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Baby Boomer Chronicles (BBC) 1961-1962
Welcome to this installment of the Chronicles, and yes, I was around that long ago!
As it is, I cannot remember much before 1960, this was the dawn of my conscious memory of happenings during the period. I was in early grade school and like it is for most kids, everything was so vivid and alive.
If you asked me about major events that occurred in 1961, I would be hard pressed to provide an answer. It was simply too early for me to remember much during the time. We were a family of modest means. Mom was home and Dad worked at the US Post Office. He was the ambitious sort though and aspired to get into Real Estate, and later he did. These were challenging times, we had a young and vibrant new president, opportunity was everywhere and the sky was the limit. But all that grandiose stuff went over the head of a kid that was knee high to a tadpole. But from my perspective, which did not say much, in 1961, all was right with the world.
But there was always that catastrophic event for every mischievous little boy that sticks with you over time. I used to play ‘chicken’ with the wringer washer. Do any of you remember those? Here is a photo. While it was in operation, I use to just tap it and run. Well one day it caught my hand and arm doing quite a bit of damage. Fortunately, there were no permanent injuries. But Mom said that I did not deserve a bone to chomp on while the doctor applied that painful iodine stuff. All the same, I was in a cast for a while. We had the standard Hi-Fi, high fidelity, not stereo, and Dad had his 33 long playing records, most of it was contemporary Jazz, Dave Brubeck, and Wes Montgomery, to name just a couple artists.
Wringer Washer similar to what we owned
Mom liked all the popular music coming out, this was before Motown’s heyday. She was listening to the Contours, the Platters, etc. We all took quickly to the dance crazes at the time, The Twist and the Mashed Potato as representative. I was a scary kid, afraid of the dark for a long time. All the same, my mother and I had a fondness of horror movies. She would take me to movie palaces in Denver’s downtown and we would see films like “Pit and the Pendulum” starring Vincent Price. I liked to watch “Thriller” on TV moderated by Boris Karloff. Mom and I did a lot of walking together, very often to the public library.
The family got around in a 1956 Dodge. Our idea of entertainment was going to the airport and watching the planes take off and land. My father would take me to visit Grandmama who lived in an apartment duplex about a couple of miles away from our residence. She was relatively young for a grandmother and just as soon not be recognized as one. She had been divorced and kicked up her heels quite a bit; she was not a matronly sort by any stretch of the imagination. She had boy friends over, whiskey and other spirits were always on tap. The cigarette smoke was suffocating and I tagged on Dad’s shirt on frequent occasions asking when we could go home. She had this little record player that played 45rpm records, and she only had the latest stuff right from the pop charts.
I certainly remember one night Dad and I came over to decide a name for a baby brother that was due to arrive in a couple of weeks (December 1961). Grandmama did have us, my siblings and I, over for breakfast on occasion and she was a master of barbeque, which was more than useful on several occasions. She used to tell us how her sister had dated Nat King Cole during his “barnstorming days” in the Midwest during the 1940’s. Those thoughts rushed to my mind 38 years later as a grown man, while giving the eulogy at her funeral. With so many shared accounts, it was like I lived during the period she was telling us her stories about.
So, spend time with your older relations while you still have them and get them to share with you their life experiences, it will enrich your life, as it certainly did mine.
When so much of the extended family came over, you always had opinions about each of them. Take your pick; bad breath, overpowering perfume or lipstick all over your face and clothes. "Come here and give me some sugar!" Here I am a half century later, having become one of them. I did not plan on it. It just happened.
I never could remember programs that I watched on TV, I did recall the Flintstones and Jetsons introduced on ABC during primetime evenings. Because, they was animated that is why I remembered. Mom told me considerably later that kids do say the darndest things. I asked her why I could never see the woman’s chest on TV like that of the men. She told me that she would answer that later, much later… Here is one of the many TV ads during the period that I distinctly remember.
This particular advertisement touched upon many of the popular television programs of the time, see how many you recognize?
1962 Chevrolet Commercial
In 1962, I remembered a bit more. How many of you can recite the Pledge of Allegiance? Something that was a morning ritual at school had just disappeared. I guess it went the way of the Hi-Fi or TV channel tuner? When, I tried to remember it there definitely were gaps. We all faced the flag and put our hands over our hearts, seems all so quaint today. The School Principal had a paddle and when he had a “session” with an errant student, everybody could hear. It was so embarrassing. Dad said that if I got in trouble at school, I was in trouble at home as well. After getting into trouble at school on one occasion, I asked my Dad if he would listen to my side, he said, ‘the only side that he was interested in was my backside’. Well, that was not going to work Do they still make you stay after school and write 100 lines of “I will not talk in class”?
Lunch money was 15 cents. The food was not terribly appetizing and women cafeteria workers were never much to look at. I certainly remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, if not the details, the concerned demeanor on my father’s face during the days when everything was on the brink. This was in October, 1962. The school had us all trained in the ‘duck and cover’ maneuver, the staple of life during the Cold War.
For some reason, a hot summer night in August, 1962 came to mind as I distinctly remembered all the television coverage over the death of Marilyn Monroe. To think that for Christmas, 1962, I received a box of 64 crayolas with the built in sharpener. I thought that I had it all. When I walk down the market isles today and see them, they appear so cheap and insignificant that I could not imagine them being suitable as a Christmas present, but times, they are always changing
There are so few periods where one can feel relatively liberated. Childhood is one of those times, but there was always someone around to tell you that it was past your bedtime. University life was the next period, not really having to work on anything but academics, but that hung over your head as well. You went to the ‘keggers’ and parties with the knowledge that you were going to be held accountable for your grades and progress while there. That put a damper on some of the revelry. Retirement is now where it is at. You try now to re-experience the same sense of wonder that one had as a kid, now that your energies are not spent putting a roof over your head and food on the table. The problem is that now you know too much for your own good. The aches and pains that are part of a body that is certainly not in its prime is the ‘gotcha’ this time. I eat my Wheaties and vegetables, but the table is slanted, the game is rigged. That banana split just won’t taste as good as it used to…….
There are two representative samples of music for each year 1961 and 1962. They were great as I was dancing to them at the time and remember them at the time they hit the charts. Well if you don’t like these, check out the top pop 100 for 1961 and 1962 provided below.
Shop Around by The Miracles 1961
Twist and Shout by the Isley Brothers 1962
Again, thanks for dropping by the Chronicles. Here are the top of the pop for the years 1961 and 1962