Baby Boomer Looks Back

Image of Volkswagen BeetleThe race was on. The 1946 Diaper Derby was in full swing. With the New Year looming over the horizon and the celebrations were commencing, the big question was who would become the first baby born in 1946 and begin what would be called the Baby Boomer generation.

The full significance of the birth may not have been immediately known but that baby would signal the beginning of the Baby Boomer generation which would some 62 years later trigger what was to become known as the Silver Tsunami. Some 78 to 79 million people would be born during the period of 1946 through 1964 and in 2008, they would commence the march into retirement at the clip of 10,000 per day on the average for the next 19 years.

I entered this world in January of 1946 and would be at the leading edge of the generation following the end of World War II.

To give a little perspective as to what life in the United States was like at that time, consider the following highlights of the year 1946.

Image from Wikipedia.com

A Glance At 1946

A Glance At 1946.
The US President is Harry S. Truman who had no Vice President that year.
The President set up the Central Intelligence Agency on January 22.

Songs Popular in 1946

Top songs during 1946 included the following:
For Sentimental Reasons by Nat King Cole
Prisoner of Love by Perry Como
The Old Lamplighter by Sammy Kaye
The Gypsy by Ink Spots (also Dinah Shore)
Moreover, an old favorite by Vaughn Monroe – Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Average Prices in 1946

Image of loaf of bredImage courtesy of Morguefile.com – no attribution required

Now if we could go back to 1946 prices today we would think we were in “hog heaven.” Bread was 10 cents per loaf and milk was a mere 70 cents per gallon. Automobiles cost $1,400 (not sure what make) and the gas to feed them cost 21 cents per gallon. An average house cost $12,638, which was slightly more than 4 times the average annual income of $3,118. For those who are interested the minimum wage was 40 cents per hour.

Entertainment – 1946 Style

On the entertainment side:

The Best Picture of the Year was The Best Years of Our Lives directed by William Wyler.
The Best Actor Academy Award went to Fredrich March in The Best Years Of Our Lives

The Best Actress Award went to Olivia De Havilland for To Each His Own

1964 – The Last Baby Boomer is Born

Image of 1962 VW BusNow let us move ahead to 1964, 18 years later. This is the year that officially closes off the definition of the Baby Boomer generation.

Already this generation has seen quite a bit of action including the emergence of their own art and music. The VolksWagen Classical Busbecame a favored vehicle of the times.

If you look real closely you may even spot one of these still on the road today.

A Glance At 1964

In 1964, Lyndon B Johnson was President after assuming the office the prior year following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Like President Truman in 1946, President Johnson had no Vice President.

On December 30, 1963 Congress authorizes the Kennedy half dollar.

Songs Popular in 1964

The top songs in 1964 include such hits as the following:

The House of the Rising Sun by Animals
Can’t Buy Me Love by Beatles
I Want to Hold Your Hand by Beatles
I Feel Fine by Beatles
She Loves You by Beatles (Is there a pattern here?)
I Get Around by Beach Boys
Oh, Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison

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Average Prices in 1964

Image of Volkswagen Beetle

Now after 19 years and looking back from today prices still look good.

The cost of bread increased more than double from 1946 and was at 21 cents per loaf.

Milk prices fared a little better in that they went from 70 cents per gallon to $1.06 per gallon, an approximate increase of 50%.

The price of cars increased to $2,350.

In 1964, the average home price was $20,500 and the minimum wage had increased from 40 cents per hour to $1.25 per hour.

The average income had more than doubled to an average annual income of $7,336.

Entertainment – 1964 Style

My Fair Lady garnered the Best Picture Award
Rex Harrison took the Best Actor Award for the same movie
Best Actress designation went to Julie Andrews for her role in Mary Poppins

Hot New Toys of 1964

One of the hot new toys of 1964 was the Easy Bake Oven, which is still around today but has had to undergo some revisions. Originally, this child’s oven had a 60-watt incandescent light bulb for heating. A 100-watt bulb soon replaced this bulb. In 2011, a true heating element replaced the heating bulb because of governmental restrictions on the less energy efficient bulbs. A redesigned and gender-neutral packaged model is set to be unveiled in 2013.

Other Baby Boomer Lifetime Changes

There is no way to highlight every change nor can we even attempt to identify whether or not these changes have improved our lot in life. However, in this lens I will attempt to identify some of the changes that come to my mind.
One of the first changes that come to mind is that of the telephone. The first phone I remember in our house was a wall phone with a crank. This phone had a separate mouthpiece, separate earpiece and a crank to send a signal to the telephone operator. Our phone was on a party line, which meant everyone connected would hear your ring tone and could even listen into your conversation.
Today we have all kinds of smart phones that have no resemblance to the original. There are even those in the Baby Boomer generation that wonder when the telephone morphed into something other than a device to talk to someone across town or across the country. Two tin cans on the end of a string anyone?

I wonder what we did for the first half of our lives. Somewhere in the middle of the 1970’s, our lives changed with the introduction of the personal computer.
I can remember being responsible for bringing the personal computer into the business office environment of the university department where I worked in the early 1980’s. A big bulky unit that booted from a floppy disc drive to operate sat on my desk. How that has changed today.
During my time in school, research papers meant visiting the local library and possibly talking to a few old-timers. That is not necessary today. Today we pick up our phone and do a quick Google search to find the information we want. The issue today is whether the information that comes back is accurate or not.
There is still one bit of passing history that I kind of miss. Devised as a marketing ploy, Burma-Shave signs appeared on the landscape in 1925 and were a familiar site along highways until 1963 when their removal from the roadways was complete. One reason given for their demise was that speed limits increased too much for drivers to be able to read the signs safely.

The first Burma Shave limerick
Shave the modern way
No brush
No lather
No rub-in
Big tube 35 cents drug stores
Burma-Shave

The last Burma Shave limerick
The wolf
Is shaved
So neat and trim
Red Riding Hood
Is chasing him
Burma-Shave

My first television was a small black and white set. It seemed to take forever to warm up before it would spit out those magical images. The broadcast day ended somewhere around midnight when a test pattern would flash on the screen. Turning off the set resulted in a small white light in the center of the screen gradually shrinking to the size of a pinpoint and eventually disappearing. We did not have cable or satellite TV then. We would never have thought about HD and there was never any hope of recording any programming if you planned to be away.
I will close this off with one last bit of reminiscing. One of my early childhood favorite TV programs was introduced in 1947 and ran for some 13 years until 1960. I could never forget about Howdy Doody, the lovable freckle faced puppet. What most people may not know about this puppet is that he had 48 freckles on his face, which represented the number of states in the union until Alaska joined in 1959.

There have been numerous changes during the lifetime of the Baby Boomer. We saw man venture into outer space and plant his foot on the moon. We saw many technological advances that made our way of life much easier and brought information instantaneously to our fingertips that we could only imagine in earlier years.
Today we allow driverless cars on public streets. We can only wonder what the future holds.
Let us hope that at the least we leave our children and grandchildren with the drive and motivation to work for the good of all.