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Boomer Bytes #9: Hobbies: What’s Your Favorite

Editor’s Note: Below is Steve Canipe’s fourth column in his 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.

  • See second column – Are We Really Old? – here
  • See third column – Cars and More Cars – here
  • See fourth column – Getting Educated – here
  • See fifth column – Home Alone? – here
  • See sixth column – Death – here
  • See seventh column – They’re Playing Our Song – here
  • See eighth column – Driving: Knowing When To Quit – here.

Hobbies: What’s Your Favorite

By Steve Canipe

One of the pleasures we have as we get older is the ability to pursue things we enjoy instead of always doing what we have to do in order to earn a living.  Some and hopefully a lot of boomers have been lucky enough to have been able to combine the two especially in retirement.  Of course some of those younger boomers reading this are only going to be turning 50 this year and maybe have a lot more years to work – so maybe hobbies are not high on their agenda.


A quick internet search turns up all sorts of things from extreme activities like skydiving and bungee jumping to more sedate indoor activities like dancing or watching sports.  What has been true of our group from its beginning is that we are very hard to pigeonhole.  For some of us  gardening, photography, or arts and crafts allows the creative expression we crave; for others volunteering, doing home improvement, or researching genealogy fits our needs.  The statement “have it your way” is what we have always done and will probably always do.  This individualism is what makes our life fun and our interactions with our peers and kids fulfilling.

Some of the things we do our way may require a sizeable investment of time, money, or both.  If hobbies require investment of time to become skilled or money for equipment, the time to make these investments might be while you are regularly working and earning your regular salary.              For example, if golfing is a hobby you want to pursue and you want to shoot better than a 45 handicap, you might want to spend some time learning through practice and getting good equipment while you are still working. 

The need for spending and practicing would be true if you want to become a woodworker or almost any skill-type endeavor, equipment/time to pursue a hobby can be pricey.  In woodworking, time to learn how to do a proper dado joint or proper router work can be time and material consuming.  The same idea would hold true for fishing, photography, painting, swimming, dancing, or any number of other things.

 I should caution you that your kids might think you have gone off your rocker, if all of a sudden you start buying expensive equipment or spend lots of hours practicing.  I know this from personal experience with my father; when my dad was about a year from taking retirement; he started purchasing all sorts of expensive shop equipment.  I was sure he had lost it but after retirement he had another 20 years to practice and perfect his cabinetmaking skills.  His work included making beautiful custom cabinets for a new house we were building along with making some furniture pieces and a doll house/mansion for our daughter. These he did for cost of materials or even as a gift.  He did work for others at a reduced rate but kept himself in the latest and greatest pieces of equipment from the profits. He never charged enough (in my opinion) but he was enjoying his hobby AND not costing himself anything other than time, which he had!

A good friend of mine made a statement after she was 50 that you may need to tell your children if they are concerned about what you are doing.  My friend, Ann, told me “When you get to be 50, do whatever you darn well please.”  This is pretty good advice because, if you have been blessed with good health, it might not continue.  We only have this moment and are not guaranteed any more.  So enjoy today and this moment.

Don’t become a spendthrift and use up all your money because who is going to look after you if you do?  It is a balancing act – spend what you want but keep enough to not be a burden on your kids or society in general.  Temper what you spend with the thought that we are living longer because of a healthier lifestyle and better medicine.  Realistically most of us boomers can probably expect to live a long time.

The website What’s Next in Your Life (http://goo.gl/627Nqc) predicts the following:

Average baby boomer will live to be 83

Today, a 65-year-old man has one in four chances to live to 92

65-year-old woman has one in four chances to live to 94

Married couples that are 65, have a 25 % chance of at least one spouse living to 97

Boomers will have 30+ years of retirement

My two favorite hobbies—photography and travel— go very well together.  I enjoy using my camera and I enjoy travel.  I can remember buying my first “real” camera, an Argus C3, at a pawn shop in Savannah, Georgia when I worked there while I was an undergraduate student at App State way back in 1966.  I got a summer job working with the US Public Health Service who had a contract with the World Health Organization to discover how to eradicate the mosquito that caused yellow fever.  I had some extra money and the camera was comparatively cheap at $35.  I used that camera until I was working on my master’s degree at Michigan State in 1971, when I became the proud owner of a Minolta SRT101, single lens reflex.  I still have the Argus camera but the Minolta was stolen on a trip when I was in Oklahoma.

I had great fun with both those cameras and began rolling my own black and white 35mm film as well as developing and printing photos. This made the whole process much less expensive and I enjoyed the wet work in the photo darkroom. If you had or maybe still have a film-based camera, you probably remember how careful you were to compose well and not make extraneous shots – too expensive in terms of developing/printing.  This was especially true with color – even more expensive to do. Oh would digital change that paradigm!

I quickly moved from paper prints in B&W and color to color slides.  Part of my reason for this format switch was that I was teaching high school biology and using my own slides had become integral to my teaching.  I had thousands of slides that I had shot on various trips and regularly used them in class.  To save money, I soon began to develop and mount my own slides.  Not too long after I learned how to develop slide film, I discovered a company called Seattle Film Works (SFW) that would develop and print color photos as well as develop and mount slides for you…all at about the same price you could do for slides alone.

SFW is now out of business and its customer lists were sold to Shutterfly.  See a detailed write up for SFW on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle_FilmWorks.  It was an interesting concept to get both photos and slides at the same time.

Just recently, I took all my existing 35 mm slides and almost all of my paper prints and sorted them.  The relevant slides, I converted to digital photos and for the relevant prints, I scanned them to digital photos as well.  This relieved my bookshelves and cabinets of multiple tens of notebooks housing slides and photos.  The landfill in Boone was the recipient of the sides and the recycling center got the paper.

Since the late 1990s, I have been using a digital camera.  My first was the Sony Mavica that recorded images on a floppy disk!!  Boy has digital photography come a long way since then. My current cameras are both Canon – one the digital Rebel SLR and the other more of a point and shoot, the 50X zoom, PowerShot.  I love them both but find myself using the smaller and lighter PowerShot more often.  I love the ability to zoom in from a distance and achieve great clarity in the images.

As I mentioned, my other hobby is traveling.  This is definitely one of those things best done while still working because it can be really expensive.  My wife and I have been able to travel over the world and see so many interesting places.  Some of our travel, like to Russia, India, and Guatemala was done as part of mission work with our churches both here in Boone and when we lived in Flagstaff, AZ.

One of the things that we try to do is to share our travel photographs with educators and students so that they use them in projects and reports for free.  I publish many photographs that I have edited on a free website called Pics4Learning and almost all of my unedited ones on Flickr.com.  If you want to sample my photography visit the site for Pics4Learning at http://goo.gl/ZUTRhL and on Flickr at http://goo.gl/v73ImN.   

Combining travel, photography, and educational use is something that I really like to do.  Taking the pictures is a lot of fun.  Posting them online for others to see and enjoy is also fun,  but it is most rewarding to have students and teachers use your photos in reports and projects.

What is your hobby or hobbies that you plan to pursue or continue after you reach those magical boomer post-work years?  The website, What’s Next in Your Life (http://goo.gl/627Nqc), notes that 83% of boomers plan to keep working after “retirement” from their regular jobs.  If you are lucky, like me and my dad, perhaps you may be able to combine your vocation into an avocation as well.  My wife has turned her lifelong love of reading into her first Kindle work and Amazon published book called Earthcrack. I’ve a dear friend who, after retirement from 30 years of teaching, became a Lutheran minister.  We each have the world of possibilities.  Just find your hobby niche and enjoy.

Let me hear from you either via email at boomerbytes@yahoo.com  or post at the end of the column about your plans or already achieved goals for after retirement, hobby-type activities. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.