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 Watched Shepard Go Into Space

In case you somehow missed it, Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world and former CEO of Amazon, rocketed into space in his own Blue Origin spacecraft this past week. As a nod to the beginning of American spaceflight, Bezos named his rocket and capsule New Shepard after Alan Shepard, the first U.S. astronaut to fly into space on May 5, 1961. (The first was Soviet Union cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin 23 days earlier.)

Obviously a lot has changed in space travel in the past 60 years, but since we boomers were around for the first launch and this first commercial launch with human passengers, it’s interesting to compare the two.

How the two flights compare:
Government agency mission control: National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA)
Project Name: Mercury 7
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida
Flight Date: May 5, 1961
Rocket Base: Redstone booster
Capsule Name: Freedom 7
Pilot and Crew: Alan Shepard; capsule built for one occupant only
Duration of Flight: 15 1/2 minutes
Height Flown: 116 miles
Landing: Splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, 190 nautical miles from Cape Canaveral
Estimated cost of project: Congress allocated $277 million to start the program of putting a man into space

Private company mission control: Blue Origin (Amazon)
Project Name: New Shepard
Launch Site: Company owned facility in the West Texas desert, near Van Horn, Texas
Flight Date: July 20, 2021 (the 52-year anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission landing man on the moon)
Rocket Base: New Shepard reusable booster and capsule (the booster rocket lands safely back on earth after being disengaged from the capsule.)
Capsule Name: New Shepard (same as booster)
Pilot and Crew: Automated pilot, trajectory controlled from ground computers. Four passengers, including Wally Funk, now the oldest person to fly into space; Jeff Bezos and his brother, Mark; and Oliver Daemon, an 18-year old student from Amsterdam, the youngest person to fly into space
Duration of Flight: 11 minutes
Height Flown: 62 miles
Landing: Parachute landing near the company’s West Texas desert launch site
Estimated cost of project: Bezos isn’t saying, but has revealed that his upcoming project for orbital travel, the New Glenn, is clocking in at $2.5 billion.

Other fun facts:
• The number “seven” placed after each capsule name in the Project Mercury missions was a nod to the original seven men named as astronauts: Alan Shepard, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra and Deke Slayton. All seven made it into space, most more than once. Virgil “Gus” Grissom was scheduled to fly in the Apollo 1 mission to land on the moon, when he was killed in a fire in the command module along with Edward White and Roger Chaffee, during a test on the launchpad on January 27, 1967.

• Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark are now the first siblings to fly into space together.

• Blue Origin’s next project, New Glenn, is named after original Mercury astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn.

• John Glenn had been the oldest person to fly into space when he returned on a Space Shuttle mission on January 16, 1998. He was 77 at the time. Wally Funk, now the oldest person to fly into space, is 82.

• Wally Funk was a 22-year old pilot when she was chosen as one of 13 women (the Mercury 13) to be tested alongside the original seven male astronauts in February of 1961, in a privately-funded effort called the Lovelace Project. The 13 women ultimately chosen from a pool of 25 had all passed the same tests as the men; Wally Funk even had higher scores on some tests than John Glenn. NASA chose to cancel the program before the final test could be given, using the excuse that their astronauts had to be military test pilots. Consequently, the first woman in space was Soviet Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, on June 16, 1963. The first American woman in space was Astronaut Sally Ride, on January 16, 1978.

• On February 6, 1971, Alan Shepard not only walked on the moon, he hit two golf balls with a 6-iron he sneaked onboard.

• The first Space Race was between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. This Billionaire’s Space Race (as it has been termed) pits Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin against Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Virgin Galactic successful ushered two pilots, three mission specialists and Richard Branson into space on July 11, 2021. Blue Origin flew approximately 12 miles higher than the Virgin Galactic flight. SpaceX has yet to launch humans into space.

Mister Boomer saw the first Shepard launch on a TV wheeled into his classroom at school in 1961. He watched this past week’s Blue Origin launch as highlights on the internet. How about it, boomers? Did you watch both launches? Did it stir memories of those early days of space travel?