THE ONLY WRITTEN HISTORY RELEVANT TO BABY BOOMERS—4,000,000 B.C. to 1964 A.D. (Printed here in its entirety.) Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, and millions of America’s heroes returned home to end World War II. Exactly nine months later (May 15, 1946) the Baby Boom began. The birth rate shot up 20% from the previous year, passing the three million mark for the first time in our history, and then exploded to nearly four million new babies in 1947. The United States passed that high-water mark in 1948 and remained above that alarming level for nearly two decades. This insane pace finally slowed down abruptly to a normal level of 2 million per year in 1964… exactly nine months after the assassination of JFK. Other countries on the winning side also experienced a sharp increase in births, but their rash celebrations ended by 1950.America’s bliss continued for eighteen years. Ours was a special case. After 170 years as a New World Nothing, we had finally earned the status of World Class Power. WW II saw Europe and Japan bombed to hell, while America (except Pearl Harbor) remained untouched, and at the same time our factories were all geared up to produce the tools of war. Big Business then made a smooth transition over to peacetime merchandise such as televisions, cars and refrigerators and the world begged for our manufactured goods. Young American adults believed that the good times would last forever, and that the world would be forever grateful if they produced as many products and babies as possible. The average American family suddenlyboasted four kids instead of the usual two. The vast number of Baby Boomers gave society indigestion, later described as the “Pig in the Python” problem. From Day One of the Boom, America lacked a sufficient amount of delivery rooms, and once we arrived, pediatricians. Millions of young, new mothers turned to Dr. Benjamin Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care for help and support. The first edition, published just a few weeks after the birth of the first Boomer, soon became one of the best-selling paperbacks of all time. For a mere 35 cents, the book gave inexperienced young parents a false sense of security in guarding what was then considered as “the National Treasure.” A tsunami of national treasure hit the schools in 1952, 38% larger than the 1951 first grade class, and caught the educational system completely by surprise. The same group of kids continued to catch the system unprepared every fall all the way through college. There were never enough classrooms, textbooks, desks or teachers for that first wave of Boomer students. A lack of housing for so many large, young urban families caused the cities that could (mostly in the Southern and Western States), to spread outward in the ‘50s. 83% of the total population growth in the United States during the decade spilled into the suburbs. Because of the vast number of new kids, American industry had no choice but to mass produce basic goods and services… diapers, baby food, toys, and even our entertainment. The Baby Boom Generation forced the most powerful society in the history of the world to bend their way and to cater to their wants and needs… and we continue to do so well into the 21st Century. THE REFLECTED HISTORY OF BABY BOOMERS Each of us has only a vague idea of how we look in the eyes of a stranger. We rely on reflections… in mirrors, photographs, videotapes and other distortable, unreliable images as we grasp for a clear self-concept. As a generation, Boomers love to gaze at their reflections from the three most significant mass-media mirrors 1: MOVIES have been a constant reflection OF THE BOOMERS ever since we were old enough to buy a ticket at the box office. 2:The need for TELEVISION in every home was created BY THE BOOMERS when we forced our young parents to stay home. 3: ROCK & ROLL was resurrected (like Lazarus) as the official language FOR THE BOOMERS when words alone were insufficient to express our angst and other inarticulate feelings. How could a bunch of Baby Boomer kids seize and dominate these three powerful mass-media giants? The answer is
simple… Boomers are, were and will be (for another quarter century or so) the largest potential market that any sponsor or producer can aim at. Mass-media cannot survive without big money from advertisers, and Baby Boomers, from 1946 to present, have always been the largest target group of consumers. Thank goodness for Capitalism. In a Communist or Socialist country, our generation would have been considered as a pain in the butt, but here in America, mass-media is our slave. As children in the ‘50s, Boomers caused the Golden Age of TV kid shows like the Mickey Mouse Club, novelty records and live-action Disney flicks. As adolescents (late 50’s, early 60’s), we forced the Age of Teen Idols records, Bandstand on TV, and suddenly Annette wore a bikini, with boobs, in Beach Party this-and-that movies. As teenagers… well, you get the picture. American media catered to Baby Boomers the vast majority of the time for more than half a century, and if you are not one of us, you are probably bitter and jealous. You should be. Belonging to any other American generation is like growing up as the second son of a King… so close, but you’ll never reach the top… because we stand in your way. Boomers recognize your pain, but frankly speaking, we really don’t careHE ONLY MASS-MEDIA REFLECTIONS RELEVANT TO BABY BOOMERS FROM THE FIRST 2,000,000 YEARS OF HUMAN HISTORY (Prior to 1950): Rock & Roll Don’t let those of lesser birth blame it entirely on the Baby Boomers. The roots of Rock & Roll can be traced to the work songs and gospel music of African-Americans in early slave days. The sound became even closer to modern Rock in the 1920’s, when rural blues men moved to urban centers and the rhythms became heavier, more insistent, and the tempo, faster… conforming to the pace of city living. Two-man guitar teams became popular, with one man playing bass notes and chords, while the other played the lead or melody line. In 1929 the Graves Brothers of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, recorded some spirituals for Paramount, which critics described as “rocking and reeling.” The music aimed exclusively at the “race music” market, but in 1932 two white folklorists, John Lomax and his son, Alan, turned on to the sound. They recorded Afro-American folk, blues and gospel at Black churches, revival meetings, bars and out in the fields. “The hard-driving beat, the bluesy melody, the rhythmic singing which contained improvised and stream-of-consciousness type lyrics,” thrilled the Lomax’s. The roots of Rock & Roll dug deep into the heart of American music well before the birth of the first Baby Boomer. Our generation can’t even take credit (or blame) for the first electric guitar Eddie Durham strummed one for The Kansas City Five in 1938. For mainstream WASP audiences, Charlie Christian began playing electric with the Benny Goodman Band in 1939. By the early 1940’s, a slightly watered-down version of the Black backbeat reached White ears with cover versions like Boogie Woogie (Tommy Dorsey) and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (The Andrews Sisters). Television The Movie Industry hit its peak about the same time.Hollywood cranked out more films and sold more tickets than at any other time in its history in 1946. Twenty-somethings (our parents) stepped out on the town for their last big fling, but by the end of the year, newborns forced more and more young couples to stay home. During the next few years, movie attendance and production decreased sharply and television spread like wildfire. Our parents believed that Television had been created for them… as a gift for all their hard work in WW II, or some such nonsense. Little did they suspect that they were simply acting as trustees for a short while, holding our inheritance until Baby Boomers grew of an age to seize control. Our parents perceived TV as a toy, an evening of free entertainment, and a reliable babysitter. Boomers naturally accepted television as an adopted, but equal sibling. Television is a Baby Boomer. Before we came along, there were very few sets and only a handful of stations, broadcasting silly game shows like Amateur Hour and It Pays to be Ignorant, nature films like The Nesting Habits of the Migratory Goose, public service shows like The Right Way to Reshingle Your Roof and lots of wrestling and old Westerns. The generations prior to our parents considered the concept of television as a curiosity for eccentrics… sort of like an elephant, fun to look at, but who the hell would want to own one? But in the end it didn’t matter what the old folks thought. Baby Boomers quickly became a vast market, and that created the Television Industry. (I Know It’s True ‘Cause) I Saw it On TV YouTube <http://youtu.be/YwhxeaVfk3s> Media reflections are the only source of history that Baby Boomers trust and understand. As infants, we exerted little influence on the content of the mass-mediums before 1950, thus Boomers believe that nothing of much importance happened before that date.
The majority of young parents owned a television set by 1950. Reviews were less than enthusiastic… John Mason Brown called it “chewing gum for the eyes.” T.S. Eliot remarked “It is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.” Perhaps the late, great Fred Allen explained it best when he said, “They call television a medium because nothing on it is ever well done.”
The harsh criticism subsided somewhat when TV presented its first amazing spectacular of a real-life event… the Kefauver Crime Committee Hearings: a great battle of heroes and villains, broadcast live (wrestling was also extremely popular in the early days of TV), with the government of the United States launching a full scale attack against the entire organized crime world. Senators grilled the Godfathers and the public learned all about the Fifth Amendment. The show soared in the ratings.
The networks realized that they had hit the mother lode, and soon “law and order” shows, such as Dragnet, Treasury Men in Action, The Man Behind the Badge, The Web, Man Against Crime, and Rocket Squad sated the airways. The networks pushed goodness to the next level on March 1, 1952, when the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) accepted a television code, which included these four basic rules:
Early Boomer children began to watch TV and the networks spoon-fed them “Truth, Justice and the American Way” in the form of kid programs like Superman and recycled old Westerns with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy. A new Oater, Sky King, introduced a modern cowboy flying an airplane. What more could a Boomer kid want?
Every popular topic of discussion heard in the street in those early days was soon reflected in the TV mirror as a new show. The average household suddenly contained twice as many kids, giving parents twice as many headaches and family situation comedies flourished. The early 50’s gave us The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, I Love Lucy, I Married Joan, My Favorite Husband, Mama, Make Room for Daddy, and The Pride of the Family. Note the progression of the titles here… the typical story of love and marriage in the early ‘50s.
In the superficial world of television, titles are often more important than the content of the show as an accurate reflection of the times. The early ‘50s, for instance, appeared to be a wonderfully optimistic time in America. To grasp a quick flavor of the mood of any era of recent American history, one need look no further than the titles of new Soap Operas, the shallowest form of TV programming. 1951 gave us Love of Life and Search for Tomorrow; 1952, The Guiding Light; 1953, Follow Your Heart and Three Steps to Heaven; and in 1954, The Brighter Day and A Time to Live.
The public obsessed on the American Dream, and the tube provided a forum. Star-struck wannabes sought overnight fame and fortune on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour, Talent Patrol and Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts; sub-amateurs depended on dumb luck on game shows like Strike It Rich. Young parents bragged about their brilliant Boomer kids and the Networks created Quiz Kids.
The first tidal wave of Boomers hit the public school system in 1952, and teachers, or rather a lack of them came to the attention of the public. TV responded with sit-coms like Mr. Peepers and Our Miss Brooks to assure us that the school system could handle the situation in its own bumbling way.
Television finally came of age on either (you decide) January 19th or 20th, 1953. The latter date included the Eisenhower/Nixon Inauguration… the first to be televised live, coast to coast… giving millions of Americans a glimpse of the pageantry and ceremony in our way of transferring power. A landmark in the history of television, but not nearly as big as the stunning event on I Love Lucy the night before, when Mrs. Ricardo gave birth to Little Ricky. Earlier that same day, Lucille Ball had produced a real-life boy, named Desi Arnaz, Jr., named after Desi, Sr., his father, who that same evening also became the father of a different baby named Little Ricki on the tube. Confusing, isn’t it? We Boomers have always had a problem separating TV from real life. In any case Little Ricki was the first Boob Tube Baby Boomer birth.
YouTube- Lucy and Desi “We’re Having a Baby”: <http://youtu.be/mQtjSm9p-hA>
Any mention of Pregnancy had been considered as taboo on the tube until Lucy’s physical condition forced the producers to include the subject on the show. Her double pregnancy (real and tube) became an extremely popular topic of conversation at the time. The event completely overshadowed the Eisenhower/Nixon gig. More than 70% of America’s TV sets tuned in to I Love Lucy on that very special night. Dickie and Ike only pulled in a small fraction of that number the following evening.
Rock & Roll
Boomer Rock & Roll finally found its Johnny Appleseed in 1950, in the form of disc jockey Alan Freed. At this point in his career, Freed had been turned down by most of the major radio stations in the country, so he jumped with joy when offered a job at WJW in Cleveland. Soon after, he met Leo Mintz, the largest local record dealer, who told him that kids of every race often bought a type of Rhythm and Blues, commonly referred to as “Rockin’ & Reelin,” a metaphor for what happens to the bedsprings after the lights go out.
Freed loved the sound and tried out a couple of those records on his show. The kids dug the tunes, and soon R & R dominated his time slot. Alan developed a style of “manic patter” between and over songs that captured and complimented the music. He began to call it Rock & Roll and his Moondog Show soared in the ratings.
Alan sponsored the Moondog Ball in 1952 in Cleveland. 25,000 kids, half of them White and half African American, showed up at a hall that only held 10,000… a slight problem in segregated Cleveland. Parents flipped out and Freed was forced to cancel the show… but not before the message had leaked out: “Regardless of race, kids just want to have fun and rock!”
The timing for Rock & Roll to emerge was perfect… television had badly wounded radio, and AM stations desperately scrambled for anything that would draw new listeners and sponsors. Other DJ’s on mainstream (white) AM stations followed Freed’s lead and started playing Rock & Roll. Teens turned on to the Black sound, but their WASP parents still dug Your Hit Parade and the Perry Como Show on television. The First Golden Age of Rock & Roll lurked just around the corner.