Boomers Didn’t Know the ABCs of SPF

It’s summertime. While the living may or may not be easy in your neck of the woods, if you spend much time in the sun, it is advisable to wear sunscreen protection. That wasn’t a major concern in our boomer years. Back then, the main objective was to limit sunburn, especially in children. The degree to which your mother applied any sunscreen product was probably proportionate to how susceptible you were to getting badly sunburned. However, there was a parallel course of action being followed by teens and adults, and that was purposely accelerating the sun’s effects to get tanned instead of actively fighting the effects of the sun’s rays.

The pendulum of beauty has swung back and forth through the centuries when it comes to the color of summer skin. Pale skin was prized in many cultures as a symbol of class and status; it meant you were not a laborer toiling in the hot sun. Forms of sunscreen using zinc oxide and titanium oxide were used in the 1920s and ’30s to block the sun’s rays and UV radiation, while at the same time fashion icon Coco Chanel was extolling the aesthetic virtue of bronzed skin. By the late 1950s, when boomers were coming of age, the pendulum was on the side of tanning. Despite scientific knowledge of the effects of the sun’s radiation for decades, these effects were not widely known by the general public.

Sunscreen was not a new invention during the boomer years. Some form of sun protection was used as far back as recorded history. The ancient Egyptians used a paste made of plants, grains and herbs, while the ancient Greeks tried olive oil. Flash forward a few millennia and you’ve got boomers on beaches slathering on baby oil. Yikes! Somehow the words “oil” and “heat” don’t add up to anything good. To confuse matters more, there were three basic types of out-in-the-sun products: tanning lotion or oil; sunblock; and sunscreen. Together they ran the gamut from little-to-no sun protection to the best available sun protection for the time.

Two of the the most popular brands of products sold during the boomer years were from Coppertone and Bain de Soleil. Both companies got their original formulation from a Navy airman who created his substance in 1944 to protect soldiers fighting in the hot sun of the Pacific during World War II. Nonetheless, Bain de Soleil actually began selling its “orange gelĂ©e” in Paris in the mid-1920s, building a business on the first-adopters of wealthy Europeans and celebrities visiting the beaches of the French Riviera.

The Coppertone Company officially came into being in 1951, adapting the original formula to be perfectly poised to take advantage of the burgeoning baby boom. The iconic image of the puppy pulling on the little girl’s swimsuit bottom to reveal her untanned skin first appeared in 1953.

Bain de Soleil brand began selling a product line in the U.S. after the War. Ownership of both companies changed hands multiple times through the years, but as of 2014, both brands are owned and marketed by the Bayer Corporation.

One thing that was invented during the boomer years was the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) system. It was developed in 1962 and appeared on some products, like Bain de Soleil, by 1964. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) adopted sunscreen labeling standards in 1978, using SPF as a way for consumers to know a specific measure of how much of the sun’s radiation was reaching their skin. An SPF of 20 indicated that fractional amount (1/20) of the sun’s UVB burning radiation reaching the skin. In boomer years, SPF products were available labeled from 5 to 20. In the 1990s, the range increased to 15 to 50+. The FDA guidelines of 2012 proposed 50 as the upper limit since there is little evidence that higher SPF numbers equate to more protection. Currently, both the U.S. and Europe suggest using a sunscreen labeled as broad-spectrum for protection against both UVA (“a” as in skin aging) and UVB (“b” as in burning).

How about you, boomers? Did you use tanning oil (or baby oil), sunblock or sunscreen on your family picnics, vacations and beach outings?

Boomers Had Their Sights Set on the Moon

It was February of 1967, and the Space Race was on in earnest. The Soviets had beat the U.S. in launching the first satellite into orbit (1947), the first man into space (1961), the first woman into space (1963), and the first to soft-land an unmanned craft on the moon that transmitted photos of the lunar surface back to Earth (1966). The U.S. had all their hopes to catch up in a hurry entwined with NASA’s manned mission to the moon. The decade was moving on, and the next steps by NASA were critical to fulfilling President John Kennedy’s 1961 challenge of sending men to the moon and back before the end of the decade.

NASA was in the middle of sending five planned missions to photograph the entirety of the moon’s surface. The goal of the first three, the first of which was launched in 1966, was to scout for safe landing sites for the upcoming Apollo missions. In February of 1967, Lunar Orbiter 3 was launched. The final two explored scientific observational objectives, and flew polar orbits.

Since photos taken by the spacecraft were to be analyzed for potential landing sites, cameras equipped with sufficient resolution needed to be installed. Another engineering hurdle to overcome was a method to compensate for the speed of the spacecraft while taking the photos. Lunar Orbiter 3 was equipped with a medium resolution lens (80mm) and a high-resolution lens (610mm).

From February 15 to February 23, photo data was acquired according to a programmed automatic sequence and imaged onto 70 mm film. There was no viable digital photography technology in 1967. As a result, the spacecraft was outfitted with automatic film development. The processed film was then optically scanned and transmitted back to Earth as a video signal. On Earth, the signal was captured and fed into what was termed ground reconstruction equipment (GRE), which reassembled the signal data onto 35mm film positive subframes. Each photo required 26 individual subframes to produce a complete photograph, and 86 subframes for higher resolution images. The combined subframes produced a 20 x 24 inch format, from which contact negatives were made.

The spacecraft’s primary mission was deemed successful, despite the film advance mechanism’s spotty performance throughout the duration. However, the process functioned well enough until March 4, when the film advance motor burned out. Approximately 25% of the captured data was left unprocessed. All in all, the mission produced 149 medium resolution images and 477 high resolution images. The excellent quality of the images allowed for resolution down to one meter, an amazing feat considering they were taken from orbit. Combined with the photos from the first two Orbiters, 99% of the moon’s surface had been photographed. NASA chose eight preliminary landing sites, including the Sea of Tranquility site where Apollo 11 would land in 1969.

Lunar Orbiter 3 was also collecting data on the lunar gravitational field, radiation intensity and micrometeoroid impacts. For this task, the craft was positioned in a near equatorial orbit. The photographic data was to confirm the previous search data for possible site landings by Lunar Orbiter 1 and 2. The additional data from Lunar Orbiter 3 was vital to the planning of the manned Apollo missions set to begin two years from that point.

It continued to gather lunar data orbiting the moon. In August of 1967, NASA ground control sent the spacecraft into a circular orbit to simulate the trajectory of an Apollo spacecraft. It crashed into the lunar surface, as planned, on October 9, 1967. Each of the orbiters were designed to crash into the lunar surface so future missions would not have navigational or communication hazards to manage on their approach to the surface.

Mister Boomer, like most boomers, watched every single manned mission launch with great interest. However, interim unmanned missions were not given the same TV and press fanfare. These particular missions, though crucial for future moon landings, went under the radar for Mister B, until he researched them now.

How about you, boomers? Did you follow the preparatory unmanned missions by NASA in the 1960s?