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Boomers Both Feared and Laughed at Russia

Spying and hacking and meddling … oh my! Russia is in the news again, but that is nothing new to boomers. We lived with practically daily news about the country and people we were told were our biggest adversaries.

There are famous stories of General George Patton advocating war with Russia at the end of World War II. His rationale was that it was inevitable that we would face the country some day, and at that point we had troops and equipment available in the area already. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed, but just four years after the end of the war, the first salvo of the Cold War was hurled when the Soviet Union tested their first nuclear bomb.

We tended to use the terms “Russia” and “Soviet Union” interchangeably, though there was a difference. Russia was and is a country in and of itself, but the U.S.S.R. (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) was a collection of Country/States that comprised the Soviet Union, until its dissolution in 1991. The U.S.S.R. was under the control of the Communist Party, headquartered in Moscow, Russia.

Once the Soviets became the second state to possess nuclear capability, fear spread across the U.S. Boomers recall the Duck and Cover government educational film (1951) and the craze of people building home fallout shelters (See: Signs of the Times: Fallout Shelter Signs Were A Common Sight for Boomers). In the beginning we were told we’d survive a nuclear attack if we were at school, simply by sliding under our school desks. At home, we could survive indefinitely inside shelters that were either pre-made and installed, or custom made by the homeowner. These shelters were stocked with water, canned goods and everything a family might need to remain locked away underground until nuclear fallout clouds might dissipate. Information at the time thought that might not take more than a month — at least that is what the government was saying aloud.

Soon after the Soviets’ first nuclear test, the country was gripped by McCarthyism, named after Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) and the congressional hearings he chaired on the possible infiltration of Communists into the U.S. (1950-54). His first inquiries concerned the loyalty of government employees, then he targeted the film and TV industry.
The same year McCarthy began his “Red Scare,” the U.S. entered the Korean conflict, ostensibly to stop the spread of Communism.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev said in a speech in 1956 that he felt the Communist system would outlast the western Capitalism system by saying, “We will bury you.” He repeated the phrase at the United Nations in 1960, pounding his fists and ultimately, his shoe, on his desk. The line elicited front page news for the American press. The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 added more fuel to the fire of nuclear fear (See: Boomer History: The Cuban Missile Crisis).

Meanwhile, the film and TV industry was busy doing what people always do to their adversaries — demonize and make fun of them. Some of the most popular movies and TV shows referenced the Soviet Union in an adversarial role. Most, however, may have made allusions to Russian spies and meddling, but the foes were more often super villains from international crime syndicates as opposed to state operators. Here are a few of Mister B’s Cold War favorites:

James Bond — The first James Bond film was released in 1962. The books, authored by Ian Fleming, did plot U.S. and Soviet spies against each other on occasion, but the movies seldom did. In From Russia with Love (1963), James Bond “must” seduce a beautiful Russian agent in order to acquire a decoder device. In You Only Live Twice (1967) super-villain Blofeld is capturing Soviet and American satellites in an effort to start a war between the two countries. In The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), British and Russian submarines are being hijacked, so the two countries’ governments combine forces to investigate. Heading into the 1980s and ’90s, the Soviets and British (and by proxy, Americans) appear in an adversarial role in several Bond films, but that is out of the range of the prime boomer years, so Mister B will leave that for your own research.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) – This movie set up a “what if” scenario of a rogue American general intent on starting a war between our two countries. In the movie, the U.S. President reaches out to the Soviet Ambassador to try to explain the situation and brings him into the top-secret War Room in the process. There, the Ambassador, skeptical of U.S. motives, is busy taking pictures of his surroundings. The satire showed the absurdity of our mutual distrust in the face of total annihilation.

Fail-Safe (1964) – Like Dr. Strangelove before it, this film creates a scenario where a nuclear exchange between the two countries is frighteningly close at hand. In this film, though, American bombers are accidentally sent to destroy Moscow due to electrical and computer malfunctions. The U.S. asks the Soviet Union for help in averting a worldwide crisis. Unlike Dr. Strangelove, this was serious drama. Mister Boomer had read the book in school before the movie was made.

The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (1966) – When a Soviet submarine accidentally runs aground off the coast of a small New England town, members of the crew realize they have no choice but to go ashore and seek help to free their vessel. Reflecting the paranoia of the day, townspeople mistake the small boat as a Russian invasion force. Merriment ensues.

Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale – Cartoon characters on Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show (1959-64), these spies and dastardly do-no-gooders were actually from Pottsylvania, despite their obvious Russian names. Their superior was known as Fearless Leader. Boris’s name is a play on the name of Boris Godunov, a 19th century Russian tsar who instituted a spy system to protect his power from internal and external enemies. Boris Badenov proclaimed himself the “world’s greatest nogoodnik,” another reference to the Russian language.

Much taller than Boris, Natasha Fatale was his partner and evidently the brains of the operation. She appeared to hold some affection for Boris and often saved him from his own misdoings. Like Boris, she spoke in a broken English reminiscent of a Slavic-Russian accent.

Spy TV Shows — A series of TV shows cropped up in the early ’60s that used the Cold War as backdrop, but again, seldom mentioned Russia and the Soviet Union by name — although there were instances where the two countries worked together to thwart a common enemy. Among them were The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-68),  I Spy (1965-68), The Avengers (1966-69), Mission: Impossible (1966-73), The Prisoner (1967-68), and Get Smart (1965-70). All of them used at least some humor in their scripts.

What memorable laugh or fear-stricken book, film or TV show about the Russians do you remember, Boomers? (For further Mister B insight, see: Laughing Through the Cold War)

posted by Mister B in Film & Movies,Pop Culture History,TV and have Comment (1)

Signs of the Times: Fallout Shelter Signs Were A Common Sight for Boomers

Having lived through the Cold War, boomers remember Fallout Shelter signs on government buildings, large office buildings and apartment complexes. Yet most boomers, having lived through the origin of the signs, do not know the history behind them.

A Fallout Shelter sign was a public notice of emergency shelter, presumably in case of nuclear attack. The government-issued signs were iconographic and simple in their design: three yellow downward-pointing triangles contained within a black circle resting on a yellow background. Below were the words, “Fallout Shelter.” Additional messages on the sign could offer an occupancy capacity or directional arrows.

Within a decade after the end of WWII, advances in technology enabled the two remaining world Super Powers to build long-range missiles capable of delivering atomic destruction over great distances. By the 1950s, the Cold War emerged as an arms race, with each country wanting to keep a balance of power — as in matching the other’s number of available nuclear warheads — as a deterrent. An attack by either could result in the total annihilation of their respective countries, if not the entire planet. Fear began to grip the American public at the prospect of an attack via the U.S.S.R.’s ICBM missile system. Early Baby Boomers recall the national 1951 “Duck and Cover” program at school, where they were told to “duck and cover” should they see a nuclear flash of light. It was apparent early on that this type of action was not going to offer enough protection. As a result, plans circulated for home fallout shelters, and pre-fabricated shelters intended for home use were also made and sold.

Government officials were concerned about the rising national debate on the morality behind neighbor against neighbor — those with shelters vs. those without — should an attack occur. It was decided a system of public shelters, with each having a capacity of 50 or more, should be instituted. The country had a shelter system in place for years before WWII. These shelters, marked with a sign containing a large “S” and the words “Public Shelter,” were intended for use in instances of natural disasters, then as bomb shelters during WWII, should the homeland be bombed by enemy planes. Widespread bombing on the mainland did not transpire, though we now know the Japanese military did undertake a mission to bomb the Northwest states near the end of the War.

All but abandoned after the War, President Kennedy assigned the responsibility of re-establishing this shelter network to Civil Defense, a branch of the Department of Defense (DOD), and asked Congress to authorize funds to create signage and stock these shelters with provisions that included water, food, first aid kits, communication equipment and other things considered essential for survival.

The task of creating the design of the sign was given to a government contractor in Virginia. It was this graphics firm that suggested the colors and symbol as a simple graphic that would be easily recognizable. In recent years it has come to light that the symbol of the three triangles were not meant to evoke the symbol for radiation, as many people had come to believe. Rather, it was based on elaborate symbolism of the essential functions of the fallout shelter system. A DOD newsletter (OCD region 3, Volume 1, No. 2, March 1963) explained the reasoning behind the design and attributed it to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Civil Defense, Steuart L. Pittman:
There are six points to the shelter sign. They signify: 1. Shielding from radiation; 2. Food and water; 3. Trained leadership; 4. Medical supplies and aid; 5. Communications with the outside world; 6. Radiological monitoring to determine safe areas and time for return home.
The newsletter article added, “It is an image we should leave with the public at every opportunity, for in it there is hope rather than despair.”

This explanation, however, was not communicated to the general public.

In December of 1961, the DOD unveiled the new Fallout Shelter sign to the wire services. As newspapers began to disseminate images of the signs along with government-supplied information on what to do in case of an attack, the first sign was installed in a building in White Plains, New York. In less than a year, the signs could be seen across the country. The ubiquitous signage was immediately recognizable then as it is to people of a certain age now. The DOD was still distributing the signs as late as 1977, and many remain visible in all parts of the country.

Fallout Shelter Sign

Many Fallout Shelter signs can still be seen, including this one that Mister Boomer passes every day.

Mister Boomer did not actually know of a family who had a home fallout shelter, so the national system was going be the best his neighborhood could do. For Mister B’s family, the basement of the house would have to suffice. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, his parents began to stock a storage area in the basement of the house with SPAM, canned vegetables, gallons of water and jars of other canned items. The canned items came mostly from Mister B’s grandmother and aunts, as his mother did not take to canning fruits and vegetables like other members of her family.

Though the spectre of nuclear attack was evident in the creation of the family’s emergency stock, it was also a practical precaution as Mister B’s area was prone to both floods and tornadoes. Cans would be rotated to upstairs use every few months, and Mister B remembers his father replacing gallons of water a few times, before the family abandoned the practice entirely in the mid-60’s. By then Mister B, like a good many boomers, heard the scuttlebutt around school that in the event of nuclear attack, none would survive in his region. A newspaper report had indicated the targeting positions of Soviet Union missiles, and his area was directly in their sights since it contained so many factories. Local steel mills, a paper factory, and airplane and auto plants were prime targets for an enemy bent on disabling a country’s ability to wage war.

Mister Boomer made notice of the Fallout Shelter signs, but like many boomers at an early age, did not think that these shelters would mean the difference between surviving an attack or not. Boomers lived their lives with the ever-present possibility of nuclear attack hanging over them, but they pressed on, not thinking much about it or the Fallout Shelter signs that dotted the cityscape.

What experiences do you recall with Fallout Shelter signs, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Pop Culture History and have Comments (2)

Boomer History: The Cuban Missile Crisis

Fifty years ago this week — on October 14, 1962 — a U.S. reconnaissance plane flying over Cuba took photos that confirmed that Soviet missile sites were being constructed on the island, just 90 miles from the U.S. mainland. Since the U.S. had previously deployed more than 100 nuclear missiles in both Italy and Turkey capable of reaching Moscow, the Soviets had concluded that this deployment gave the U.S. an advantage for first strike capabilities in a nuclear confrontation. Therefore, their perception of the balance of powers required them to mount missiles in the Western Hemisphere.

As Soviet ships headed for Cuba, presumably with intermediate-range ICBM missiles on board, President John F. Kennedy ordered what was, in essence, a military blockade around Cuba to prevent the ships from reaching their destination. The action was officially deemed a “quarantine” in order to avoid using the term “blockade,” since doing so was considered an act of war. Nikita Khruschev accused the U.S. of an act of war and from there the incident crossed over into a crisis that has been described as the closest point to nuclear confrontation by the two countries than at any other time in the Cold War. It was at this time that the term mutually assured destruction was coined. Estimates of a full nuclear war between the two powers stated that the result would entail 100 million deaths on each of the sides.

While the Soviets publicly denounced the actions by the U.S., privately they were negotiating with the U.S. through the United Nations to resolve the situation. By early November, the Soviets agreed to dismantle the sites and return the missiles already on the island back to the Soviet Union. The U.S. agreed to dismantle the 100 sites it had deployed against the Soviets in Italy and Turkey and to publicly state it would never invade Cuba. These were amazing compromises considering the brinkmanship both had displayed, and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion that the U.S. had supported just one year earlier. Another part of the settlement was the creation of a hotline between Washington and Moscow. This is the often-called “red phone” that sits on the President’s desk in the Oval Office. The idea was that if another crisis arose, the two leaders could instantly talk and the situation might be diffused more quickly and easily.

The hotline plays a prominent role in the satirical nuclear movie, Dr. Strangelove (1964), when a rogue Marine commander initiates a first strike order against the Soviets without authorization. The movie is perhaps the greatest satire ever made on the folly of a nuclear exchange between countries.

Several books were written about the Cuban Missile Crisis, most notably the then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s Thirteen Days. A 1974 movie, The Missiles of October, was based on his book. The movie Thirteen Days (2000), though bearing the same name as Kennedy’s book, was actually based on The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow (1997). However, most of the movies have been criticized for historical inaccuracies by living members of the Kennedy administration.

In 1962, Mister B was in elementary school. He doesn’t recall the Cuban Missile Crisis being talked about openly in the classroom or by his parents. He does remember hearing about it on TV, and sensed the tension that was rising among the adults around him. This was especially confirmed when his school conducted “tornado drills,” where the kids would hunker down as low as possible against an interior hallway wall. Mister B knew that October was past the traditional tornado season, and had been “briefed” earlier by the government Duck and Cover movie on what to do in the case of a nuclear blast (see Mister B’s earlier post, Laughing Through the Cold War). He didn’t think they were about tornadoes at all. The factories of the Midwest had become the U.S. center of manufacturing during World War II and, now in the early 1960s, it was the engine that was propelling the economic boom that helped facilitate the Baby Boom. Even the school kids knew our area would be targeted by a Soviet attack. That’s why bomb shelters became so popular.

In the end, Mister B was too young to fully comprehend the severity of the situation until many years later. It is truly amazing to think how the leaders of the two countries were able to come to an acceptable conclusion while saving face with their own citizens, and the world. Now that history is part of our shared boomer history.

What memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis come to mind for you, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Education,Film & Movies,Pop Culture History and have Comment (1)

Boomers Watched Santa On Radar

Tracking Santa Claus from the North Pole on Christmas Eve by radar is an example of a tradition that had its origins in the early boomer years and which continues today. Radar had been used, in rudimentary forms, as far back as the late 1930s. World War II advanced the use and technology. It was during the war that radar operators noticed that weather patterns gave them a noise reading; through experimentation, a Doppler Radar system was developed that could be used by the National Weather Service in the early 1960s. But that is getting ahead of our story.

The Cold War was in full swing in the 1950s and radar technology stood at the front lines of our defense systems. When your opponent could launch a missile attack at any time, the more advanced your radar system was, the earlier warning you’d have to mount a counter-offensive. So went the conversation in the schoolyard.

What we had were two seemingly-divergent radar paths — civilian and military use — that met one day in December of 1955. The story begins in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A Sears Roebuck store ran an ad in the local newspaper that gave children a “Santa hotline” number to call on Christmas Eve. Instead of reaching Santa, the mistyped number connected callers to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD). After receiving a few calls, Colonel Harry Shoup began telling children that even though they had the wrong number, they could rest assured that Santa was on his way because he was spotted on radar leaving the North Pole. The tradition began from then on. In 1958, Canada and the United States jointly created the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), which took over the duties of tracking Santa’s trek on Christmas Eve each year and reporting to TV stations. They would then air the report during the weather forecast.

For Mister Boomer, seeing the radar tracking of Santa Claus each year on the evening news seemed as commonplace as Cheerios and corn flakes in the morning. Of course NORAD could track Santa. Every schoolboy knew they were our military defense system.

The presentation of this “fact,” though, did leave much to be desired. Mister B recalls the station his parents watched most often showing a visual that was supposed to be Santa on his sleigh, being pulled by reindeer, flying overhead on the radar screen. The program, broadcast in black and white, was received on the family’s Sylvania TV and displayed on the tube in dull shades of gray that echoed the Midwestern December sky. For a full fifteen seconds, there it was: a lightbox with a cut-out of Santa’s sleigh and reindeer casting a hazy shadow on the “radar” screen. The now-familiar sweeping radar arm turned clockwise around the screen, illuminating a white, circular light when it reached the twelve o’clock position. Even for a six year old, the presentation had the feel of a project a dad might make in his garage.

Another channel’s presentation was even worse: they didn’t even bother to project an image. Instead, they literally stuck a white silhouette directly on their “radar” screen. Santa’s position didn’t move. Santa couldn’t move. Yet these and countless other TV stations reassured boomer children that Santa was on his way, with lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh.


The tradition lives on today with a technology update that lets kids track Santa even on a cell phone!

What memories of tracking Santa by radar can you recall, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Holidays,Technology,TV and have Comments Off on Boomers Watched Santa On Radar

It’s Our First Anniversary!

Mister Boomer is celebrating one full year of postings! During that time, Mister B has been gratified to know that tens of thousands of visitors from all over the U.S. and Canada have stopped by to reminisce and recall our place in history.

It’s been Mister B’s mission to bring you entertaining and informative musings on the boomer age, our youth and the changing times we’ve witnessed by connecting personal recollections with historical events. In the course of our weekly postings, some writings have generated great enthusiasm, which reinforces Mister B’s notion that though we boomers differ in our economic and social backgrounds, we all share a great deal that is unique to our generation.

With a celebratory wink and a nod, here are Mister Boomer’s personal Top Ten favorite postings of his first year. If you missed them the first time around, have a look and jump-start memories of your own. If you recall reading them, visit again and see if you agree with Mister B that these are the cream of the crop!

10. There’s a Kind of Crush, All Over the Boomer World
Posted March 6, 2011
Coming of age in the 1960s wouldn’t be complete for a young boomer without recognizing the beautiful, strong, modern women that graced the TV screen. In this posting, Mister B relates his choices for top celebrity crushes.

9. Boomers Strike Solid Gold
Posted July 3, 2010
Music formed the soundtrack to our lives, and perhaps we owe it all to the advent of the transistor radio. Take a trip down the musical memory lane as Mister B recalls early 1960s music emanating from his personal battery-powered radio.

8. Musical Youth
Posted August 14, 2010
Music appreciation in our schools did not equate to our appreciation of the top 40 songs we were listening to on the radio and playing on our record players. What would happen if a teacher dared to cross the lines to use modern music in her class as a teaching tool? Mister B relates the disastrous results.

7. Home Delivery
Posted August 9, 2010
Of the many things that made our youth different than other generations, home delivery — especially of milk products — was one to which every boomer can ascribe a story. Here are Mister B’s stories of home delivery services in his neighborhood.

6. Boomers Heart Robots
Posted October 10, 2010
Robots were fun playthings at home, but also scary nightmares in movies. Mister B relates that dichotomy in our pop culture that made robots a metaphor for our times.

5. 8-Track Mind
Posted August 23, 2010
High on the list of boomer-time products that are now gone are 8-track tapes. For many of us, it was the first introduction to “music on demand” in our cars. Hated by some for its clunkiness, now the tapes can be rediscovered through the romantic prism of an age gone by.

4. The Final Frontier
Posted September 26, 2010
Perhaps nothing captured our young imaginations more in the fifties and early sixties than visions of space. Travel with Mister B on his journey, following the earliest space missions.

3. Which Cat Was the Coolest?
Posted July 18, 2010
On the surface, the boomer battle of Felix the Cat vs. Top Cat tends to fall along the lines of which decade you happen to be born in; those born in the fifties gravitate toward Felix, while early sixties boomer babies lean to the Top Cat camp. Nostalgia aside, explore the inner feline workings of these classic and smart cartoons and decide as an adult which side you are on.

2. Laughing Through the Cold War
Posted June 20, 2010
While many of us were too young to fully appreciate the meaning of total annihilation, we were able to do our share of laughing at the satire and comedy that it spawned. From Duck and Cover to Get Smart, Mister B enjoyed laughing through the Cold War.

1. See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet, Again?
Posted September 13, 2010.
Where would our country be, or where would we boomers be, without President Eisenhower’s vision for the building of the National Interstate Highway System? Mister B’s personal recollection of the building of the National Interstate Highway System in his neighborhood firmly links this boomer to the historic event that arguably was among the biggest changes in our lives. This is the essence to which misterboomer.com strives.

Thank you for visiting Mister Boomer and making this site a success. If you’ve had a chuckle, conjured a memory or learned a tidbit, tell your friends. As always, your comments are welcome. Here’s to looking forward to another exciting year of looking back!

posted by Mister B in Fun,Music,Pop Culture History,Space,Technology,TV and have Comments Off on It’s Our First Anniversary!

Boomer Fun in 1961

The vast majority of the 74 million boomers can vividly recall the year 1961. It was momentous for many reasons, but what boggles this boomer’s mind at this point in time is that it was 50 years ago! Set your Way-Back Machine and let’s take a look.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President of the United States. It was a big deal for many people, not the least of whom were the Catholic nuns at Mister Boomer’s elementary school. They were thrilled that “one of their own” was assuming the highest office in the land for the first time. Besides, like most women, they thought he was handsome. Have you ever seen a nun blush? Of course, they knew nothing of his extra-curricular activities.

It was 50 years ago this very month that the Soviet Union sent the first man into space, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. The launch heated up the Space Race (The Final Frontier), and the Cold War. A week later, our new president was forced to disavow any involvement in the Bay of Pigs incident in Cuba; Fidel Castro had quickly put down an attempted revolution by Cuban exiles that had the backing and support of the CIA. Kennedy had some ‘splainin’ to do.

Things began to turn around the following month when Astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space, as the Mercury space program took root. This launch was responsible for giving many a boomer the space-age bug, including Mister B. He would watch every launch of every mission from that point through the moon launch eight years later.

The world was changing in the decade of the sixties: Kennedy introduced the Peace Corps; gas was 27¢ a gallon; construction began on the Berlin Wall; Rudolf Nureyev sought asylum in Paris while on tour with the Russian Ballet; residents of Washington, D.C. were given the right to vote via the Twenty-third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; and the Vietnam War officially began for the U.S. Meanwhile, the world of popular culture had begun a shift of its own. The Beatles had their first performance at the Cavern Club in Liverpool; Bobby Lewis captured the summer as Tossin’ and Turnin’ stayed number one on the charts for seven weeks; the film version of West Side Story won the Oscar’s Best Picture Award; Diana, future Princess of Wales, was born; Joseph Heller first published Catch-22, a novel which figured prominently in many a boomer’s education years later; Mattel introduced a boyfriend for Barbie, the Ken doll; Pampers disposable diapers were first sold; Libby’s Foods began marketing Sloppy Joes in a can; and Top Cat, the cartoon featuring the irreverent, irrepressible title feline, began its two-year run on TV (Which Cat Was the Coolest?).


In retrospect it sure looks like poor Ken didn’t have a chance right from the start. Can you say “emasculate,” boys and girls?

Yet Mister Boomer, like many boys of his age, didn’t know much about the serious goings-on of the outside world. It was much more interesting for a pre-teen boy to dream of space travel, follow Roger Maris’ march toward hitting his record 61st home run in his team’s (N.Y. Yankees) last game of the season, and tune into the latest rock ‘n roll on his portable transistor radio.

Certainly, the Mister Boomer household ate copious amounts of canned food, but Libby’s Sloppy Joes was not among them. Mister Boomer’s mother made a vat of sloppy joes once or twice a month in her electric frying pan using onions, green peppers, fresh ground beef and tomato paste. It was an inexpensive family meal and all she had to do was toss the ingredients into the pan, turn the knob to low heat and let it cook. Slap the hot concoction on a mashed white-bread hamburger bun and you’d be full before Wagon Train began.


Mister B wonders if today’s kids would buy such a blatant marketing ploy. Probably, but there would be some discussion as to who got to wear the “beef” T-shirt and who’d be the “pork.”

Mister B was a baseball fan as a youngster, so he was aware of Roger Maris’ record-breaking feat as the neighborhood scuttlebutt brought up the latest major league buzz. No player had been able to break the home run record Babe Ruth had set in 1927, until the year 1961. Yessiree, and Mister B had Maris’ baseball card that year, along with his teammate’s, Mickey Mantle. Unfortunately for Mister B’s collection, the cards were lost in a Midwest flood a few years later.

Baseball was near top-of-mind for a young Mister B from spring through fall, so when he didn’t make a Little League team in 1961 (Going Batty for Spring) he joined city recreation baseball. When it came time for the boys to give their team a name, they chose to go with their dreams: the team would be called the Astronauts, combining baseball with their other true passion. Dinosaurs were a big thing with young boys even then, but giant prehistoric animals could not compare with the imaginative stirrings that the Space Race had opened in their young minds.

Along with Tossin’ and Turnin’ emanating from Mister B’s burgundy radio (Boomers Strike Solid Gold), it was Pony Time with Chubby Checker, while the Shirelles wanted to know, Will Still You Love Me Tomorrow? Dion was telling us to stay away from Runaround Sue and Del Shannon sang about the Runaway. The top names on the charts still included the likes of Lawrence Welk, Pat Boone and Jimmy Dean — even Elvis and Roy Orbison still had number one hits — but the winds of change had begun to blow back in 1961.

One year later, Mister B’s family would visit Washington, D.C., where they paid a visit to the White House. Standing in line, the tourists were all abuzz, hoping they would catch a glimpse of the First Lady or maybe even the President. It was not to be, but Mister B thoroughly enjoyed his visit and it ultimately stoked the embers of his life-long interest in history. Less than a year after that visit President Kennedy was assassinated, changing many boomers’ lives forever… but that was not 1961. 1961 was a time for fun in a young boomer’s life, filled with promise and imagination.

How about it, boomers? What memories help you define 1961, that year now 50 years past?

posted by Mister B in Food & Beverage,Fun,Getting Older,Music,Pop Culture History,Space,Sports,TV and have Comment (1)