Born in the era of peace after World War II, Baby Boomers are characterized as the children born during the population explosion between 1946 and 1964. Although they were raised during the 1950s and 60s, a time associated with the establishment of the All-American Family, it didn’t take them long to abandon those traditional values and seek out their own. They were the force behind the counterculture movement of the ’60s and ’70s and grew up to be the most financially stable, healthy, and active generation yet. So, whether you’re considered to be a Baby Boomer or not, here are some items and cultural practices from the past that Baby Boomers will remember all too well.
Dialing A Rotary Phone Required Patience
Before there were cell phones or even landline phones with buttons, there were rotary dial telephones. On the rotary dial, the digits are arranged in a circular layout in which a finger was used to rotate the position of each digit to a fixed stop position which would then register the number.
While this may have been a technological advancement at the time, it didn’t mean that dialing numbers was necessarily quick (especially if the phone number had a lot of nines in it!) While some people may have these phones in their house today for nostalgia purposes, chances are using a cell phone is much faster and convenient.
Television Channels “Signing Off” At 1 AM
Believe it or not, at one point, most television stations didn’t have enough content to run constantly for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, each night, channels would “sign off” at 1 AM after the day’s programming had ended.
To let the audience know that the channel was signing off, the National Anthem would play and the channel would pause programs until they came back the next morning. Could you imagine today if television programs stopped running at 1 AM? People would probably get a lot more sleep if they did.
Smoking On Airplanes Was No Big Deal
While smoking on an airplane might sound incomprehensible to younger people today, it’s something that most baby boomers will remember quite well. If you thought that airplanes smell bad now, imagine being locked in a small plane with more than half of the passengers smoking almost non-stop. Just about everyone would walk off smelling like an ash tray along with all of their belongings.
It wasn’t even until February 25, 1990, that the federal government began cracking down on in-flight smoking, especially those over six hours. While some people might be disappointed they can no longer smoke on planes, for the most part, people are happy with the changed laws.
Swanson TV Dinners Were The Go-To Quick Meal
While “TV Dinners” may still be around today, they aren’t nearly as popular as when the Baby Boomer generation was growing up. The term “TV Dinner” was first introduced in 1953 by the company C.A. Swanson & Sons and were called Swanson Brand TV Dinners.
The original TV dinner came in an aluminum tray that was heated in the oven and contained a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, cornbread dressing, frozen peas, and sweet potatoes. As the years passed, the dinners began to have more variety and stayed in relative popularity until the 1980s.
Having A Milkman Wasn’t Uncommon
According to USDA agricultural surveys, around 30% of households during the 1960s had their milk delivered to their homes. This is mainly so that families didn’t have to worry about spoilage since refrigerators then weren’t nearly as efficient. While today we can just run to the store to get some whenever we run out, this wasn’t the case for many Baby Boomers.
They had to ration their milk until they got a new delivery or live without it until the milkman came knocking again. This is why milkmen are often featured in films and television series set in the 1950s and ’60s, since having one was a common part of daily life.
Kick The Can Brought The Neighborhood Together
While today kids get together online to play video games, Baby Boomers may remember meeting up at the neighborhood culdesac for a game of Kick the Can. All you needed were a few friends, an empty can, and you were ready to play. While the game originated during the Great Depression in the 1930s, it remained popular well into the 1960s and even the ’70s.
Play scholar Rodney Carlisle claims that “As outdoor and unstructured play of children continues to dwindle, the game of Kick the Can is becoming less and less known to each generation [with] past generations remembering this game fondly.”
Transistor Radios Changed The Way People Listened To Music
Developed in 1954, transistor radios were small and portable radio receivers, made possible with the invention of the transistor in 1947. After their introduction to the public, they became the most popular electronic communication device in history with billions manufactured and sold between the 1960s and ’70s.
Being portable, they are credited with influencing and promoting change in music listening habits, allowing the listener to enjoy their favorite songs and radio stations while on the go. They remained popular until the 1980s with the introduction of portable cassette players, CD players, boomboxes, and now smartphones.
Cigarette Companies Promoted Their Product By Any Means Necessary
When Baby Boomers were young, and for a decent portion of their lives, cigarette ads were about as common as soda commercials today. Not only were they everywhere, but the ads often included children with their mother and father. By doing this, it helped to reinforce the idea that smoking was a respectable and traditional aspect of American family life.
Not only would these ads include children, but would also promote the healthfulness of smoking their product. For example, Lucky Strike’s slogan “It’s Toasted,” made the claim that their “toasted” tobacco prevented coughing and throat irritation. Ads like these were commonplace until people finally realized the dangers of smoking.
Today, foodies and the majority of the general population would gag reading through old mid-century cookbooks. After World War II, the public was encouraged to start eating foods that were a lot similar to war rations for fear of those companies going out of business. One of these fads included mix matched flavors that were covered with Jell-O.
Gelatin molds were seen as easy, mess-free, and economical – perfect for whipping up something fast or serving when hosting guests. Popular dishes included lamb chops submerged in Jell-O, sugar Jell-O with vegetables… the possibilities really were endless. Amazingly, the Jell-O fad didn’t die out until the 1970s.
Putting Foil On The TV Antenna Was A Quick Fix
An old trick that people used to do back in the day was to wrap foil around their TV antennas in order to get better reception. By wrapping aluminum foil around the antennas, it increases the surface area and conductivity of the antenna in order to boost the signal.
While this may seem like a goofy way to increase your signal, it’s been proven to actually work. This goes to show that Baby Boomers were quite resourceful, and it’s safe to assume that this trick wasn’t uncommon to see in homes when TVs still had indoor antennas.
Chatty Cathy Dolls Were All The Rave
Chatty Cathy was a pull-string talking doll that was manufactured by the Mattel toy company from 1959 and 1965. The doll was released in 1960 and was the second most popular doll of the 1960s behind the Barbie. After the almost immediate success of Chatty Cathy, Mattel began releasing more “Chatty” dolls.
These dolls included the Chatty Baby, Tiny Chatty Baby, Tiny Chatty Brother, and Charmin’ Chatty. Mattel trademarked the name “Chatty” in the 1960s, and the other talking dolls such as Drowsy, Baby, Cheryl, and more had the phrase “A Chatty Doll by Mattel” on the box.
Wheelie Bikes With Banana Seats Were Like Motorcycles For Kids
The wheelie bike, otherwise known as a muscle bike, banana bike, or spyder bike, was a popular style of children’s bike during the 1960s and the ’70s. It was designed to look like a chopper motorcycle with high handlebars, a banana seat, with a large wheel in the back and a smaller in the front.
During this time, attaching deck cards to the bicycle spokes with clothing pins was a popular addition to make the bike even sound like a motorcycle as the rider pedaled down the street. Popular versions of these bikes were the Schwinn Sting-Ray and the Raleigh Chopper.
Bell Bottom Pants Were in Style Again and Again
During the 1960s, bell-bottom pants became fashionable in the United States and Europe for both men and women. Although often made out of denim, they were designed from a variety of fabrics with the bottom of the pants flaring out from the middle of the calf. By the 1970s, the pants came back into style after they were popularized by Sonny and Cher on their hit television show The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.
However, by the end of the 1970s, bell-bottoms were believed to have seen their heyday with the rise of skin-tight trousers in the 1980s. Yet, they made one more resurgence in the late 1980s and 90s as bands such as the Rolling Stones began wearing them once again.
Gas Station Lines Around The Block
In 1973 the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting proclaimed an oil embargo targeting countries that were in support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. By the end of the embargo in 1974, gas prices had over quadrupled in the United States.
This led to rationing fuel in many countries which resulted in incredibly long lines at gas stations. This began in the summer of 1972 and increased by the summer of ’73. This was known as the first ‘oil shock,’ which was followed by a second oil shock in 1979.
Customizing Everything With Rickie Tickie Stickies
Popular in the 1960s and ’70s, Rickie Tickie Stickies were reusable flower decals that could frequently be seen on the outside of Volkswagen Buses (hippie vans) and adorning girls’ bedrooms and personal belongings. Eventually, new designs were added and they could be seen on cabinets at people’s homes.
Although they were associated with the hippies and ‘flower power’ movement, the stickers were actually the brainchild of an ad man named Don Kracke in 1967. They were an immediate success and by 1968, over 90 million packs of them had been sold.
Cutting Loose In Go-go Boots
Go-go boots have evolved throughout the decades, however, the original style of the boot was first introduced in the mid-1960s. The original go-go boots were low-heeled, mid-calf in height, and usually white. However, over time, they evolved to become knee-high with square toes, block heels, and in a variety of colors. This style also came into popularity during the 1960s and ’70s.
The 1966 song “These Boots Are Made For Walking” was performed by Nancy Sinatra wearing go-go boots. She’s credited with popularizing the boot and even turning them into a symbol of female empowerment.
Talking To An Operator
In the early days of the telephone, companies used telephone switchboards and switchboard operators in order to connect calls. They would do so by inserting a pair of phone plugs into the corresponding jacks so two people could then talk. Before the process became automated, an operator was needed for everything except calling on a shared party line.
Callers would talk to an operator at a Central Office who would then connect the cord to the circuit of the person you were trying to reach. For the most part, the job of a telephone operator was female-dominated with Susan Glines being the last switchboard operator for a hand-crank phone in 1983.
Having Your Mind Blown By Pong
Pong was one of the earliest arcade video games ever introduced. The game was created by Allan Alcom as a training exercise until it was manufactured by Atari and released in 1972. Pong’s popularity ran rapid and it was the first commercially successful video game.
Pong is also credited with helping move the video game industry forward and even inspire the first-ever home console, the Magnavox Odyssey. As a result of Pong’s success, Atari was then forced to release sequels to the original game and eventually new games entirely.
Driving In A Car Wasn’t Very Safe
Back when Baby Boomers were either riding in or driving cars, most cars didn’t have seat belts and there were certainly no laws required to wear them. If seat belts were provided, they were usually in the front seats where the adults sat, not that they wore them either, and the kids would all clamor into the back.
Although there were car seats available for toddlers, they held the child upright, giving them virtually no protection in the case of a crash. On top of all that, it was common for the adults in the car to be chain-smoking, filling the vehicle in a nice cloud of second-hand smoke. A much different driving experience than we typically have today.
Relationship With Their Parents As A Child
While being your child’s friend and confidant has become popular among parents today, that was certainly not the case back then. While this may not have been the case in every family, parents of Baby Boomers had a very different style of parenting. Children were free to roam around and be gone without contact for hours, though they were also expected to behave or else be disciplined.
It was not uncommon for parents to discipline their children physically without anybody batting an eye. The parents were in charge and their word was law. Not to say they weren’t loved by their parents, but they were managed quite differently from some of the overbearing and overprotective parents today.