Spring Cleaning for Boomer Youth

The annual ritual known as spring cleaning seems to wane in popularity with each passing year. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that time is so much more structured in the average family than it was in the 1950s and 60s. Another big consideration is that when we boomers were growing up, the vast majority of our mothers stayed at home. Yet even though they stayed at home, they were modern women who were most definitely interested in any technology or product that would lessen the drudgery of house work. They were not about to do things the way their mothers had to.

For the Mister Boomer house, spring cleaning fell into three main categories: personal space, seasonal replacements and seldom-performed household tasks. Mister B’s mom, the acting general in the spring cleaning attack, would request each child to “clean” their own closet. This amounted to, for the most part, removing the piles of toys in the bottom of the closet, cleaning the dust bunnies that had taken up residence, and carefully selecting toys that had been outgrown and relegating them to the storage areas of the basement. Rearranging the toys to place back completed the bottom half of the closet cleaning. Of course for some, like Mister B’s brother, the piles that went back in looked a lot like the piles that started.

The second part of the annual closet cleaning was connected to seasonal replacements. Each spring, fall and winter clothes in the closets were gathered and moved en masse to a chifforobe in the basement. From the basement storage, spring and summer ensembles, smelling of moth balls, were resurrected and, like spring itself, renewed for another year in the light of the season.

The family hall closet got the same treatment. Each family member removed and stored the winter coats, scarves, hats and gloves and replaced them with the lighter-weight outerwear needed for spring weather.

Sometimes, Mister B’s mom would want to kick it up a notch and clean the walls in the bedrooms and living room. The kids hated that job, but, armed with old rags and buckets filled with warm water and sudsy Mr. Clean or Spic ‘N Span, they’d dutifully wipe the walls, climbing on chairs to reach up to the ceiling.

Cleaning the venetian blinds were another spring chore. Having the oldest child assist in removing them from each room, the blinds were set out on the backyard grass. There, Mister B and his brother would train the garden hose on the horizontal slats, power washing the winter’s dust from the white aluminum. Next they’d drape the blinds over the backyard clotheslines to dry in the sun, while Mister B’s mom took a brush and soapy water to any tough remaining spots. When things weren’t coming clean, she’d fill an aluminum tub with soapy water and dunk the blinds, letting each soak a few minutes so the modern cleaning technology could do its work.

With the product reaching the maturity of nearly ten years old, Mr. Clean got a “new formulation” in 1960 that made “him” tougher than ever on dirt.


Marketers, ever tapped into popular culture, never missed a trick to tie their product into popular movie and TV shows of the time. When this commercial was released, the James Bond series had hit the silver screen while The Man from U.N.C.L.E. appeared on TV.

The final spring cleaning ritual was delegated to Mister Boomer and Brother Boomer; it involved the outdoor storm windows. The boys retrieved window screens from the basement and brought them to the backyard, where a quick hose-down removed any remaining dirt from the previous year. Then, Brother Boomer, as the eldest, got on the family’s six-foot ladder outside each window as Mister B took up position on the inside. Sliding each storm window up the aluminum slats until reaching the opening where it could be removed, the boys took down the heavy glass storm windows and replaced them with the summer screens.

Completing the window-to-screen task, a simple twist of threaded screws on the aluminum frame of the front door was all that was needed to removed the door glass, and quick as a wink, it was transformed from storm door to screen door.

What spring cleaning tasks were you required to do as youngsters, boomers?

Going Batty for Spring

It was mid-March of 1962 when Mister Boomer and two of his neighborhood friends decided to try out for Little League Baseball. All the leaves were still brown, and the sky was gray on the day they would be tested. It looked like a November day rather than March, but that’s the thing about winter in the Midwest: it’s never over ’til it’s over. A crisp wind blew across the boys’ faces as they piloted their bikes to the try-out location.

There was already a big crowd of boys behind the backstop as they parked their bikes and went to the sign-up sheet. With coats, zipped high and fingers gloved, they waited until their turn at fielding and batting. Mister Boomer hated the idea of trying to play baseball in the cold. He’d have to remove his gloves to slip on the baseball mitt, and he knew one line drive in the pocket could send a frigid tingle up the arm. Batting was even worse. Each crack would sting his hands like the jolt of a live electrical wire. Nonetheless, he was determined to do his best.

After fielding — and flubbing — a few fly balls, line drives and grounders, Mister B was sent to the plate for his turn at bat. Six short pitches later, his try-out was finished. He had gotten a glove on almost all the balls hit his way, and successfully hit every pitched ball out of the infield. Now he’d have to wait to see if he’d make a team. His two neighbors did about the same, except the portly boy hit the ball a little higher and farther.

Little League was a big deal for young men. It was the first chance they would get to test their mettle among a group of peers. It was, according to the Little League credo, instilling sportsmanship, fair play and teamwork into young minds. We didn’t care about all that. We just loved baseball and wanted to play. As it turned out, Little League in the 1950s and 60s was much more than that.

Carl Stotz is credited with establishing the first Little League teams in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1939. By the 1950s, his organization had grown beyond the borders of the U.S., and the official organization had, for the first time, professional business people and government officials on their board of directors. Mr. Stotz fought constantly with the board, wanting to keep more control over every aspect of the organization, from rules of the game that he had written to the expansion of franchises, but the board stymied him every step of the way. Finally, by the mid-50s, Carl Stotz was embroiled in a legal battle with his own organization that was now being wrenched from his hands. Ultimately, he set up a rival league, composed of the first three teams of his original organization, and went about recruiting Little League teams to defect. By 1956, after numerous legal battles, Mr. Stotz was forced to capitulate. He agreed to drop his rival league and opposition to the board if three conditions were met; first, the organization had to remain headquartered in Williamsport; second, he insisted on more representation for field volunteers; and third, he did not want to be contested as the founder of the Little League Baseball program.

It seems Mr. Stotz was not all that paranoid about the infiltrators of his fun, recreational organization for boys. Some of the biggest names of the day were seeing Communists at every turn, and now saw Little League as a tool to mold impressionable minds into the American Way of Life. None other than J. Edgar Hoover himself sat on the board of directors, along with prominent business people who recruited conservative sponsors for the League. Herbert Brownell, Jr., then the Attorney General of the United States, summed up the feeling of the day in the Little League World Series Official Program of 1954. He wrote, “The young Americans who compose the Little League will prove a hitless target for the peddlers of godless ideology.”

By the mid 60s, there were nearly 7,000 leagues chartered worldwide, spreading the baseball diplomacy of Americanism to all parts of the globe. Today, Little League Baseball is played in all 50 states and in 80 countries. There are nearly 200,000 teams. But Mister Boomer and his neighbors didn’t know anything about propaganda intent. They wanted to know if they made a team.

A week after the try-out, they rode their bikes to the city’s community center to see the posted lists of Little League teams on the wall. They combed through each team, searching for their names. Finally, one of the boys found his name on a team sponsored by a local furniture store. Mister B and the other boy’s name were not there. Only one of the three boys would play in Little League that year.

A year later Mister Boomer tried out again, and this time made it onto a team. He would play on that team for three years, racking up some respectable numbers, such as being one of the top base stealers of the local League, playing every position except catcher and pitcher, and having a career batting average over .400. He also helped set some records on the low end, when his team committed 26 errors in a single game. Six belonged to Mister B.

None of his acts on the diamond were as memorable as his first time at bat. Being one of the newbies on the team, he batted low on the roster. Yet, as luck would have it, the bases were loaded as he walked to the plate, hands sweating, as a chorus of “Please don’t strike out! Please don’t strike out!” ran through his helmeted head. The sidelines grew quiet as the first pitch came over the plate. The manager had signaled to take the pitch, and it was strike one. He gave the signal again, and ball one was outside. Then he gave Mister B the hit sign. The pitcher tossed the next one just where he liked it: a little outside and letter high on the jersey. Mister B whipped the bat around, a little late as was his custom at the time. The ball met the bat with a satisfying crack and it flew into right field, over the head of the unsuspecting fielder.

“Run! Run!” was the frantic call from the bench as he rounded first and headed for second. The fielder grabbed the ball and threw it in the wrong direction, committing the first of his team’s errors. As Mister B reached second base, his helmet shifted on his head and blocked his vision, causing him to trip and fall over the base. “Run!” came the call. He stood up and ran as fast as he could, not knowing where the ball was. Two errors more and Mister B was heading for home plate. With the help of the other team, he had just hit his first Grand Slam. Despite the requirement of the team reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and a pre-game prayer before each game, he was playing baseball. And that was all he wanted to do.