Boomers Seek Diversion from the New Normal

The idea that someday it would be a normal occurrence for people not in the same location to talk to one another — and be able to see the other person speaking at the same time — was a futuristic dream fueled by the display of the Picturephone at Bell Telephone’s exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair.

Fast forward to today, and most boomers, who had never heard of Zoom two months ago, or ever ventured into Facetime, Portal or any of the things their children and grandkids have been trying to get them to try, have already had their fill of innocuous video chats with family and friends. Mister Boomer counts himself among this group, but a recent chat with family prompted a boomer flashback that might inject a little bit of fun into your next video obligation.

Shortly into the scheduled chat, once everyone finally figured out how to make each other visible on the screen at the same time (as they did the week before and the week before that), the conversation lagged. There is only so much to report when everyone is doing the same thing — staying at home. That is when the conversation veered to a discussion of the best of the cheap brands of toilet paper that still seemed readily available. While Mister B simultaneously thought it a convenient and even currently necessary overview of the pros and cons of questionable two-ply — and that somebody should make a website about it — he also took a trip in his mind to 1964:

Come on everybody… I say now let’s play a game…

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that Mister B lives in a world of flashbacks. He regularly wakes up to the sound of music playing in his head in what he has termed, Morning Jukebox Syndrome. And who among us has not come across a scene or a smell that triggers an immediate memory of another time? In this instance, boomer music was surfacing again to save the day. If you haven’t guessed yet, it was Shirley Ellis singing The Name Game.

Mister B remembers the song because his family had the 45 RPM record. He also remembers how kids in the schoolyard would taunt each other with their Name Game phraseology, an insult instead of a whimsy. Then there were the dares when kids would prod you to “do Chuck!”

Mister Boomer was surprised to find his picture sleeve recording was worth more than a few bucks thirty years ago, and sold it well above the purchase price from 1964.

But if the first two letters are ever the same … drop them both and say the name …

Before your next video chat, send the link to Shirley’s video ahead of time to the scheduled list of family and friends. Be sure to include the grandkids on this! Then when the appointed time comes, play your home version of The Name Game, starting with the grandkids’ names.

If, in the process, you completely annoy your children, who will be hearing their kids repeatedly singing their names for the next week like it came from The Lion King or Frozen, then you win.

What memories of The Name Game do you have, boomers?

Boomers Remember the First Earth Day

This “pause,” as the governor of New York has labelled our multiple-month home sheltering, has caused us to examine many things. One is, the fact that the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day was celebrated this past week without crowds of young people yelling at the Establishment to do something now, was sorely missed by Mister Boomer.

The anniversary reminded him of his Earth Day experience fifty years ago in April of 1970. Mister B has told the story before, how he and his sister made an Earth Day flag of green and white stripes with a Greek Theta symbol in the area that holds the stars on the national flag. It was something he saw somewhere, and wanted to copy the design, because the following day — Earth Day — he was to lead a bicycle parade for two miles to his high school. It worked well enough, suspended on the makeshift flagpole that he carried throughout the route.

Along the way, cars would honk at the parade of a few dozen teens on bikes, flag waving in the breeze, but it is still unclear to Mister B if they were honking in solidarity for this new national day of awareness or honking to get the group out of the way. Possibly a little of each.

Once the parade reached the high school, students, teachers and the principal were outside the school to greet them. Bikes away, students and teachers made their way into the awaiting classes. At 11 am, there was a scheduled school assembly outside in front of the building. Students filed out and sat on the grass to hear from some environmentally-minded science and art teachers. The principal came over and asked Mister B if he wanted to run his flag up the flagpole. The grommets he had hammered in the night before were perfect receptors for the clips of the flagpole. In a quick minute Mister B’s handmade Earth Day flag was waving under Old Glory.

It may seem a very liberal thing for a school to do back then, but history as well as personal memory tells us the mood of the country had changed since Rachel Carson’s publishing of Silent Spring in 1962. Living in an industrial city, every person in the school experienced air and water pollution on a daily basis, so it was a topic of great interest. At Mister B’s parochial school, the aims of the environmental movement were in direct harmony with religious teaching.

Here we are, now, in a situation that has made us stop and look out at what is happening on the other side of our windows. What is immediately evident is there are fewer cars on the roads, and many more birds chirping all through the day. Yet, despite awareness to the issue of pollution being raised for fifty years, the fact that reports indicate a thirty percent drop in nitrous dioxide pollution in the United States since the shelter-in-place orders were given a little more than a month ago, clearly show we have a long way to go to protect ourselves and our environment.

What memories do you have of the first Earth Day, boomers?