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?

Boomers Went To Summer Movies

At this time of year, we were most likely out of school for the summer. (Feel free to play the Alice Cooper song for inspiration if you so desire). If we were of high school or college age, on hot days and nights, like a good portion of the country is now experiencing, we went to the movies. It was more than entertainment — it was our cooling station at a time when not everyone had home air conditioning, like Mister B’s family.

So, the question arose in Mister Boomer’s mind of what it was that we were going to see at the movies fifty years ago. Here are some summer movies from 1971 that may have been on boomers’ lists:

Carnal Knowledge
Mister Boomer didn’t see this one, but his aunt did. The family story for years to come was about how she totally misunderstood the title. “I went to see Cardinal Knowledge,” she said, “because I thought it was a movie about the pope.” This very adult film was hardly about the pope, but rather it follows two men who met in college and became friends, and their intertwined relationships with women over the span of a couple of decades. This Mike Nichols film starred Jack Nicholson, Ann-Margret, Art Garfunkel and Candice Bergen, among others.

They Might Be Giants
Starring George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward, Scott’s character Justin Playfair imagines himself to be Sherlock Holmes after the traumatic death of his wife. When Playfair’s brother (Lester Rawlins) tries to get him placed in a mental institution for observation, psychiatrist Dr. Mildred Watson, played by Joanne Woodward, takes an interest in his case. Once Playfair learns her name, he accepts her as his Dr. Watson in pursuit of his archenemy, Professor Moriarity. Mister Boomer remembers seeing this one on TV but not at the movies.

The Anderson Tapes
A Sydney Lumet film starring Sean Connery as a safe cracker ex-con, it was about a complicated robbery of an entire building of upscale residences. The caper is flawed from the beginning and ends with tragic consequences. The film also stared Dyan Cannon, Alan King and Martin Balsam, and it was the film debut of Christopher Walken. Music was by Quincy Jones. Somehow, Mister Boomer missed this one altogether.

The Panic In Needle Park
The title refers to a park so named for the drug sale and use in its confines. This is one of those 1970s downer films about drug use and its affect on people and their relationships. The film starred Al Pacino. Again, not the type of film Mister B would go out of his way to see.

Le Mans
A film about a Le Mans race car driver played by Steve McQueen, this was a movie Mister B went to see. He was a big fan of McQueen’s movies. The film used actual footage of the 1970 Le Mans race. Michel Legrand did the music for this film, and also The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), another of McQueen’s films.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller
A Robert Altman film starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie, it follows the exploits of gambler John McCabe (Beatty), who ends up in a small mining town, only to find himself in a position to create and profit from a brothel. Prostitute Constance Miller (Christie) becomes his manager and ultimately, his romantic partner.

Klute
Jane Fonda starred as Bree Daniels, an actress/model who turns to prostitution to pay the bills. Donald Sutherland plays detective John Klute, investigating a case that encompasses a former client of Bree. The two become romantically involved in the process.

A good many of the films of the summer of 1971, as can be seen, clearly portray adult themes. Of course, there were more: Sunday, Bloody Sunday was released that July, starring Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch; Murders in the Rue Morgue starred Jason Robards, a film loosely based on the poem by Edgar Alan Poe; The Omega Man, a post-apocalyptic film starring Charlton Heston was released that August; and a host of others.

Mister Boomer worked through the summer of 1971 in an effort to save money for college, so didn’t see many movies that year. How about you, boomers? What movies from the summer of 1971 are memorable for you?