Baby go boom
By John Gray
A man stands up from the back row of a crowded room, raises his hand and utters the following 10 words: “Hello, my name is John and I’m a baby boomer.”
There I said it, are you happy? Although, if we want to be honest more than technical, I’m not really a boomer. Wikipedia defines a Baby Boomer as someone born between 1946 and 1964. I was born in late December of 1962, so as far as I’m concerned that’s a little like saying you showed up to hear the last song at Woodstock, didn’t even get muddy and now years later you run around telling everyone what it was like to see Jimmy play “Star Spangled Banner” on his guitar. I don’t think so.
But let’s say, for the sake of argument, I am a boomer. I guess that makes me older than dirt and qualified to write about life when dinosaurs roamed the earth and kids took the big yellow chariot to school. Hey, laugh all you want, but those things got great gas mileage.
I can argue all day that being 45 is not that old, but the truth is, I don’t bounce like I used to. I mean that literally. When you’re 20 you can play tackle football with your friends with no padding on, woof down 20 wings and six beers and the next day just hop out of bed looking like Brad Pitt in the movie “Troy”. If I did that now, I’d wake up in agony, unable to tie my shoes and it would appear every calorie from the beer party went directly to my gut. If you’re a 45-year-old woman feel free to substitute the word “butt” for “gut”.
One of the most overused phrases in the English language is the ‘good old days’, but if you take a moment to look at what life was like, say 50 years ago, it’s kind of true. Since baby boomers are anywhere from 62 to 44 years young right now, I was curious what life was like for them when they were young and didn’t know anything about divorce, downsizing, Viagra, reality TV, Blackberry’s, the Black Crowes or crows feet around the eyes that will go away if you just buy this miracle product on QVC for six easy payments of $19.95 a month…. well, you get the point. Life was simpler.
To prove this I Googled the year 1958 to see what was shaking for the average American family 50 years ago. Talk about things that make you say “mmm.” In 1958, gas cost $24 cents a gallon. Oh, and you didn’t have to get out of the car to pump it; a nice man in a uniform did it for you. He also cleaned the windshield and checked the oil. People were honest back then too, so if the man said you were “down a quart” you knew he was telling the truth. A little different from today when you drop the car off at the repair shop because the windshield wipers stick and they call you an hour later to tell you it’s being caused by a faulty muffler system which needs to be replaced NOW for $700.
There was no email, but you didn’t mind because stamps were just $4 cents each. A brand new car in 1958 went for $2,000 and you’d park it in the garage of the new house you just had built for $12,000. Can you imagine that? Today people drop $12,000 on the counter tops in a new kitchen and 50 years ago that got you the whole house. College was dirt cheap. How do I know? Because tuition at Harvard was $1,250. Today it’s $32,500 (with fees, room and board it’s over $47,000). The only downside I suppose was that the average American made roughly $4,600 a year in salary. Still, families managed to survive and thrive on that one income allowing Mom to stay home if she liked.
Penny candy was really a penny, Bobby Fischer was kicking butt and taking pawns in the chess world, and on July 26th of that year Queen Elizabeth looked down at her son Charles and said, “My God you have big ears.” To make him stop crying she then added, “Okay, okay, will you stop wailing if I make you the Prince of Wales?” He did, so she did. Two guys named Elvis and Sinatra were burning on the record charts and today, even though they're six feet under, they are still number one in many hearts.
Kids today can download music anywhere, anytime and the sound is more pristine than a snowfall in December, but boomers had vinyl and there was magic hidden in those cracks and pops. We clipped baseball cards to the spokes of our bike, played outside without fear someone would hurt us and you always knew that when the streetlights came on it was time to go home. Oh, and in 1958 a doll named Barbie came on the scene forever holding woman to an impossible physical standard. Ken would come years later, the world’s first metrosexual.
Even TV was innocent back then with the very first reality show “Candid Camera”, a program whose goal was to entertain, not humiliate. I guess what I’m saying is that the good old days were pretty good in a lot of ways. I watch us march around like good little soldiers with our cell phones and laptops and various devices that promise to bring us a world of information, but in many ways make us slaves to a boss who knows he can send an email from Tahiti at 2am and you darn well better answer it. It makes a boomer pine for the days when Sunday truly was a day of rest and your friends stopped by to see you in person rather than send a text saying, “Yo. Wuz out late & dont feel gr8. plz 4give. cant come 2day. lol. c ya L8r.”
At cemeteries everywhere English teachers are spinning in their graves. I doubt anyone under the age of 30 is still reading this column (I’m sure I lost them at Woodstock), but if they are let me say this: (in the words of Kansas, a band from my youth) Carry on my wayward son and be happy you were born at a time of flat screen TVs and mocha latte non-fat caramel cappuccinos. Us baby boomers will drink our Fresca and hang onto memories of a simpler time when the number nine didn't remind us of a governor and a call girl, but the strange ending to a song from the White Album. Number nine, number nine, number nine. Who sang that? Oh, some band called The Beatles. Your parents probably heard of them.
John Gray is a Fox23 News anchor and contributing writer at the Troy Record. He can be reached at email@example.com