2 Books for Baby Boomers Who Want to Relive Their Childhood and Teen Years
Do you know what "a 45" is?
If You Were Born Between '45 and '64, Get Nostalgic
Persons born in the USA between 1945 (after World War II ended) and "about" 1964 are known as baby boomers. This is due to a high bump on the population growth graph, due to returning military members re-entering life and, joyously, making new families. The "about" above comes from some disagreement on what the ending year should be. In any event, boomers are the Americans who were children when the flag had 48 stars, or when the 50-star flag was pretty dang new.
It seems that other generations enjoy entertainment which focuses on themselves, so I will recommend two biographies that bring back the halcyon days of our youth.
Humorist Bill Bryson's Autobiography
For starters, this author is a successful humorist. So, when he decided to describe his childhood in the nineteen-fifties in Iowa, the world was in for a treat! The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: a Memoir is his opus. Even the title reference to a Superman- and Buck Rogers-style superhero starts the reader on the time journey back. Although I was not a boy, did not grow up in the central Plains, and did not have a two-working-parent household, there is plenty about the middle-class experience that must have been universal. Do you remember when:
Kids were allowed to wander all over the neighborhood, cut across anybody's yard, and no one had to report in for fear of a kidnapper or pervert getting them?
When dogs wandered all over everyone's yards unleashed, thus kids stepping in dog doodoo was a real possibility?
When fireworks were amazing because they were big and bright and loud and nobody cluttered the experience up with soundtracks and competing light shows on the ground?
When you wore school clothes to school and then changed into your play clothes the minute you got home from school?
That Thunderbolt Kid
When I read this book the FIRST time, I would suddenly burst out in loud belly guffaws - that's how funny it was for me. Then, I lent it to my boomer girlfriend who grew up in New England. Her present family banned her from reading it in the den, because she would also burst out laughing and interfere with their television watching. Next, her husband read it. This was the true test. Although he is the right age to be a boomer, he grew up in Nicaragua and did not come to the states until high school. Sure enough, he found the book to be very humorous and could relate to many of the events (especially, the dog story.) I give this book 5 stars out of 5 for Boomers.
The Smothers Brothers' Story
David Bianculli did a fine job of interviewing the brothers, their sister, and just about anyone else who ever knew them to create Dangerously Funny: the uncensored story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Whereas Bill Bryson's biography highlights the early fifties, the meat of this book shows the reader the nineteen-sixties. Here are more, do you remember when:
There were 3 television channels, period?
Bonanza (sure you do, you are humming the theme song in your head right now),
A nightclub called The Purple Onion?
Comedians first, musicians first?
I Learned Many Behind the Scenes Events
Because I was experiencing my own roller-coaster adolescence during the heyday of their Comedy Hour show, I was not fully aware of the censorship controversy surrounding it. Therefore, this biography has been a treat; almost like a history lesson of a time period I quasi-lived through. Also, it brought many a smile to my face recalling well- and lesser-known television programs of yesteryear and explaining the premise of each in a sentence for the benefit of younger folks. (A few: My Living Doll, Honey West, Perry Mason, My Favorite Martian.) The same treatment is given to pop songs of the time. The reader may be surprised to learn how Bob Newhart supported the Smothers Brothers and how many well-known comics of later years wrote for their television show.
Both Books Are Winners!
My first recommended book covers daily memories of boomers' childhoods and high school years. The second book brings back memories of the social unrest and political climate as viewed through the lens of the entertainment world. If you have the opportunity to be interviewed by a grandchild or neighbor who must talk to an "OLD PERSON" for a school assignment, see if you can't contact the teacher to recommend either of these as extra credit reading. Or, maybe not. It was a pretty incredible time. Who would believe us?
Photo and text copyright 2011 Maren E. Morgan