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Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

Boomers Then and Now

In the immortal words of the Chambers Brothers, “Time …”; the youngest of the Baby Boom Generation will turn 53 this year. While it’s fun to take a look back, it can also be a little disconcerting because we need to come to grips with this next chapter of our boomer existence. That does not necessarily fit the pattern of what the generation who sang, “Hope I die before get old” had in mind. One way Mister Boomer addresses this passage of time is by injecting a soupçon of humor. So, in the spirit of Micky Dolenz and the Monkees  singing That Was Then, This is Now, let’s take a look:

THEN: I want to rock ‘n roll all night.
NOW: I want to sleep all night, and not have to get up to go to the bathroom.

THEN: Never trust anyone over 30.
NOW: Never trust anyone UNDER 30.

THEN: Pedal to the metal!
NOW: You left your turn signal on.

THEN: Turn on, tune in, drop out.
NOW: Turn on the TV, tune in to my favorite channel, doze off.

THEN: My heart aches.
NOW: My knees ache.

THEN: I have the munchies.
NOW: I have a coupon for the Early Bird Special.

THEN: Road trip!
NOW: Road trip to CVS

THEN: All you need is love.
NOW: All you need is a good retirement package.

THEN: Love the one you’re with.
NOW: Love is a many splendored thing.

THEN: Dropping acid
NOW: Popping antacids

THEN: Dude, where’s my car?
NOW: Where is my car?

THEN: Burger and fries
NOW: Meat loaf and mashed potatoes

THEN: I gotta get some bread, man.
NOW: No, really, I need a loaf of bread.

THEN: Power to the people!
NOW: Power to my hearing aid

THEN: Turn it up!
NOW: Turn it down!

THEN: Boone’s Farm Apple Wine
NOW: Metamucil

THEN: Hula hoops
NOW: Recliner

THEN: Sock it to me!
NOW: Hand me those warm socks.

THEN: Love beads
NOW: Life Alert

THEN: Drop and give me 20.
NOW: Drop ’em and let’s check your prostate.

THEN: Pass that joint.
NOW: Crack those joints.

THEN:  Charlie’s Angels
NOW: Columbo reruns

THEN: Easy Rider
NOW: The Bucket List

THEN: Jeans
NOW: Sweat pants

THEN: Rock concert
NOW: Philharmonic

Yep, that was then; this is, increasingly, now. What is your Then and Now to add to the list, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Fun,Getting Older,Pop Culture History and have No Comments

Boomers Watch As Things Disappear

When contemplating the rate at which things we once thought commonplace are disappearing, Mister Boomer was reminded of the lyrics to a song by Badfinger (1970):

If you want it, here it is, come and get it
But you’d better hurry ’cause it’s goin’ fast

You’d better hurry ’cause its going fast

Mister Boomer has chronicled the field of disappearing things before, including phone booths and TVs with dials. Here is an update to add to the list:

Steering Wheels
Unlike the flying cars we were promised in our youth, the driverless car is becoming a reality faster than many boomers could ever dream. Now word comes from the Ford Motor Company of their plans to start production on an autonomous vehicle in 2020! Cars may not be disappearing any time soon, but over the next decade cars with steering wheels and pedals will. That means boomers who probably learned how to drive on a car with no power steering will now live long enough to see cars on the road without a driver — and no need for a steering wheel.

Wallets with change pockets
For decades, women’s wallets came equipped with a change pocket, and many men’s wallets did, too. Mister Boomer’s very first wallet had a leather change pocket built in. The problem these days is, of course, that young people do not carry change. It may drive Mister Boomer crazy to see a Millennial pay for a pack of gum with a debit card, but that is the way our society is heading. To be fair, in our day a package of gum was a nickel or dime; today it’s over a dollar. We may not only see change pockets and change disappear, but paper money as well.

Postcards
When people were off seeing the U.S.A. in their Chevrolet in the decades before the Internet, e-mail and social media, they sent postcards to friends and family to tell them, “Wish you were here.” The cards were individually handwritten and stamped with the proper postcard postage, then whisked on their way courtesy of the U.S. Post Office. Sometimes the sender could return home before the postcards arrived, but it was a normal practice to send and receive postcards to/from family and friends when traveling. Some people sent holiday postcards rather than deal with envelopes; they were cheaper, too. Now, they are disappearing because with a click a message, photo or video can be sent to anyone in the world, no stamp necessary.

Celebrity Autographs
Since the dawn of celebrity, when people saw their larger-than-life stars, there is only one request they would make of them — an autograph. Many boomers will recall their mothers and some fathers having autograph books designed just for the that purpose, and some boomers carried on the tradition. Now, what people want from celebrities is a selfie more than an autograph. A selfie plays better in the show-and-tell social media landscape, much better than an “I got so-and-so’s autograph today!” message.

CDs
Boomers saw 8-track tapes come and go, then cassette tapes, then the decline and fall of vinyl records (even though vinyl is on a bit of a comeback tour right now). CDs were a latecomer to the music party, and are now disappearing. Music is easily downloaded or  listened to on any number of devices. The CD, we’ve come to learn, is not as stable a medium as vinyl records were, so many have already degraded to the point of being unplayable. Can you say “planned obsolescence?”

Personal Ownership
The shared economy is upon us. For many years now a plethora of boomers have accepted the fact that they would lease their cars instead of buying them. The reasons are simple: lease payments are often cheaper than ownership payments and the cost of operation can be lower, too. With the advent of car services available at the click of a button and driverless vehicles on the horizon, are car ownership days on the wane? We’ll know which way the wind blows in the next decade.

Boomers loved buying records. We went out to get 45 RPMs and albums from our favorite artists on the day they were released. And the beauty is, now that we are approaching our old age, many of us still have those records. Boomers watched vinyl get replaced by cassettes played on a Walkman, only to be replaced by CDs; then CDs replaced by downloadable music played on an iPod. The iPod started its decline when music could be stored and played on a smartphone, and now, music streaming is threatening to hasten the demise of personal music ownership altogether.

Before World War II home ownership was far from a given, especially for the lower and middle classes. Less than half of the population owned their homes. The Baby Boom changed that by a full ten percent in one decade after the War, thanks to the GI Bill and VA loans. Today more than one third of the population still does not own a home. In California, our most populous state, home ownership peaked in 2008. The Great Recession and Millennials rethinking the need to own a home is changing the game once again. How long will it be until owning a home is no longer part of the American Dream?

The rate at which things we once thought commonplace are disappearing seems to be accelerating. So how about it, boomers, do we hang on to what we had as long as we can or go with the flow and embrace the new?

Read Mister Boomer’s other posts on disappearing boomer stuff:
Going, Going… Gone?
Boomers Watched Things Come and Go
Boomers’ Labor Love Lost

posted by Mister B in Getting Older,Pop Culture History,Technology and have No Comments

Boomers Wore Nehru Jackets … Temporarily

The style that came to be known in the Western World as the Nehru jacket came to the Boomer Generation in variety of ways. The fashion item itself had its origins in Asia thousands of years ago. Most of Asian cultures had a variation on the straight, thigh-length jacket with a collarless neckline. The jacket, so called because it was worn over a shirt, was generally reserved for the noble class or used as ceremonial garb.

The garment we knew as the “Nehru jacket” was so named after India’s political activist and first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964). As a constant reminder of his objection to British rule, he wore a traditional coat that resembled the styles of Achkan, Sherwani or Bandhgala designs that spoke of Indian culture in the years immediately before and after India gained its independence in the 1940s.

The U.S. got its first-hand look at Nehru’s mode of dress in 1962. China had just acted aggressively by moving troops into northern India, alarming world leaders in the process. In an effort to sway Nehru into joining the fight against Communism, President Kennedy invited him to visit the White House. A pacifist at heart like his co-activist friend Gandhi, Nehru called China “India’s brother.” Shortly thereafter China withdrew its troops. Photos of the President and the First Lady with the Prime Minister and his wife fascinated fashionistas in Britain and the U.S.

One of the earliest commonly-viewed influences of the style turned up in the first James Bond movie, Dr. No (1962). The title character (played by Joseph Wiseman) wore a Mandarin collar jacket that was probably more Chinese-influenced than Indian. As the villain in the film, he was the antithesis of India’s Prime Minister.

A burgeoning counterculture fashion industry and a growing number of disaffected youth  began looking to the East for guidance, after rejecting “Western values” as they saw them. They coalesced when the Beatles began wearing collarless suits in the early 1960s; the Beatles had a huge influence on the elevation of the Nehru jacket, but not in the main form Mandarin collar we recall from the era. Rather, British designers used the style as inspiration for collarless suit jackets. Before the Beatles, it was common for rock ‘n roll band members to wear business suits and ties. The Beatles were among the first to straddle the line between respectable and irreverent by wearing collarless suit jackets.


Timothy Leary wore a collarless Asian-style garment in the days of his Hippie influence.

In 1966 the Beatles visited India to study meditation. By the time they returned to Britain, Eastern philosophy and style had permeated the counterculture, especially the Hippies. British designers, keen on expanding the new Age of Fashion, seized the moment and produced variations of their own on a jacket they now labelled as “Nehru,” both to honor the pacifist man and give a Western name to an Asian style. Nonetheless, even though there are photos of John and George wearing Indian-style Nehru jackets around the time of their India trip, it is worth noting that the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album (1967), the first released after their trip, does not depict the Fab Four wearing Nehru jackets. Rather, they are dressed in military-style band uniforms that do have a collarless neckline.

Fashion followers say the popularity of the jacket, which had been on the rise up to the Summer of Love in 1967, took a nosedive after celebrities such as Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Joe Namath began wearing the style on a regular basis, often paired with a turtleneck and beads or a medallion necklace. By that point — around 1968 — jackets, vests, shirts and blouses sporting the Nehru collar were available across the consumer spectrum for men, women and children. The Nehru was doomed to be a fashion fad in the Western world, though it still turns up as hip wear for some popular musicians.

And that is where Mister Boomer’s awareness entered. On a family trip to New York City in 1967, Brother Boomer slipped into a shop in Greenwich Village and emerged with the most beautiful Nehru jacket Mister B has seen to this day. It was jet black with a gold brocade paisley design that was all at once modern and timeless, classy and fashion-forward. When the family returned home, Mister Boomer kept an eye out for a similar garment for himself. The closest he came was a short-sleeve shirt that sported a Nehru collar. It was blue with a gold paisley pattern, but paled in comparison to the masterful garment his brother had procured. Mister Boomer did not get invited to many parties, but does recall that in his earliest high school days, he wore his short-sleeve Nehru to one. Needless to say, he was the only one dressed in that style.

How about it, boomers? Did you wear Nehru-style clothing? If so, was it a fashion statement or a cultural statement?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Pop Culture History and have Comment (1)

Boomers Sang, 1-2-3

Music in which a singer counts numbers didn’t start or end with the Boomer Generation, but Mister Boomer has noticed that there were an abundance of songs in the boomer years that used “1, 2, 3” (or “1, 2, 3, 4”) as an inherent part of a song’s lyrics. Sure there are loads of examples of a band member counting at a song’s beginning to get all the bandmates started at the same time (for example, I Saw Her Standing There by the Beatles comes to mind). And of course, there were the telephone number songs like The Marvelettes’ Beachwood 4-5789, but we’re talking about using number counting within a song.

A case in point is Wilson Pickett’s Land of 1000 Dances (1966). Before Mr. Pickett gives a shout out to a bunch of popular dances, he growls:
1,2,3
(Horns flourish)
1,2,3
Aow! Uh!
Alright! Uh!

Counting is natural to the beat of music, but in this case it also refers to the songs’ content — namely, dance. Here, 1, 2, 3 could just as easily be referring to counting dance steps. A great example of soul expression like this song could have him reciting numbers from a loading dock log and he’d still have us at 1, 2, 3.

In the song 1-2-3, as sung by Len Barry (1965), we see that another reason to count 1, 2, 3 could very well be that a lot of words rhyme with three. We hear here that falling in love is both elementary and easy:
1-2-3, that’s how elementary it’s gonna be
C’mon let’s fall in love, it’s easy (it’s so easy)
Like taking candy (like taking candy) from a baby

The Grass Roots gave us a classic counting song: Let’s Live for Today (1967). The count is situated at the beginning of the refrain. As such, are we to think the songwriter thought another line was needed, but he couldn’t come up with one, so he added the count? Or that the count of “1, 2, 3, 4” marks the passage of time, the ticking of the clock, the reason why we are advised to “live for today?” That’s for you to decide, boomers. What’s interesting to Mister B is that in the first chorus, “1, 2, 3, 4” is sung, but the next two times the refrain is sung, the singer drops the “one” and starts with “two” to sing, “2, 3, 4”:
1-2-3-4
Sha-la-la-la-la-la live for today
Sha-la-la-la-la-la live for today
And don’t worry ’bout tomorrow hey, hey, hey, hey

Oh my! In retrospect as an adult, 1-2-3 Red Light, by the 1910 Fruitgum Company (1968) sounds positively predatory. This song was labelled “bubble gum” at the time, a musical confection so named for its pop beat and sound rather than its subject matter. In this song, the narrator/singer is pleading to his date. He states that when he makes a move, his counterpart flashes the red signal, staying “stop!” Our intrepid singer doesn’t stop there, though, as he tries to to plead his case:
Every time I try to prove I love you
1,2,3 red light
You stop me
Baby you ain’t right to stop me
1,2,3 red light

As we saw in Len Barry’s 1-2-3, the Jackson 5 found love as easy as ABC (1970), which we all know is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Here we may see a very similar sentiment but hear a completely different sound:
A, B, C — it’s easy as 1, 2, 3
As simple as do re mi
A, B, C, 1, 2, 3
Baby, you and me girl

And in Mister Boomer’s estimation, the mother of all counting songs: I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag, the anti-war ditty performed by Country Joe and the Fish live at Woodstock (1969):
And it’s one, two, three
What are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn
Next stop is Vietnam
And it’s five, six, seven
Open up the pearly gates
Well, there ain’t no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we’re all gonna die

What’s your favorite counting song, boomers? Would you care to add to this list?

posted by Mister B in Music,Pop Culture History and have Comment (1)

Boomers Will Take Women’s Names in Beatles’ Songs on the White Album for $200, Alex

Mister Boomer has been a fan of the TV game show, Jeopardy, for several decades, from the time Art Fleming hosted and on to Alex Trebek. However, his schedule doesn’t permit him to watch it much these days. One of the things he always thought would be fun would be to be able to compose a category for the game board. Having given it some thought for years, Mister B knows exactly what he would do, should Alex Trebeck call and give him the chance: his category would be Women’s Names Mentioned on the Beatles’ White Album (1968).

The Beatles sang about various women, both real and fictional, from their very origins and all through their recordings. In the early days they covered popular rock ‘n roll songs that named (Miss) Lizzy, (Long Tall) Sally, Lucille and many others. Then each of their albums named women in their own songs, if not in the titles themselves. There was Anna (Please Please Me, 1963) and Eleanor Rigby (Revolver, 1966); Lucy (in the sky with diamonds, no less; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967), and that French babe, Michelle (Rubber Soul, 1965); Rita (a lovely meter maid; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967) and Loretta (who apparently had better get back; Let It Be, 1970), to name but a few. Yet there was not an album release that held such a preponderance of women’s names in it until The Beatles, aka The White Album.

Astute Beatles mavens on the Internet mention more women’s names on that double album with the white cover than any other Beatles album, so it must be true! That provides plenty of material to compose a Jeopardy category for Mister B, which might go something like this:

Jeopardy Contestant: “I’ll take ‘Women Named on The Beatles White Album’ for $200, Alex.”
Alex Trebeck: “And the answer is, ‘Her name was Magill, she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as …’ ”
Contestant: “Who is Nancy?”
Alex: “Correct! From the song, Rocky Raccoon. You have control of the board.”
Contestant: “Same category for $600, Alex.”
Alex: “And it’s the Daily Double!”
Contestant: “I’ll make it a true Daily Double.”
Alex: “The answer is, ‘She was Mia Farrow’s sister, who was visiting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi the same time as the Fab Four in 1968, where they summoned her to ‘come out to play.’ ”
Contestant: “Who was Julia?”
Alex: “Ooh, I’m sorry, that is incorrect. The answer is ‘Who is Prudence?’ from the song, Dear Prudence. That brings you back to zero. We’ll be right back after these commercial messages.”

Other women named on the album include:

• the aforementioned Julia (Julia)
• Martha (Martha My Dear)
• Sadie (Sexy Sadie)
• Molly (singer of Desmond and Molly Jones fame, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da)
• Honey (Honey Pie, though a term of endearment rather than a direct woman’s name, Mister B liked Honey as a name since he was a fan of Honey West)

In doing research for this post, Mister Boomer found several references to using Beatles songs as inspiration for naming babies. Mister Boomer has to confess that he has never met a Sadie (sexy or otherwise) or even a Prudence. Each era has its own list of popular names, and cultural background plays a large role in naming, too. That is why you see a lot of boomers named Robert, Michael, Lisa and Susan, yet their children received names like Joshua, Jason, Jennifer and Jessica; indeed a person’s decade of birth can often be identified by their name. Yet if the assertion is true, then boomers continued naming their children with names that would have been popular in the boomer era and earlier. How traditional, man!

How about it, boomers? Would you create a Jeopardy category based on any Beatles songs? Do you have any connection to women’s names mentioned on The White Album? Have you, or have you known anyone who used Beatles songs as inspiration in naming their children?

posted by Mister B in Fun,Music,Pop Culture History,TV and have Comments Off on Boomers Will Take Women’s Names in Beatles’ Songs on the White Album for $200, Alex

Boomers Remember Uncle Charley

One morning this week Mister Boomer was heading to work. It looked like, as Paul McCartney might say, “just another day.” But nearing the end of his commute to his office, a ripple altered the wavelength of space-time. A man walked passed Mister B, just as zillions of people pass each other every day. Only this time the first sight of this man stopped Mister B in his tracks. Involuntarily, he found himself half-whispering, “Uncle Charley!”

Now, Mister Boomer does have an Uncle Charlie living in another state, but this man looked nothing like him. Rather, this man was a dead ringer for the actor who played Uncle Charley on My Three Sons — William Demarest!

The brain is a wondrous bowl of gelatinous magic. It stores our boomer memories in neat little rows; oft-needed memories are close at hand, but others, those we rarely access or haven’t thought about in years, reside in the back rooms, like dusty volumes in a library’s stacks. The shock of seeing “Uncle Charley” was like the exact Dewy-decimal card jumping out of long wooden drawers and into his hands. A librarian took the card and, in a flash, visited the stacks, found the volume, blew the dust off the top and spine, and delivered it to Mister B. All that happened in the split second he was suspended in his forward motion at the sight of a man who reminded him of a character who hadn’t been top-of-mind in years. What else could Mister Boomer think of this encounter, other than it was a sign to write about Uncle Charley and My Three Sons?

While Father Knows Best (1954-60), I Love Lucy (1951-57), Leave It to Beaver (1957-63) and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-66) pictured two-parent families, My Three Sons (1960-72) was a sitcom that centered around a widowed man named Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray) who was raising his three sons — Robbie (Don Grady), Mike (Tim Considine) and Chip (Stanley Livingston) with the help of his father-in-law (William Frawley, who boomers will remember as Ed Mertz on I Love Lucy). The show’s single-dad theme (plus precocious kids and a hoot of a character housekeeper/nanny) was later adapted by sitcoms of the late sixties into the ’70s like Petticoat Junction (1963-70), Family Affair (1966-71), Nanny and the Professor (1970-71), The Tony Randall Show (1976-78), and Diff’rent Strokes (1978-86), to name a few.

The show explored the trials and tribulations of single-parenthood from the male perspective. It was a revolutionary idea in 1960 that a man might be able to raise a family without a wife, because a family without women meant chaos. Indeed, with aerodynamics engineer Steve Douglas always away for work, domestic help was needed in the form of Bub O’Casey (William Frawley). When Frawley became seriously ill in 1965, his character was replaced by the brother of Frawley’s character, “Uncle Charley O’Casey” (William Demarest). Stereotypical portrayals of clumsy men working the domestic arena formed a foundation of My Three Sons humor.

Charley was a retired sea captain, a crusty curmudgeon with a heart of gold. Demarest looked every bit the part of a salty dog with his rough exterior. It was the type of role he was used to playing in his career. Demarest started out in Vaudeville and appeared in some of the very first talking films. He appeared in more than 100 films, including The Jazz Singer (1927) and also The Jolsen Story (1946), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.

In My Three Sons, Uncle Charley could be the font of wisdom on occasion, but mostly he was comic relief. He was the guy pictured ironing shirts while wearing a frilly apron, or cooking a meal like he was still onboard a ship. His movie-tough guy delivery and school-of-hard-knocks mannerisms made him the perfect cap in an all-male household.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbdtnSDAHk8ss

The series underwent several cast changes in its 12-year run. The first was Demarest replacing William Frawley. The show sent Frawley packing by having his character head back to Ireland. Next, Tim Considine, who had been a child actor with Disney, decided he wanted more time to act in films, pursue his love of auto racing and he also wanted to try his hand at directing. The show’s producers wouldn’t accommodate him, so he left in 1965. The series explained his absence by having his character, Mike, get married and move away. His character married his fiancee Sally (Meredith MacCrae, who went on to join the cast of Petticoat Junction).

After Mike moved away, the show was in need of a third son. They found the character in the guise of Ernie, who already regularly appeared on the show. The storyline had Ernie as a next-door neighbor and Chip’s classmate. Ernie was a foster child, but his foster parents were transferred to a job out of the country, so Steve Douglas adopted Ernie and he became the new third son. In real life, Barry Livingston (Ernie) was Stanley Livingston’s (Chip) brother.

In 1967 Robbie (Don Grady) married his girlfriend Katie (Tina Cole) who had previously been written into several episodes, then in 1969 dad Steve (Fred MacMurray) remarried, taking widow Barbara Harper Douglas (Beverly Garland) as his bride. Mister B has read that, ten seasons into its run by then, a lot of people thought the show jumped the shark when good old dad remarried.

Mister Boomer can recall and recite lines from many sitcoms of the 1960s. However, My Three Sons is not one of them. His family did watch it on their black & white TV, but Mister B doesn’t remember much at all about that show other than the great cartoon-sneaker opening and recognizable theme song. That is what made it so remarkable that a visualization of “Uncle Charley” should rocket the memory of a character from a show that aired fifty years ago into his consciousness.

How about you, boomers? Do you recall Uncle Charley and My Three Sons?

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