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?

 

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?