For almost seven years I have shared reminiscent walks down memory lane, soapbox opinions about education and politics, glimpses into my family life, admiration for public figures and some very special folks I have met along the way. Each of my 365 columns have carried the title of “Boomer Blog” to remind readers where I am located on the historical timeline we know as life.
76.4 million Boomers populated the country when I began blogging in 2014, and I just read somewhere that the 2020 census demographically lists the remaining 73 million of us as 57-75 years of age. From 1946 when the first 3½ million of us started popping up after the war, all the way down to the last 4 million who completed our boom in 1964, we have been lumped together as one generation.
But what do we Baby Boomers actually have in common? Exhibiting wide diversity in our political views, religious beliefs, ancestry, lifestyles, education levels, we represent any and all aspects of life. We are just as different as different can be!
Our only real commonality is the same slice of history we have shared during our progression through life. Although we have differing tastes in music and sports, for example, most of us have stored at least something about the Beatles and Michael Jordan in the recesses of our brains. Our generational experiences include JFK’s assassination and 9/11 – and a certain sense of déjà vu surrounding these bookend events. Our parents bestowed on lots of us the popular names of the day: Mary and Linda and Susan or James and Robert and John. And we have certainly been a TV generation, watching the boob tube for an average of 12,000 hours before the age of 16, while viewing a programming gamut stretching from I Love Lucy to Saturday Night Live.
My specific attention to the underpinnings of Boomerism stems from nostalgia-related items recently posted on Facebook, quite separate from the popular feature asking for identification of yesteryear relics – flash cubes, flour sifters, typewriter erasers, and the like. No, the item that immediately caught my eye not too long ago was a 1000-piece Baby Boomers Jigsaw Puzzle.
To be expected, the defining mileposts of Watergate and Woodstock were prominently displayed. Also visible in the collage-style puzzle were the iconic visages of Howdy Doody, Alfred E. Neuman, and the bright yellow smiley face. Labels from Fritos and Jell-O along with Bosco and Tang represented the food and drink category. Our interest in the universe and beyond showed up in two screen offerings: The Twilight Zone and Star Trek. Reference to Vietnam was front-and-center as was man’s first walk on the moon. The sad deaths of RFK and MLK occupied a section beside the unnerving Cuban missile crisis. Our early hippie days and subsequent yuppie period appeared alongside Motown and disco – with The Sound of Music sandwiched somewhere in between. And three book covers were depicted: The Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, and Catch-22. Assembling this White Mountain puzzle with fellow Boomers would certainly be informative and chatworthy – something of a Boomer hoot.
Even more fun could be had with a new board game I saw advertised several weeks ago: Boom Again. Brian Hersch, creator of Taboo and Outburst, designed this trivia game based on Boomer culture.
Contained in a cigar box are authentic Boomer tokens: a skate key, a milk bottle cap, and a 45-rpm record adaptor, with mention of the mood ring to be added to a future edition of the game. Trivial Pursuit-style cards display six lighthearted categories: “Things We Heard” for music, slogans, speeches / “Things We Saw” for movies, sports, commercials / “In the News” for politics, world events / “Things We Learned in School” for classes, social life / “Stuff We Learned on the Street” for fashion, cars, fads / “Shout” for multi-answer queries.
Sample questions pictured in the web ad piqued my interest and cracked me up. What was the first name of Mr. Ed’s owner? What was Walter Cronkite’s nightly sign-off from the evening news? What breed was Marmaduke? Name all five Great Lakes. What were the two most popular places to pick up S & H Green Stamps? Who was the tallest: Art Garfunkel, Chevy Chase, Tommy Chong? There are 2244 questions for scads of Boomer amusement and hours of plain old jocularity. As the website says: “We’ve lived the answers!”
As a Boomer, however, I found myself the most entertained when I read a poem by someone named Uncle Joe. Each succeeding section in the musically-versified catalog of our generation’s influences captivated me further; after 24 lines of what I consider a Boomer anthem, I felt as if I had relived a major portion of my youthful years.
Although length and unclear authorship prevent me from sharing the entire poem, I particularly savored these lines: I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain… I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name…I’ve whispered words of wisdom, let it be…I’ve kept on searching for a heart of gold…I’ve knocked on Heaven’s door, while blowing in the wind…Joy to the world, those were the days, my friend… Well- worth a Google search: “Reflections of a Boomer.”
Although we Boomers have 73 million individual stories to tell, we continue to experience life influenced by the shared cultural filter through which we view it all. Groovy, huh?
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.