Baby Boomer Flashbacks…Do You Remember?

Posted by on Jan 14, 2018 in Frugal For Everyone | 34 comments

Baby Boomer Flashbacks was written to celebrate my birthday later this month.  I thought it would be fun to take you along on a trip down my memory lane.

Having been born in 1945 I am actually a member of ‘The Greatest Generation’ but since all of my growing up years happened during baby boomer times I decided that a ‘Greatest Generation Baby Boomer’ label sounded pretty good so that’s what I’m going with.

Baby Boomer Flashback

My Grade 7 photo    60 years ago.

So come stroll and remember right along with me. I remember……

School Days:

One room schoolhouses with basement lunch rooms that always seemed to smell of egg salad;

Riding on farm truck to school – better than walking a couple of miles;

Ink wells on every desk for the nib pens we used, messy things; imagine our excitement when we received our first fountain pen – big wow;

Memorizing time tables, spelling bees and reading out loud in class – rather fun;

Our first readers, the Dick and Jane series. “Run Spot, run. Sally, see Spot run”. I learned how to speak and read English with Dick and Jane and Sally;

Two-story high-school, we’re really moving up in the world – got lost the first day when a class was in room 205 and I didn’t know what the 2 stood for.

Gym bloomers – these were horrid. They actually were bloomers. To update them we tied them in the back instead of the front – HOW COOL!!

School Sock Hops – had to jive without our shoes so we wouldn’t scratch the floors; at the end of the year the 45rpm records used for the hops were sold for 5 cents each – great bargain;

The Red Feather Game – high-school football championship game played at night in support of the United Way. We thought this was such an exciting event and had so much fun yelling “we want a convert” (I still don’t really know what a convert is).

Baby Boomer Flashback

1950’s Housekeeping

I Remember…..

Family Life:

Heating with coal or wood – very few houses out in the country had central heating. The same stove was also used for cooking – things got pretty hot in the kitchen in the summer time, especially during canning season;

What a lot of work wash day was. We first had to heat the water on the stove; dirty laundry was pre-soaked in Arm and Hammer washing soda; whites were pre-soaked in bleach water; after washing, whites were run through another rinse with blueing then through the wringer again. Clothes were hung on the line outside – not a bad job in summer but brutal in the winter;

Everything was ironed, including pillow cases and tea towels; shirts and blouses were starched (no spray starch) and ironed damp. My favourite activity while ironing was listening to ‘True Story” on the radio hoping my dutch speaking mother wouldn’t understand (she did, no more True Story);

Wooden screen doors were a must for every home; small adjustable sliding screens to fit any window were available.

Milk and bread were delivered by horse-drawn wagons in urban areas; groceries were delivered by van right to the home even in the country. Coupons of all types were saved and cashed in, whether the product was purchased or not until manufacturers put a stop to that practice;

Families eating together was the accepted norm. An empty chair at the table meant that someone was sick or away – being late for supper without a good excuse was not tolerated;

Most sickness – including colds and flu, measles, chicken pox, etc. – was treated at home – doctors were only called for serious situations;

Sundays meant church for most families and our entire social life centered around the church.

No stores or gas stations were open on Sundays so stocking up on food and gas on Saturday was a must;

Most families only had one car and since seat belts weren’t required – or even available – cars were often packed (and I do mean packed, even sitting on laps) with family members and friends;

Gas was 19 cents a gallon or 5 cents a liter/quart – ready to travel back to the 50s? Coke was 5 cents a bottle and always dripped since we got them out of water-filled coolers; a loaf of bread cost 19 cents; a pound of ground beef was 30 cents; coffee 37 cents a pound. Of course the minimum wage in 1957 was $1.00 per hour with the average man earning around $90.00 per week. Women earned much less.

GMO and other ‘enhanced’ foods were still in the future; on the other hand, farmers used such poisonous chemicals as DDT and Atrazine – deadly weedkillers for field crops, now banned.

 

Baby Boomer Flashback

Simplicity Pattern 2402 Children’s Wear

I remember……

Fashion:

Fashion in the 50s can really be described in one word – neat. No matter the style, everything had to match. Shirts and blouses were tucked in and never would the hem of shirt or skirt show below the sweater or coat. Clothes were ironed, pleats were sharp, socks were white, shoes were polished and seams in nylons were straight.

Guys wore flannel or chino slacks, cotton shirts or pullovers. I can’t remember any fellow wearing jeans or T-shirts.

baby boomer flashback

Teenage girl’s must have wardrobe

As shown in the picture above a teenage girl’s ‘must have’ wardrobe included: The poodle skirt, neckerchiefs, belts to show off our small waists, bobby socks and not shown – saddle shoes.

Other wardrobe items included wool skirts with box pleats; Twin sets – matching sweater and pullover – and sweater clips to hold the cardigans in place.

Baby boomer Flashback

Example: Sweater clip available from  michellevintage on Etsy

Hairstyles ranged from brush cuts for the boys, duck tails for both boys and girls, and beehives for girls. In our quest for beauty we suffered through home perms, sleeping on brush rollers and backcombing our hair – all of it a big ‘ouch’;

Once we grew up and became ‘ladies’, at least in our own eyes, fashions included:

Nylons with seams and garter belts – it was murder trying to keep those seams straight;

3 yard crinolines – fun going up narrow stairs or getting in and out of cars;

One piece bathing suits and rubber swim caps decorated with rubber flowers; can’t you just picture it?

Bermuda shorts (loved those) and pedal pushers. Girls often paired these with their brothers’ white shirts.  Very few women wore slacks in public;

Sack dresses were in style for a very short time. Believe it or not some of them were quite attractive and sexy looking (that was a phrase we never used back then); they matched nicely with the shoes that had 3″ spike heels and pointed toes which hurt like mad, but all in the name of vanity;

Jackie Kennedy was a great style inspiration for us – her boxy jackets, pillbox hats and white gloves were desired by every young woman. She had such class;

Of course, ‘Seventeen’, was every young girl’s guide. Without this magazine we wouldn’t have known what fashion or hairstyle was the latest trend or learn tips on updating our wardrobes for little money – important stuff like that.

I remember……

Things were very different in the fifties. During WW ll women had gone out to work in all kinds of jobs but once the war was over the men took the jobs back and women once again became Susy Homemaker. This was encouraged by producers of consumer goods, ‘lets get those little ladies out there spending’, and further supported by TV shows. Consider just three of the popular shows at the time:

  • Ozzie and Harriet
  • Father Knows Best
  • Leave it to Beaver

In all those shows, Father was the wage-earner and disciplinarian and the woman stayed home to keep a spotless house, raise well-behaved children and put fantastic meals on the table, smiling through it all.

I remember……

Fun Times:

When very young:

  • In the summertime, playing outside till dark. Why is that such an exciting activity when you’re young?
  • Playing kick the can, racing to beat the ‘it’ person back to the can;
  • Skipping rope double dutch – loved that.
  • Playing hockey on the frozen creek with sticks – I couldn’t skate, hated the cold, but still refused to stay home and miss out;
  • Hula hoops, that wasn’t as easy it as looked;
  • Getting a group together to play baseball – we didn’t always have nine so sometimes only 6 would have to do;
  • Walking the barrel. Fell of once and couldn’t catch my breath for what seemed like hours but was probably only seconds;
  • Boys were crazy about their Davy Crockett hats, sheriff badges and cap guns;

The big ‘moral’ thinking of the time was a double standard: boys could, girls couldn’t, boys did, girls were blamed. Regardless, we still managed to have a lot of fun.

Teenage years:

  • The outdoor roller rinks – whatever happened to them, they were so much fun and the absolute best place to meet friends;
  • Beach parties – roasting wieners, toasting marshmallows, drinking pop (no alcohol ever), in those days getting a coke was treat enough;
  • Home parties and Sunday night get-togethers with friends;
  • The very odd time going to a restaurant for a coffee and putting a nickel in the jukebox. That made any evening special;
  • Going steady and receiving the ‘going steady’ ring – young love, so intense;
  • Flirting with police – we actually liked them back then;
  • Life was good as long as I could come home and say “I had a ball” and I must admit, I did say that often – good memories.

I remember……

A bit of this and that:

  • TV was still pretty new and if you had one it was a black and white, colour didn’t come along till later. We didn’t have TV so only got to watch when visiting friends or babysitting;
  • The shows included:
    • Westerns such as The Lone Ranger; Gunsmoke; The Rifleman; the bad guys wore black hats, the good guys wore white and the good guys always won.
    • Many variety shows such as ‘Milton Berle’ and ‘Lawrence Welk’; Comedies like ‘I love Lucy’ and ‘Our Miss Brooks’; Other favourites were The Mickey Mouse Club and the very popular American Bandstand with Dick Clarke;
    • Most memorable show: Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show – doing the pelvic moves – such a no, no. The censors worked overtime to make sure that didn’t happen again. Do they still have censors?
  • Favourite singers:
    • Elvis, of course with “Love Me Tender”
    • Pat Boone, “Letters in the Sand”
    • Perry Como, “Don’t let the Stars get in Your Eyes”
    • Buddy Holly, “Peggy Sue
  • Other: Norman Rockwell covers on Saturday Evening Post (wish I had saved those); The Peanuts Gang, didn’t really care for them at first.

This all ended the day in 1963 when every TV and Radio station announced “President Kennedy shot in Dallas”. I was a Canadian teenager and found myself crying with the tears literally pouring down my face. It was unreal. It truly was the end of an era. Never again has life been as innocent or carefree.

I hope you enjoyed reading Baby Boomer Flashbacks as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you’re a baby boomer, please add your memories to mine in the comments below.

Talk to you again soon,

Lenie

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34 Comments

  1. I was born during Kennedy’s presidency and am technically a Baby Boomer although I don’t feel like one – I was only a toddler when Kennedy was assassinated and have no recollection of that time – but I do know this: To be a Baby Boomer is to have watched The Flintstones back in the day. Yabba dabba doo!

    I’m a bit surprised that Suzanne “Boomeresque” Fluhr hasn’t joined the conversation; you may find her “You know you are [a Boomer] if…” page to be of interest.

    • Yabba dabba doo right back at you. The Flintstones were a fun show and must have been the start of women’s lib. Did you ever notice how much smarter Wilma and Betty were then Fred or Barney?
      Thanks for sending me on to Suzanne’s site – I clicked on it and loved the post and the comments left by others – so many of the same memories I had. those were good times.
      I wonder what our kids and grandkids (and you) will write when they take a stroll down memory lane. I hope they have the same good memories.

  2. Oh no! Not Dick and Jane. My Grandma has some old copies that I read as a kid. I wish I knew what happened to those books.

    • Jeri – I do have a few old Dick and Jane books but they are falling apart. However, as old friends I find it impossible to discard them. Hope you find yours tucked away in some forgotten place. 🙂

  3. For me it was the late 60’s and 70’s. Things were different than it is today too.
    I remember having a donkey basketball game in my senior year. They were ornery and kicked, have not seen one of them in years. Of course people did get hurt by them too.
    As much chaos there was during the time I lived their was hope too. Seeing my father actually tearing up when man walked on the moon. Shows like Star Trek showing a world without pain and poverty.But here we are today, no flying cars, still polluting and killing each other. I think we must take baby steps across time to get where we must go.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    • William, your comment about donkey basketball game brought back some more memories of my own. When I was first married my husband and I attended a donkey baseball game – so a little different – but it was so much fun. It was a charity event for the fire department and residents and I laughed so much. The donkeys would wander all over the field, never where they were supposed to go.
      Every decade must have hope or what would be the sense of going on? Thanks for sharing your memories.

  4. Well being the youngest sister I don’t remember any of those things…but I do remember you always being full of life and having fun.
    Happy birthday in a few days.
    Love ya, Wil

    • Hi Wil – you were such a cute youngest sister that I was quite possessive of you – you were my real life dolly. As for remembering things the way I did I can only say “what a difference 10 years make”. I do like the way you remember me though – love you back,

  5. This stuff is hilarious, do you really remember the horse drawn buggy’s, some of this seems so crazy to me, like ironing tea towels. This was a fun blog,

    • I do remember the horse drawn buggies because one day I got lost going to the dentist and got a ride back to where I was supposed to be in a horse-drawn milk carriage. As for the tea towels – definitely and they had to be done just so.

      • Hi Lenie, Happy birthday. Thanks for the memories your post awakened. I recall use using hay bales as horses frying cheese on the stove and you decorating our first Christmas tree. Wishing you good health and good cheer . Bram

        • Bram, I loved the hay-bale horses we made. Remember tacking a piece of twine to a nail and that was the halter? All we had to do was jump on the haybale horses and “Happy Trails to You”. You were Roy Rogers and I was Dale Evans and between the two of us we cleaned up the whole wild west (even if we didn’t know where the wild west was). That was a great memory. I also remember frying cheese on the stove – that was a special treat and you were always sorry when there wasn’t more. Christmas is my favourite time of the year and I definitely remember decorating the Christmas tree but for that I’m sure I had help. Love this walk down memory lane. Thanks for the good wishes and the very same to you – with love.

  6. First, totally laughing over the Doreen/Lenie exchange. I suck at math, so I’m with you!
    I was born in 1959, but much of what you wrote about rings a memory for me for a few reasons–an uncle and aunt not much older than me, growing up in rural Pennsylvania, and spending far more time outside than in and not just because TV was limited. We choose to play out of doors.
    What a wonderful blog, Lenie, and happy early birthday to you. I shared this on all my social media and will let you know how my aunts react!

    • Hi Rose Mary – glad you enjoyed the Doreen exchange – that was fun, she’s such a good sport.
      I would love to hear how your aunt reacts – maybe she’ll add a few memories of her own. There were probably quite a few differences between Life in rural Pennsylvania and life in rural Ontario.
      Thanks for the birthday wish and for sharing. I can always count on you. 🙂

  7. Loved this Lenie! My mother carried on some of the traditions you talked about, like ironing everything and hanging clothes outside to dry. She was raised in the deep south in a very rural area along the bayou in Louisana and I vividly recall visiting the extended family there when I was very young – it was like stepping back in time … right down to the faded “whites only” signs!

    • Hi Marquita – I have read many books about life along the bayou and while I wrote rather tongue-in-cheek about those times, I think for adults, especially those in rural areas, it was quite difficult, but for children it was a great time to be young.
      The ‘whites only’ sign comment made me realize that unfortunately wasn’t quite true for all children.
      Thanks for sharing your memories, would love to hear more.

  8. Lenie – thank you for taking us on a trip down memory lane! I enjoyed reading your stories of the fashion, school and home life and all your antics! I have a general fascination with reading about and looking at photographs of past decades. Life was so different back then in terms of how men and women lived, expectations, the balance between home and working life. In many households women stayed at home while their husbands worked. Nowadays many women work and actually have to work to maintain a lifestyle.

    I am sure the magazine ‘Seventeen’ later became ‘Just Seventeen’ in the 1980’s. It was full of pop stars, fashion, make up tips, stories (usually in relationships).

    What a cute photograph of you as a child.

    • Hi Phonenicia – I’m glad you enjoyed strolling with me down memory lane. Life certainly has become different now and you’re right. In order to enjoy their chosen lifestyle women do have to work and contribute. Actually in some ways I think that’s a good thing. In many cases I know of, parents are partners that share in the child-rearing and housekeeping which I find healthier. It used to be ‘wait till your father gets home’. Poor dad, always the bad guy 🙂
      BTW – Didn’t I look young in that grade 7 picture compared to girls in grade 7 today? Even that changed.

  9. Since I’m much younger than you I can only relate to some of what you write. The thing thatpuzzles me though, is why you considet the baby boom generation the greatest generation ever. What scientific evidence do you base that claim on? Besides. isn’t Trump a baby boomer?:-)

    • Catarina, the baby boomers weren’t the greatest generation. The greatest generation – according to Tom Brokaw – were the people who survived the depression and WWll – the Baby Boomers were the ones who were born from 1946-1964. No scientific evidence of any kind other than I’ll bet we find scientific evidence that Trump doesn’t belong in any category. 🙂

  10. Hi Lenie, it’s amazing how the world seems to change so very much in such a short span of time isn’t it? My children now ask me about the “olden days” (which for them is pre-mobile phones!) and it’s astonishing how quickly modern becomes history so soon. It’s so important to write down memories like this so they are not lost – thank you!

    • Monika, I think all children must be curious. I used to wonder about my mom – she was born in Holland in 1909 and passed away in 2004. Think of all the changes she lived through – the advent of planes, automobiles, 2 World Wars, the depression, immigration, hand labour to automatic appliances, etc. Boggles the mind.

  11. Lenie: I was born at about the same tine, 1949, but a lot of my experiences were very different. That’s mostly because I was born and raised in a city. We read that same Dick and Jane series though.

    • Ken, I would love to hear some of your memories. It would be interesting to compare – city vs country, boy vs girl. Think on it. 🙂

  12. Loved reading your memories even though I am a child of the sixties. I think today’s youth are really missing out on not having roller rinks to meet up with friends. If they do meet up with friends it’s in a movie theatre where they can’t talk to one another. They stare at their game screens whenever they are together (can you tell I have a son lol). Have to say I am sure glad my parents had an electric washer by the time my sister and I came along. They didn’t have a dryer until they moved to their condo when they were in their late 50’s. The wringer machine sat in the corner of the laundry room for over a decade before it got removed. As Bob Hope’s theme song went thanks for the memories…

    • Hi Sharon, I loved your ending with Bob Hope’s theme song ‘thanks for the memories’. I really enjoyed strolling down memory lane to put this post together. In so many ways life was harder back then – that wringer washer was a nightmare – I don’t know how many times we had to stop everything, open the wringer up and try to untangle the sheet (usually the big things) that got wrapped around the rollers. But in so many other ways life was better, we had more fun, we were safer, and we relied on each other. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  13. lenie — you took me back in time, to my time. I remember so many of the things you listed: 3-inch heels that were killers, B&W TV (we didn’t have one so I walked down the street to a friend to watch the Ed Sullivan show every Sunday), wearing a hat and white gloves to work. Girls rarely wore slacks, and never to school.

    I remember the day that JFK was assassinated as it were yesterday. I just had moved into my Manhattan apartment. When we heard the news everyone left the office. I packed a bag and took the train to be with my parents on Long Island. It was eerie because there was not one word spoken on the train. By then my parents had a B&W TV (no color yet) and we were glued to the set, crying, 24/7 through the funeral.

    How innocent were then. The Vietnam war and attendant riots in the U.S yet to come. Since then it seems somewhere in the world there is a war raging. But I carry on…

    • Hi Jeannette, isn’t it amazing that most people still remember exactly where they were when JFK was shot but that was such a horrific event. We were innocent but we had a right to be because we were also safe.
      Those 3 inch heels were something, weren’t they but no matter what we still wore them. And Jackie Kennedy’s style – I had a pillbox hat just like hers and when I wore it I thought I was gorgeous . such good memories. Thanks for sharing yours.

  14. What a great post, Lenie! I am 21 years younger than you, but do remember much of what you have written, and certainly heard about the rest from my parents. I love the photo of you at the beginning of the post! It is so nice to see that your beautiful smile has lasted all these years. Wishing you all the best for 2018. 🙂

    • Hi Doreen – my, you are a young’un, aren’t you? You wouldn’t even have been born in ’63 when our lives all changed, but I’m sure your parents would have talked about the JFK assassination – it stayed with people for the longest time.
      We had so much fun back in the 50s, early 60s, much of it our own making like the beach parties or home parties. My parents were amazing in that we were always able to bring friends home – it didn’t matter how many or how unexpected. Ah, such good times.

      • Oops! I think your math is off. Was definitely alive and well in ’63!

        • Doreen, I was born in ’45, you were born 21 years later, that makes it ’66 or did you mean to say 12? Either way, enjoy your youth Haha

          • YOU are right! It is ME who is terrible with numbers. I was born in ’56.

          • I love it when I’m right LOL

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