Boomer Bytes #55: Baby Baby Boomers

Published Friday, January 30, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Editor’s Note: Below is another column in Steve Canipe’s series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.


Baby Baby Boomers

By Steve Canipe

Jan. 30, 2015.  Hello all of you 1964 babies!! You are about to enter this year into being the last year of the baby boom and also turning 50! I suspect you never thought this would happen to you huh? I can tell you from the perspective of the oldest year of the boomers (b. 1946) that I never thought of being 69 when I was younger; even when I was the ripe old age of 50!!

Canipe

Canipe

So each of you had best get ready for all the things that will be coming your way. I speak from experience when I tell you this. Speaking for some of my contemporaries from 1946, we could be your parents! We would have been fairly young parents but could have easily fathered or given birth to you when we were 18 or 19 years old. You have to remember that when we were that age, we were agonizing over Viet Nam and the war there and for young men the likelihood of going to southeast Asia and perhaps not coming back alive or at least wholly alive.

There are some conflicting data concerning birth rates going up just before wars and then dropping during the war years and then rebounding afterward. We boomers are examples of the boom after the last of the big wars and this boom continued for nearly 20 years after World War II ended. But whether there was a war reproductive imperative for young men to leave some our germ plasm behind before we might be killed is not totally clear. One study may shed some light on this issue (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1625481/); but at the least, it does point out the difficulty of getting really good demographic data from many of the previous wars.

So whether those of us oldest boomers are the parents of the youngest is not totally relevant to your being welcomed to the fifth decade of your lives. Fifty may be the new forty but there are some things that cannot be understood until experienced. I remember at 50 when I got my first “senior discount” – I was thinking, “I’m not old, why are you giving me a discount?”

For me that moment was nearly twenty years ago and sometimes I feel that way still about my age. I really don’t feel too old but am really grateful for the lower costs associated with many things that I now “earn” by virtue of living a long time. All I can say now is bring them on!!

One of the good things my young boomer friends is that when you are 50 you can join the American Association of Retired Persons (http://www.aarp.org/) and get all the benefits that come with that membership. The organization is so iconic that the initials are well known – AARP. If you are old enough, I should say when you are old enough, join the organization – it is very inexpensive at only $16 per year which includes a free membership for a spouse or partner.

This month’s issue of the AARP Magazine, actually is what inspired this column as it had an article entitled “The Last Boomers” and can be found at http://www.aarp.org/politics-society/history/boomers/?intcmp=HP-LN-BOOMERS. It was actually a good article and was written by P. J. O’Rourke, himself a boomer; one of the older variety having been born in November 1947. If you want to know more about O’Rourke, you can find his official page at http://www.pjorourke.com/.

O’Rourke is a comedian/philosopher—one excerpt from his newest book entitled The Baby Boom and How It Got That Way is sort of interesting. He says “There are some things the Baby Boom has done that we’re not proud of. We used up all the weird. It has always been the special prerogative of youth to look and act strange, to alarm and surprise their elders with peculiar dress and manners.  Cicero mentioned it. ”O tempora! O mores!” So did my mom, although in English. But the Baby Boom exhausted the available supply of peculiar. Weird clothes, we wore them. Weird beards, we grew them. Weird words and phrases, we said them. Weird attitudes, we had them. Thus when it came time for the next generation to alarm and surprise us with their peculiarities they were compelled to pierce their extremities and permanently ink their exposed flesh. That must have hurt. We apologize.”

So baby Baby Boomers, you are also guilty of living in the weird along with us older siblings (or young parents). Each of the intermediate parts of the decade have been identified by O’Rourke and others with regards to what was happening in society. This was in “The Last Boomers” article in the AARP Magazine. It identifies our subcultures as:

1946-1950 –Hippie vanguard

1951-1955 – Watergate kids

1956-1960 – Dazed and confused

1961–1964 – Last boomers

Each of the subgroups was identified by some major events in their formative years. For the oldest of us we were called Trekkies, rebels, and flower kids. The Watergate kids were referred to as counterculture sputters and astronaut ascenders. The dazed and confused group caught bicentennial fever, looked for alien invaders, and had a late 70s malaise. The last boomers saw the rise of MTV, MJ coming (moon walking) to prominence, and saw the yuppies born. The late boomers would readily identify with KISS, Star Wars and The Blues Brothers.

Oliver Stone, a hippie vanguard (born in September 1946) selected the top 10 movies of the boomer generation. His number one was The Graduate. This came out in 1967, and I saw it during my senior year in college. While I, unfortunately, never met a Mrs. Robinson, this movie spoke to me in all sorts of ways as a young man finishing college in a turbulent and dangerous world.

Maybe the other movies that Stone selected as tops for Boomers will ring a note of remembrance for you. In 1969 there was Easy Rider; 1971 had A Clockwork Orange; 1972 and 1974 had The Godfather parts 1 and 2; Jaws came in 1975; All the President’s Men in 1976; 1977 saw Annie Hall; in 1979 there were Apocalypse Now and Kramer vs. Kramer; and finally in 1981 there was Reds. Do you remember any of these movies fondly and did they have an impact on your life? If they did, it would be great to hear about it in the comment space at the end of the column or via email to [email protected].

Among the earliest groups of students I taught at East Mecklenburg Senior High School in Charlotte is the class of 1972. These folks (I still think of them as kids) will generally be turning 60 this year!! I recently have been seeing on the class Facebook page that there have been several classmates that have passed away. There were a large number of seniors graduating that year, around 700 graduates, as I remember.

These students were only about 9 years younger than me. So I could have easily been an older brother to them. The teacher-distance however had them thinking of me as older – I was a teacher. This class created some fond memories for me and not all about the students themselves but things that happened during our together time at East. The most memorable thing was that in 1972 my wife, Sharon, and I got married. So yes, this year we celebrate our 43rd anniversary; in April actually.

Memories are great things and I hope that through this column, some of the readers have a pleasant trip down memory lane. I certainly do have a great memory-trip with every column I write.

Whether you are a member of the last boomer group or a member of any of the other groups identified in the AARP Magazine, I hope that as you reflect on your lives and the memories you have made or been a part of, you will find some pleasure and something that makes you grin. Whether it was Woodstock or a KISS concert; or whether the drug of your generation that you remember was marijuana or alcohol; or whether the shows and movies were ones named Star Trek or Star Wars; whether the political issue was Watergate or the Kennedy assassination – your memories are precious and I would encourage you to talk with your children and grandchildren about them and what you did. In days before the advent of electronic media we were a species of storytellers passing along the wisdom we had learned and the things we had experienced.

Maybe you cannot tell your family everything you did (flower children with free sex and free drugs). But do tell them your fears and hopes and aspirations. It is important to keep our sights set on the future and try to build a better one for our progeny. If a spouse, partner, son, daughter, or grandchild sees you grin, let them you know that you were remembering. If you didn’t read last week’s column on commemorating and remembering, it might be good to go back and check it out at https://www.hcpress.com/things-to-know/boomer-bytes-54-commemorations-and-remembering.html.

Start with your grin of remembering and then by sharing with the readers of this column by posting below or sending me an email, where I will share your stories in a future column but not your name, unless you want me to do so. Send the email to [email protected]. I am looking forward to hearing from you dear readers.

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