Boomers Looked to the Future on TV

If you are a fan of boomer-era TV trivia (and who isn’t?), you may or may not be aware of an esoteric tidbit that directly coincides with this date in history. The Jetsons (1962-63), the animated TV series, was set in a future 100 years from the time the series was aired, which would mean it took place in 2062. In the series, George Jetson, the family father figure, was named as a 40 year-old man. Subtract 40 years from 2062 and 2022 surfaces as the year of George Jetson’s birth. Somehow, someone got to July 31 from there. Where the exact month and date came from is left to speculation.

Mister Boomer has written previously about The Jetsons, as it was a family favorite in his household. In the past month, while Mister B was flipping through the channels, he found an episode of The Jetsons airing, so he invested a half hour to watch it. The episode was the one where George’s daughter, Judy, enters a songwriting contest. The winner of the contest will get a date with a famous rock star, Jet Screamer. George, wanting to keep his daughter away from any rock & roller, tries to sabotage Judy’s entry by substituting some words with his son Elroy’s secret code. In true sitcom fashion, of course, Judy’s altered song wins. George follows Judy on her date with Jet Screamer, and sneaks into that night’s concert by picking up equipment and walking behind the back-up band. Ultimately, George gets on-stage behind a futuristic drum set to better watch Jet and Judy, only to be discovered. The tables get turned when George is then put in the spotlight as the father of the winning songwriter, who will start the song off with a drum solo. With the spotlight on George, he launches into his solo lead-in to the song, Eeep! Opp! Ork! Ah-Ah! It turns out George is a regular Buddy Rich on the drums, a swingin’ 40 year-old daddy-o. It’s worth checking out, boomers.

Speaking of age, Mister Boomer recalls right around the time that The Jetsons was being broadcast, a teacher in one of his classes asked the students to do the math to see how old they would be in the year 2000. Then, she asked them to imagine what their life would be like when they were 40 years old. Mister Boomer recalls it was a frightening proposition since 40 seemed so old! The future envisioned throughout our boomer years did come to pass in many ways (though we have no flying cars yet), but the thought of thinking forward around 30 years was almost too much to bear.

In terms of The Jetsons, once the space-age marvels are eliminated, the characters acted pretty much the same as people did in the 1960s. In The Jetsons example just mentioned, George was anti-rock & roll until he got his 15 minutes of rock stardom. It seems that somehow, we can envision technological marvels, but human evolution is much harder to predict. Star Trek may be the only TV show that looked to a future when poverty, war and disease were in the past.

As we boomers age, it’s fun to remember the way we were 40, 50 or 60 years ago. Yet it’s more than a little frightening to think forward and wonder what our lives will be like 20, 30 or 40 years from now. Maybe a young Mister B was right to be wary 60 years ago. Happy Birthday, George!

How about you, boomers? Did you ever imagine your life in the year 2022?

Boomers Did Garden Chores By Hand

According to Mister Boomer’s thoroughly unscientific research — namely, asking other boomers — he has discovered that most boomers were required to do chores around the house. For boys, like Mister Boomer and Brother Boomer, that meant outdoor work throughout the year. Some boomers were paid by their parents for completing tasks, others were not. Mister B and Brother Boomer were not paid; their work was expected. In the summer, the outside work included everything from painting the house to mowing the lawn, plus, weeding and lawn edging as well.

The Boomer Brothers were given the tasks by the time Mister B was eight years old. Brother Boomer, being three years older, had first pick of the jobs he wanted to do, and left the rest to Mister B. Most of the time, the jobs were shared. For example, Brother Boomer mowed the front lawn, while Mister B did the back; never mind the back was larger. When it came time to paint the house, the brothers had two sides each. For the most part, Mister B didn’t mind too much, with the exception of weeding and edging the lawn. Both of those tasks were physically demanding and often accomplished in the late morning, as the sun heated up the surrounding concrete sidewalks.

Weeding meant pulling weeds along the backyard fences, as well as in between shrubbery and the flowers Mister B’s mother was growing. On both the front and back lawns, there were dandelions, crabgrass and other weeds to pull. The Brothers were given a hand tool that supposedly made the job easier. Trying to grasp a weed with pre-teen hands and successfully dislodge it from the ground without breaking the root was difficult if not impossible. Often the weed was so entrenched that the boys didn’t have the brute strength needed for a clean extraction. That’s where the tool came in.

The weed puller, as the Brothers called it, had a wooden handle on the end of a metal shaft that was bent in an exaggerated “s.” At the end of the shaft was a flattened area that was split to form a two-pronged fork. The idea was to get down on hands and knees and plunge the pointy fork end into the ground next to the weed target, with the goal of setting the main root between the two prongs. Then, when it all worked according to plan, pushing down on the handle would dislodge the weed from the ground. It could then be completely pulled out as one plant unit. Remaining clumps of dirt that clung to the roots could be removed by a slap or two to the ground. For Mister B, that scenario was the ideal that more often than not, he did not achieve. If a root was left in the ground, the weed would quickly grow back, and that meant future work. So Mister B found himself digging into the lawn with the tool’s fork end to remove as much of the root system as possible. The result was a lawn that looked like it had been attacked by groundhogs, with filled patches of bare earth dotting the lawn space.

An even worse job for Mister Boomer was edging the lawn. The Brothers were not required to perform the job every weekend, so it became more difficult than it could have been. For this chore, there was another hand tool. This tool was the size of a shovel or hoe, with a long wooden handle that was fastened to a sharpened metal, multiple-edged star-shaped wheel. Attached next to that was a rubber wheel. Its use was deceptively simple: slide the sharpened metal edges of the star wheel into the edge of the lawn, using the sidewalk as a guide, and push it forward and back to clip grass that grew over the sidewalk, and form a groove to denote the lawn’s edge. The rubber wheel was meant to remain on the sidewalk. If the operator had the strength to push the contraption, it would work. However, the summer ground was often hard and brittle, and Mister Boomer acquired many callouses on his fingers and broken skin between his thumb and forefinger while using the apparatus. In addition, trying to keep cutting a straight line was not as easy as advertised. Often Mister B would push the thing, only to have it veer off into the lawn, away from the sidewalk. For these reasons, it was Mister Boomer’s most hated summer chore.

A quick search online shows these tools are being sold as vintage lawn and garden implements, but a hand lawn edger that boasts two rubber wheels is still being manufactured and sold. The one Mister B used may have had two wheels, but he remembers it having only one rubber wheel. He has to wonder if having an extra rubber wheel would have made a difference in his ability to control the thing.

How about you, boomers? Did you have chores to do outside the house during your summer vacation?