Boomers born in the year 1961 will reach their 60th birthday this year. Time flies when you’re having fun! All boomers know that life is profoundly different today in many ways than it was in 1961. Here are some stats that present a picture of what our lives were like 60 years ago:
• John Fitzgerald Kennedy was inaugurated as President of the United States, succeeding President Dwight D. Eisenhower
• There were about 184 million people in the U.S.; the population jumped by 28 million in ten years (thanks to the Baby Boomers!)
• To continue the Baby Boom, 1.5 million couples were married in 1961; the average age of a bride was 19-20 yrs. old, and the groom was 21-22 yrs. old.
• The average annual income was $5,700
• $1 in 1961 is approximately equal to $8.80 today
• The cost of a dozen eggs was 57¢
• Milk was 50¢ for a half gallon
• Ground beef was 52¢ lb.
• It cost 41¢ lb. to buy a frying chicken
• If you wanted to mail a letter, a stamp cost 4¢
• Born in 1961? You share a birth year with Eddie Murphy (April 3) and George Clooney (May 6)
• Alan Shepard became the first American in Space (May 5)
• President Kennedy announced the goal of landing a man on the moon and bringing him home by the end of the decade (May 25)
• The Apartment won the Best Picture Academy Award
• The Bullwinkle Show debuted
• Tossin’ and Turnin’ by Bobby Lewis was the number 1 hit single of 1961
• Disney released 101 Dalmations in theaters
• IBM introduced the Selectric typewriter
• The Berlin Wall was constructed, further escalating the Cold War
• Sprite was introduced by Coca-Cola to compete with 7-Up
• Ray Kroc bought a small chain of hamburger restaurants from the McDonald brothers
• President Kennedy sent in the first advisors into Vietnam
• Marvel introduced The Fantastic Four comics
• Roger Marris broke Babe Ruth’s record and hit 61 home runs for the New York Yankees
If you were born in 1961, of course you learned about these things later in life. Yet more than half the Boomer Generation was born before 1961, and they have vivid memories of the year. Mister Boomer was in elementary school and remembers many things about 1961, including watching the inauguration of President Kennedy. The school he attended was big on observing American history-in-the-making, and wanted the students to follow the Space Program, beginning with Alan Shepard’s launch on May 5. A TV was rolled into the classroom for subsequent launches of Project Mercury and on to Project Gemini.
Mister B and his family were also big fans of Rocky & Bullwinkle, including the 1961 iteration of The Bullwinkle Show. Of course, he was not able to view the show in color. It was the mid-1970s before the family got a hand-me-down color television.
If you’ve been reading Mister Boomer for even a short time, then you know he definitely remembers hearing some top hits of 1961 on his transistor radio. Out of that tiny speaker, he heard Tossin’ and Turnin’, but also, I Fall to Pieces by Patsy Cline; Runaway by Del Shannon; Dedicated to the One I Love by the Shirelles; Take Good Care of My Baby by Bobby Vee; Travelin’ Man by Ricky Nelson, and many, many more.
Yet, in retrospect, what a good portion of boomers recall about 1961 is that there was a palpable change in the wind. Life as we had come to know it was about to be turned upside down. By the time the earliest-born boomers reached the age of 18 in 1964 — which was the final year of the Baby Boom — music, fashion, world events, Civil Rights, the Space Program, the Cold War, even what we ate, was about to change forever.
Were you born in 1961, boomers? If not, what do you recall about that momentous year?