Boomers Waited for the Holiday Season

In our current on-demand world, it appears the powers-that-be want to run events and holidays running into and overlapping one after the other, like sport team seasons converging in the inevitable playoffs. Take our current calendar season. As of this writing, the calendar says it is Halloween. Yet the store aisles are filled with Christmas decorations and holiday supplies, and TV is airing Christmas gifting ads … and they have been for weeks!

This isn’t entirely a recent phenomena. Boomers grew up knowing they weren’t going to be able to buy a swimsuit in August, or a winter coat in March — other than picked-over clearance merchandise. Yet things are different now. There is a dwindling recognition of season, and no sense of anticipation. You want breakfast at 3 pm, no problem! Need a new car by tomorrow? It can be in your driveway tomorrow, without ever going to a dealership. In the boomer years, anticipation was part of what made holidays and events what they were. (See: Boomers Learned to Wait)

Halloween used to be a one-day event. Now it’s a month-long, $10.5 billion dollar industry, according to the National Retail Federation. Christmas season didn’t begin until Thanksgiving dinner was over. Black Friday was hardly the madhouse it became in post-boomer years; stores opened at their regular time. Now it’s all shopping, all the time …. online. Fortunately, some retailers have seen the error of their ways and will close their stores for Thanksgiving this year, claiming they value their employees and want them to spend holiday time with their families. Of course, the real reason they will close is they can make more money with less overhead by pushing online purchases.

If Mister B is sounding a little cynical and curmudgeonly, and you’re ready to tell him “OK, boomer,” well, that’s fine with him. Boomers have lived six to seven decades now, and have the advantage of seeing how different things were to what they have become. Mister B, for one, enjoyed holidays as they arrived in the little boxes of a calendar, anticipating each day by day, and enjoying them to their fullest when they arrived. Only then could he and other boomers think about what came next. As each calendar page turned, seasons changed, and holidays would appear on the horizon. Anticipation made it special. Living in the present made it the best. How will today’s kids remember the Halloween of 2022? Or the Thanksgiving? Or the Christmas? And will they have to refer to some online archive of snapshots and videos to tell them what actually happened?

How about you, boomers? Do you care if Christmas ads play constantly on your TV in October?

Boomers Disturb the Seasonal Peace

Mister Boomer is feeling rather curmudgeonly these days, and the reason is simple: everywhere you turn these days — even watching TV commercials — you’re told in no uncertain terms that “summer is coming to a close.” This is not good news for Mister B. Summer is by far his favorite time of the year. “Oh, but fall has such pretty colors,” you might say. In Mister Boomer’s eyes, summer is the introvert, exuding a subtle yet confident calm in a range of greens and blues, while fall is the extrovert, shouting “look at me!” in attention-grabbing yellows, oranges and reds. Don’t those showy leaves know this is their last hurrah? “Oh, but fall has such cool temperatures,” you may say. Mister Boomer responds that is exactly what makes it less desirable. In every depiction of paradise recorded in Western Civilization, occupants are not wearing sweaters (or parkas, for that matter). In fact, the climate seemed so temperate in Paradise that the main mode of dress appeared to be a fig leaf. Ergo, paradise equals warmer temperatures.

Yet colors and temperatures of the impending seasonal change are the least of it. The real issue is leaf blowers. These abominations appeared for public consumption in post-boomer years. The first leaf blowers were gas-powered backpack systems that originated from garden foggers for pesticides in the late 1940s. In the 1950s, professional landscapers had a walk-behind leaf blower available for use on large properties. It wasn’t until 1978 when the first hand-held leaf blower made its way into the consumer market.

Mister Boomer remembers a time not so long ago when people didn’t feel the need to pierce the neighborhood stillness with the shriek of a leaf blower engine. He remembers a time when clouds of oil-filled smoke didn’t surround the operator of a gas-powered leaf blower. He remembers a time when there where these things called rakes. In other words, Mister B does not see a reason for homeowners to have a leaf blower, any more than parking an anti-aircraft missile launcher in the driveway. There may be a professional purpose to these things, but not for home use.

Noise and air pollution caused by leaf blowers has been a recognized problem almost from their inception. Professional operators of these garden implements must wear hearing protection for their own safety, and steps are being made, with both battery-powered electric and gas-powered models, to reduce their environmental impact. Yet the question remains of why an average homeowner with a couple of hundred feet of property at best needs this equipment.

Go back 40 or 50 years, and most boomers had not heard a leaf blower in their neighborhood. Rakes were a hand-powered garden tool, made of metal or wood. The best rakes for collecting leaves had flexible prongs that fanned out from the wooden handle about three-quarters of the way down the shaft. Rakes were most often utilized by children under the age of sixteen. In Mister Boomer’s neighborhood, it was the kids in the family who raked the leaves. Every child in every house had “chores,” in every season, including leaf collection. By the age of sixteen, kids had part-time jobs and a car, so the leaf raking fell to the younger siblings, both boys and girls. Some enterprising boomers made a dollar by raking the leaves of their neighbors, especially seniors without children at home to handle the job.

Raking leaves was more than a chore, however. By combining raked leaves from more than one household, a large pile in a grassy area near the street, or in the street itself, provided opportunities for jumping and playing. The kids saw that a pile could cushion a rolling leap in much the same way as ball pits operate for kids today. Leaves could be tossed in the air, at other boomers, or stuffed into jacket backs in a tag-like game. After a play session, leaves could often need re-raking and collecting.

In Mister Boomer’s neck of the woods in the 1950s, leaves were raked into piles in the street at curbside, where they were lit on fire and burned to ash. By the very early 1960s, his city and a host of others banned the process, deciding it wasn’t a good idea to have prepubescent boomers playing with matches, and of course, air pollution awareness was increasing at the same time.

Still, we are faced with an impending change in the air. As the Byrds told us, “… to every season turn, turn, turn …” We as boomers are facing each day with news of how time is passing. In recent weeks, additional people of note to boomers have passed on, including actor Ed Asner, Dusty Hill of ZZ Top, TV weatherman Willard Scott, swamp pop drummer Warren Storm (The Shondells, before Tommy James) and Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, to name a few.

Summer is coming to an end, boomers. Do you want to spend your autumn years surrounded by the noise and air pollution of “convenience” gadgets? Or, like the leaves on the trees, shouting to the sky in a burst of expression?