Boomers Smelt It

Mister Boomer lives in one of the 21 states that has legalized the recreational use of marijuana. The purpose of this site is to inform and remind our boomer generation of how we fit into — and helped shape — the historical and cultural happenings of our boomer years. Under that umbrella, certainly marijuana, and all its social and legal implications, was a part of the boomer era.

Boomers knew it as weed, grass, pot, reefer, joints, mary jane, ganga, and a host of other semantic euphemisms. Be that as it may, the bee in Mister Boomer’s bonnet today is all about the terrible odor of today’s cannabis (the current cleaned-up naming of marijuana) as opposed to that of the stuff from the 1960s and ’70s. Let’s face it, weed stunk then — why else would kids have opened windows, sprayed air freshener and lit candles in an effort to hide their smoky transgressions? But, today’s smell is beyond awful.

Now, Mister B may have been accused of being a joker from time to time, but he was never a smoker or a midnight toker. So in full disclosure, he is coming at this situation as a non-user then and now. Still, as it turns out, his nose is correct; there are scientific studies to back up his observation that the smell emanating from anyone smoking today’s cannabis is much more odoriferous than that of the weed from the 1960s. This smell is directly related to the potency, according to Mister B’s research.

A study done in Colorado (the first state to legalize cannabis) discovered that the content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in today’s buds is up to three times more potent than what was present three to four decades ago, and the National Institute of Health seems to back up the numbers. Other studies have added that this increased potency is due to better control of the growing process combined with consumer demand for a Rocky-Mountain high, in Colorado and beyond. In the 1960s, the primary growing source of weed consumed in the U.S. was Colombia. Boomers will also recall Mexico as a source, or some recall home-grown or California sources. Today the crops are locally grown in the states in which it is sold, since technically, cannabis remains an illegal substance on a national level, and therefore cannot be legally shipped across state lines. The industry is now applying science and technology to cannabis growing and harvesting as it has with other consumer crops.

Meanwhile, back to the smell. Mister B lives in New York City. He has observed, on a daily basis, that there is no space safe from that smell. People walk down the street smoking joints, yes, but more often the younger set is vaping cannabis oil. Still, the smell is there. Enter a subway car or an elevator and it is immediately evident that one or more people have just had a few hits. Co-workers, store employees, on-the-street messengers, and especially people on their lunch hour, are now partaking freely without fear of arrest, and, evidently, without any concern for the smoke or smell in their wake.

Mister Boomer always had an aversion to smoke in any form — even the swirls wafting off a charcoal grill is not a tempting aroma to him. This frustrated some of his friends who had “fallen under the spell of the deadly scourge” of our youth. Consequently, he had friends who would try to tempt him with edible versions of their homemade brownies, but it was not in Mr. B’s wheelhouse. If that makes Mister B a real L-7, so be it, as long as the smoke does not enter Squaresville.

As a parent and/or grandparent, how do you feel about the odor of marijuana smoke in your home or business, boomers? Did you yourself partake then or now?

Boomers (Mostly) Had One TV

The Boomer Generation is synonymous with the TV Generation. Television came into its own after the war, and boomers had a front row seat to its evolution. Throughout the boomer era and into the early 2000s, the sales of television sets continued to climb higher every year. A good part of those sales in the past three decades can be attributed to the purchase of additional TV sets for a single home. However, since the early 2010s, the reverse is true; less TVs are being sold compared to each previous year. The reason is obvious as streaming on other devices grabs a younger generation. Many younger people look at TV in the same way they might a cassette tape.

Let’s recap our shared TV history and see how we got here. Television has been around in practical terms since the mid-1930s, but the number of homes owning a TV was relatively small. In fact, by 1945, only 10,000 TV sets were purchased for home use in the United States. Yet, at the dawn of the Boomer Generation, things were about to change.

Development on TV technology was delayed during the war years as materials and factories were dedicated to the war effort. Now, after the war, it was full steam ahead for innovation and especially, manufacturing capabilities. These advancements helped greatly in selling TVs in a number of ways, perhaps the most important being a dramatic drop in price. A TV could cost upward of $500 before 1949, which was equivalent to a month or more salary for the average worker. In one year alone — between 1949 and 1950 — the price of a TV was cut by half or more. As a result, by 1950, nine percent of U.S. households owned a television. Ten years later, in 1960, that number jumped to 90 percent.

Westinghouse TV commercial, 1956:

Still, Mister Boomer wondered about the phenomena of families owning more than one TV. Mister B did not know anyone who had more than one. As such, TV watching was a family affair, much as radio listening was in the previous decades. In Mister B’s research, he discovered that some households did begin to own more than one TV as far back as the 1950s. From Mister Boomer’s point of view, these households probably had not only a higher income level, but houses that could accommodate an extra TV.

In Mister B’s estimation, there would be only two practical places for a second TV: a family room or a basement rec room. Mister Boomer only knew one person who had both a living room and a family room, and in that family’s case, their one TV was in the family room. Mister B did know several people who had finished basements, but in that era, most were described as rec rooms. They were intended for recreation, so they might have a ping pong table or all-purpose folding table where jigsaw puzzles could be assembled, card or board games played, and the like. No one Mister B knew had a TV in their basement. Boomers will recall that TV reception in a lower level was also a challenge. An extra antenna wire would be necessary to run outside the house to the antenna on the roof, and even then, rabbit ears on top of the TV set with molded wads of aluminum foil attached would certainly be a possibility.

What about the bedroom, you say? The idea that a bedroom is a sanctuary, a place to relax and unwind, is a relatively new one. In the boomer era, bedrooms were for sleeping. Boomers themselves often had desks to do homework in their rooms, however, Mister Boomer knew no one who had a second TV in their bedroom.

There is another consideration about bedrooms and second TVs that relates entirely to the evolution of TV and the Boomer Generation, and that is, late night TV. The Tonight Show first aired in 1952, initially with Steve Allen, then with Jack Paar as hosts. This may have contributed to the eight percent of U.S. households owning a second TV by 1959. Johnny Carson took over hosting duties in 1962, and by the mid-60s, color TVs began replacing black-and-white models. Johnny Carson joked about being in people’s bedrooms, so there was probably a correlation to late night TV that may have influenced buying habits.

In Mister Boomer’s experience, it was the early 1970s before he heard of anyone having more than one TV. Today it is reported that the average American household has four TVs. That number continues to drop as younger people, unaccustomed to TV viewing in the same manner boomers did, start families of their own.

How about you, boomers? When did your family first get a second TV? Did you ever have a TV in your own room before attending college?