Boomers Wrote — and Received — Letters

You’ve heard it before: “Writing letters is a lost art.” Boomers understand that statement because In the heyday of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, letter writing was a common part of everyday life. Boomers wrote letters — usually by hand — to grandparents, aunt and uncles in other states; friends who moved away; as soldiers and to soldiers; from vacation postcards to Christmas year-end news; and more. This ubiquity is evidenced by music of the era, which referenced sending and receiving letters.

I’m Gonna To Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter
Every now and then a song comes along that is so popular it is covered by numerous artists over multiple decades. In this case, the song was first popularized by Fats Waller in 1935. There were rock treatments and jazz treatments galore in the following decades, including during the boomer years, by Frank Sinatra (1954); Billy Williams (1957); Bing Crosby (1957); Bill Haley and his Comets (1957); Nat King Cole (1964) and a host of others.

Return to Sender — Elvis, 1962
Boomers fully understand the lyrics of this song, especially …

She wrote upon it:
Return to sender, address unknown
No such number, no such zone.

People who received a letter by mistake would often write on it, to tell the postman the reason — no such person at this address, return to sender, etc. It would be left in the mailbox for the postman to retrieve. The post office would then ink it with a “return to sender” stamp. Early-generation boomers also recall that postal zones were the forerunner to Zip Codes, which weren’t introduced until 1963, but weren’t widely adopted until 1967.

Mr. Lonely — Bobby Vinton, 1962
Bobby Vinton got the idea for this song about a homesick and lonely soldier while he was in the Army in the late 1950s.

Letters, never a letter
I get no letters in the mail

All My Loving — The Beatles, 1963
This song by Paul McCartney shows that lovesick boomers relied on the mail to stay in touch when they were away.

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you
Tomorrow I’ll miss you
Remember I’ll always be true
And then while I’m away
I’ll write home every day
And I’ll send all my lovin’ to you

Please Mr. Postman — The Marvelettes, 1961
An absolute necessity in any exploration of letter songs, this one illustrates the anticipation and frustration of waiting for a letter that does not arrive. It was Motown’s first number one hit, and the only number one hit for The Marvelettes.

Please Mr. Postman, look and see
Is there a letter in your bag for me?
‘Cause it’s been a mighty long time
Since I heard from this boyfriend of mine

The Letter — The Box Tops, 1967
A quintessential “letter” song, Alex Chilton sang:

Lonely days are gone, I’m a-going home
My baby, wrote me a letter

Boomers know what effect a hand-written letter could have, especially if it was welcome news.

How about you, boomers? Have your letter-writing days been replaced by social media, direct messaging and email?

Boomers Looked to the Future on TV

If you are a fan of boomer-era TV trivia (and who isn’t?), you may or may not be aware of an esoteric tidbit that directly coincides with this date in history. The Jetsons (1962-63), the animated TV series, was set in a future 100 years from the time the series was aired, which would mean it took place in 2062. In the series, George Jetson, the family father figure, was named as a 40 year-old man. Subtract 40 years from 2062 and 2022 surfaces as the year of George Jetson’s birth. Somehow, someone got to July 31 from there. Where the exact month and date came from is left to speculation.

Mister Boomer has written previously about The Jetsons, as it was a family favorite in his household. In the past month, while Mister B was flipping through the channels, he found an episode of The Jetsons airing, so he invested a half hour to watch it. The episode was the one where George’s daughter, Judy, enters a songwriting contest. The winner of the contest will get a date with a famous rock star, Jet Screamer. George, wanting to keep his daughter away from any rock & roller, tries to sabotage Judy’s entry by substituting some words with his son Elroy’s secret code. In true sitcom fashion, of course, Judy’s altered song wins. George follows Judy on her date with Jet Screamer, and sneaks into that night’s concert by picking up equipment and walking behind the back-up band. Ultimately, George gets on-stage behind a futuristic drum set to better watch Jet and Judy, only to be discovered. The tables get turned when George is then put in the spotlight as the father of the winning songwriter, who will start the song off with a drum solo. With the spotlight on George, he launches into his solo lead-in to the song, Eeep! Opp! Ork! Ah-Ah! It turns out George is a regular Buddy Rich on the drums, a swingin’ 40 year-old daddy-o. It’s worth checking out, boomers.

Speaking of age, Mister Boomer recalls right around the time that The Jetsons was being broadcast, a teacher in one of his classes asked the students to do the math to see how old they would be in the year 2000. Then, she asked them to imagine what their life would be like when they were 40 years old. Mister Boomer recalls it was a frightening proposition since 40 seemed so old! The future envisioned throughout our boomer years did come to pass in many ways (though we have no flying cars yet), but the thought of thinking forward around 30 years was almost too much to bear.

In terms of The Jetsons, once the space-age marvels are eliminated, the characters acted pretty much the same as people did in the 1960s. In The Jetsons example just mentioned, George was anti-rock & roll until he got his 15 minutes of rock stardom. It seems that somehow, we can envision technological marvels, but human evolution is much harder to predict. Star Trek may be the only TV show that looked to a future when poverty, war and disease were in the past.

As we boomers age, it’s fun to remember the way we were 40, 50 or 60 years ago. Yet it’s more than a little frightening to think forward and wonder what our lives will be like 20, 30 or 40 years from now. Maybe a young Mister B was right to be wary 60 years ago. Happy Birthday, George!

How about you, boomers? Did you ever imagine your life in the year 2022?