followers were convicted and jailed, and Manson given a life sentence.

Warren “Pete” Moore (November 19, age 79)
A singer with The Miracles, Mr. Moore was the composer of Tracks of My Tears, Ooo Baby Baby, Going to a Go-Go, I’ll be Doggone and Ain’t That Peculiar, all boomer and Motown classics, among many more. He was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame (with the Miracles, 2001), Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame (2015) and retroactively into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2015) after a Special Committee reported the entire group of the Miracles should have been inducted when Smokey Robinson was inducted in 1987. He died on his birthday.

Jack Boyle (December 12, age 83)
A rock promoter who has been described as one of the architects of the modern concert industry, Boyle turned a small venue called The Cellar Door, in Washington, DC into a premier club for performers in the mid-60s. Among the acts he booked at the club were Miles Davis, Neil Young, the Mamas and the Papas, Kris Kristofferson, Richie Havens, B.B. King, Rick Nelson, Carole King, Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell and many more. After selling the club in 1981, he went on to form Cellar Door Productions to produce blockbuster rock tours that included The Rolling Stones, the Who, Pink Floyd and dozens of other boomer favorites.

Of course there were many, many more, including fellow boomer Tom Petty, Jim Neighbors, David Cassidy, Monty Hall, Dick Gregory, Glen Campbell, Adam West, Martin Landau, Gregg Allman (also the band’s drummer Butch Trucks), Roger Moore, Don Rickles, Al Jarreau, Barbara Hale, Heather Menzies-Urich (played Louissa Von Trapp in Sound of Music, 1965), Chuck Barris, astronauts Eugene Cernan (last man to walk on the moon), Paul Weitz (commander of the first Space Shuttle) and Richard Gordon (flew on Gemini 11, 1966; walked in space twice; flew around the moon in Apollo 12, 1969), to name but a few of the those who influenced our boomer landscape.

Which people who left us in 2017 will you remember, boomers?