Boomers Remember When Memorization Was Important

There have been many scenarios cited about the seemingly lack of memory exhibited by Millennials and Gen-Xers — whether they were made up as jokes or actual occurrences. The scenarios go something along the lines of the younger person stating: “I don’t need to remember things; that’s what the internet is for.” To boomers that can be a frightening prospect, especially when paying with cash in a store, and the cashier does not understand how to give change. The initial boomer thoughts might be that therein lie deep generational differences. Mister Boomer has had these thoughts from time to time, but decided a deeper exploration of how and what boomers memorized compared to what is necessary memorization for today’s generations might be interesting.

In Mister Boomer’s anecdotal survey among his boomer friends and acquaintances about memorization, something came up again and again: home address and phone number. By the time boomers were heading to kindergarten, the need to know one’s home address and phone number was stressed whenever possible. As a result, many of those same boomers say that even now, 50-70 years after the fact, they can recite the address and phone number where they lived in their earliest days of school.

Once boomers began elementary school, the need for memorization increased dramatically, to the point that the line between memorization and learning were intertwined. Numbers and the alphabet had been firmly engrained in our brains, so the next thing many boomers recall in this stage of their memorization development was learning addition, subtraction, multiplication and division tables. For that purpose, boomers had flash cards. Some went through the cards on their own, others had parents drill them daily, while others still went through the cards with friends or brothers and sisters.

There are many theories on how memory works, but most researchers agree that there are different levels of brain processing for short-term and long-term memories. Likewise, psychologists say memorization isn’t something that happens in one moment, but rather, is a process for the brain. However, throughout the decades researchers and educators have come upon techniques that work in helping people remember things. Two of these techniques that were vitally important for young boomers were repetition and writing.

As boomers saw with home addresses and phone numbers, and then flash cards, repetition is a proven way to assist in creating long-term memories. Many boomers will recall in high school and college, reading and rereading passages of text books helped them to first digest and understand the material, then to retain it.

Another interesting technique that boomers used for assisting memorization was writing things down by hand. There is something about that connection between the hand and the brain that assists the memorization process. Certainly boomers recall writing down their phone number again and again, and continuing with writing, by hand, notes in classes all through their high school and college days. Coupled with repetition, the hand-written process was a key to boomer memorization and learning.

Some researchers point to how the brain often remembers things by associating a memory with another sensory experience. Almost every boomer can tell you where they were and what they were doing when JFK was assassinated, or when Neil Armstrong stepped on the surface of the moon.

So how have our generations changed? Many boomers recall that they were prohibited from using calculators, when they were available, until the 1970s. Tables, charts, slide rules and memory were necessary in math, engineering and science classes. Today, everyone carries a personal computer in their pocket. Answers to practically any question are a few seconds away, as long as there is a viable internet connection. Is that better than the methods that boomers experienced, or just different?

For Mister Boomer to draw his own conclusions, he went back to memories he had of stories told by his grandparents and oldest aunts and uncles. Boomers were in most cases the last generation who actually spoke with people who were born in the 1800s. What was necessary to memorize in the late 19th century was quite different than what was necessary in the mid-20th century. Mister Boomer’s grandfather delivered goods by horse and carriage into the early 1920s, before the automobile took over. As such, the memory of what was necessary to care for a horse, as well as link a horse to a carriage and drive it, became completely unnecessary a decade later. How many boomers ever held a buggy whip, let alone know how to use it? Is what is happening now in the 21st century similar to the shift in culture that happened as the 19th century became the 20th?

How about you, boomers? Do you remember the address and phone number from where you lived when you were in kindergarten? Did memorization of your earlier days play an important role in the adult life you led up to now?

Boomers Listened To Future Classics in 1963

Mister Boomer has mentioned many times what he has dubbed, Morning Jukebox Syndrome; that “affliction” characterized by waking up with a song playing in your head as if you were listening to a radio station. Mister Boomer has since discovered other boomers have experienced this phenomenon, including his brother. What is most fascinating about it is the songs that pop up are often ones that have not been heard in decades.

This past week, Brother Boomer told Mister B he had an MJS experience with a song that stayed with him from morning into the evening. He did not remember which group recorded the song, and ultimately looked it up: it was Then He Kissed Me by The Crystals (1963). Being curious of nature, Mister B wondered what other songs boomers were listening to in 1963. What he found was surprising in its scope, and amazing to think about how many classic songs were on boomer transistor radios before the Beatles hit the airwaves. Here is a sample of some of them:

Girl Groups Had Quite A Year
1963 was a big year for girl groups. Check out a partial list of popular girl group songs and surely it will jog a few memories.
My Boyfriend’s Back by The Angels
Be My Baby by The Ronettes
Tell Him by The Exciters
Foolish Little Girl by The Shirelles
He’s So Fine by The Chiffons

Folk Was in the House
Folk music mixed right in with popular music of the day.
Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter, Paul & Mary
Blowin’ In the Wind by Bob Dylan (also released by Peter, Paul & Mary that year)
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right by Bob Dylan
Walk Right In by The Rooftop Singers

Motown Was Moving’ On Up
Founded as Tamla Records, Motown became the company name in 1960. In 1963, several of its artists frequented the charts.
Fingertips, Part 2 by Little Stevie Wonder
You’ve Really Got A Hold on Me by The Miracles
Pride and Joy by Marvin Gaye

Young Girls Making Hits
It was quite a year for Lesley Gore, but there were also other solo girl artists under the age of 18 who made it big.
It’s My Party by Leslie Gore
She’s the Fool by Leslie Gore
It’s Judy’s Turn to Cry by Leslie Gore
I Will Follow Him by Little Peggy March
Losing You by Brenda Lee

Crooners Were Crooning
Love songs released by new names and established artists were heard in 1963.
Can’t Get Used To Losing You by Andy Williams
Go Away Little Girl by Steve Lawrence
Blue Velvet by Bobby Vinton

Novelty Songs Hit the Airwaves
Unique, often one-hit-wonders made the cut.
Martian Hop by The Ran-Dells
Dominique by The Singing Nun
Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh by Alan Sherman

The Four Seasons Were Going Strong
The group had two Top 50 hits in 1963.
Walk Like A Man by The Four Seasons
Candy Girl by The Four Seasons

Surfing the USA
Surf music was part of the boomer listening lists of 1963.
Wipe Out by The Surfaris
Surfin’ USA by The Beach Boys
Surf City by Jan & Dean

But Wait .. There’s More!
The list of classics from 1963 goes on and on.
Louie Louie by The Kingsmen
Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilbert and the Fireballs
So Much In Love by The Tymes
Easier Said Than Done by The Exciters
I’m Leaving It Up to You by Dale & Grace
Sukiyaki by Kya Sakamoto

… and more. It’s remarkable that now, 60 years later, we still recall these songs with nostalgia and affection. What are your favorites from 1963, boomers?