I’m too young to be a baby boomer. I tell myself that over and over again, hoping if I say it enough times it will make it true. But numbers don’t lie and according to those who label, measure and track things, if a person was born between 1946 and 1964 they are considered a "boomer". I popped out and said hello to this world December 26th, 1962, so even though I’m on the outer fringe of this baby boom thing, technically I’m part of the club.
Since a portion of this month’s issue of CRL is dedicated to "boomers" I thought it might be fun to talk about what makes them special in my book. I know everyone would like to think "their" generation is the best thing to come along since the Easy Bake Oven (first sold by Kenner Products in 1963, totally a Baby Boomer invention), but the truth is growing up in the 50’s and 60’s was pretty cool. If you don’t believe me go rent the first couple seasons of “Happy Days”.
I know we didn’t have smart phones or texting back then, but we did have this other invention, something called "sitting and talking". You did it face to face and it was quite refreshing. Most families were able to make ends meet with just one salary and you could buy a house for less than what people spend on rent today. And suppertime meant family time, sitting together to break bread and build relationships. "We" meant you were doing something together, it was not a mindless video game (Wii) that keeps kids glued to the couch for hours on end when the sun is shining outside.
I know what some of the people reading this right now are thinking, “Old Gray wants to wax nostalgic about times gone by, but there’s nothing he can say to convince me I’m a boomer, even if I was born in the late 50’s or early 60’s.” Fair enough, but let me throw some spaghetti at the wall and see if any of it sticks my-soon-to-be-AARP-platinum-card-holder-friend.
Do you remember when a family had one phone and it wasn’t called a "land line" it was called “the phone”? It plugged into a wall and had a curly cord that stretched a mile long so you could wander through every room in the house while talking to a friend about last night’s episode of “Bonanza”. Oh that Hoss!
Do you remember going to a place called Story Town with your parents (now the Great Escape) and getting deputized by Wild Windy Bill McKay? I’ll bet, like me, you foiled the bank robbery in Ghost Town every time.
How about watching television as a child? I’ll bet you there was only one TV set in the entire house and it had just three channels. Instead of a remote you used a pair of your dad’s old pliers to change the channel because the knob broke off long ago. The TV probably had a bent coat hanger attached to the top to help with the reception.
When you sat in front of that television you didn’t need TV Land to watch old black and white shows because you had “The Munsters”, “My Three Sons” & “Gunsmoke” on the regular channels in prime time.
You still think you’re not a baby boomer? Finish this sentence, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a ….” Or this one, “Brylcream a little dab will… “You want one more? “I am stuck on Band-Aid brand cause ……” That Band-Aid jingle, by the way, was written by Barry Manilow. True story.
Let’s talk music. Can you name all the Beatles both first and last names? Do you know the significance of Paul walking in bare feet on the cover of the Abbey Road album cover? If you know that you are definitely a boomer.
Did you once own 45’s and hate that the song on the flip side was always the worst cut on the album? If you ever had to tape a penny to the top of the turntable arm to keep your records from skipping, again, welcome to the boomer club.
How about games. Do you know what “jarts”are? Did you know how to “walk the dog” with a Yo-Yo or organize a game of Red Rover or Kick the Can with the kids in the neighborhood? Did you build forts with your friends or have an attendant fill your tank and wash your windshield at every gas station your parents stopped? And if I handed you baseball cards, a clothespin and a bicycle would you immediately know what to do with all three? I’m sorry, but you are one of us.
If you remember penny candy for a penny and getting a bottle of RC Cola or Grape Nehi for a dime (nickel deposit included) chances are you are a boomer. When your tooth fell out and you only found a nickel under your pillow the next morning, again, welcome fellow boomer.
If you have a clue who Mr. Green Jeans is or remember that Buffy’s doll on “A Family Affair” was named Mrs. Beasley, odds are you are a boomer. If you have spent your entire adult life wondering why the Howell’s packed so many clothes for a three-hour tour, if you’ve ever said “Just the facts ma’am,” to someone or when you see a horse and immediately yell out in a silly voice, “HELLO WILBUR,” again, there’s no denying you, my friend, are a boomer.
And that’s OK. We all have to come from some time in history, so why not that one? The years following World War II were glorious ones for this country; a time of growth, discovery, and obviously, a lot of love. I mean, just look how many babies were born between 1946 and 1964, roughly 79 million. Those babes would grow up and put a man on the moon, pass the Civil Rights Act, heck, they gave us “The Honeymooners” (which only lasted one year, by the way, 39 episodes). Bang, zoom! My point is that baby boomers should embrace who they are and be proud as they sally forth in these later chapters of life. By the way, if you use the phrase “sally forth”, um, well… boomer.
Personally, I’ve always felt out of place being born in the 20th century. Every time I watch a movie with knights and castles I am convinced that THAT is when I was supposed to live. Although if we’re being honest, right now the whole suit of armor thing, classy as it may look, might not have been a good choice for me. I mean, sometimes I struggle opening a can of tuna fish to make lunch. Can you imagine trying to get that armor off in a hurry when you had to run to the little knight’s room? At least twice every fortnight I’d be having ye royal “accident” in my britches. Oh the rust!
John Gray is weekely columnist for the Troy Record and the Saratogian newspapers and news anchor at ABC 10 and FOX 23. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.