Literature selection: 'Boomers'

We’re called the Baby Boomer generation because we were born after World War II, between the years 1946 and 1964. This series of articles will wax nostalgic, bringing laughter, a tear to the eye, or simply a sigh. People were relatively safe and secure; crime existed, but certainly not as rampant as today’s statistics show.

During the ’50s, my brother and I would tell our parents we were going to walk to town. Their comment usually was, “While you’re there, stop by the pharmacy and pick up a bottle of Bayer Aspirin.” With money in hand, we set out for our six-block trek. Sometimes gone for a few hours, we wandered through Woolworth’s five and dime or Pop’s grocery store, which had the best foot-long hot dogs and penny candy.

Every September, my brother would drag me into our town’s two car dealerships to sneak a peek at next year’s new model of automobiles. Each year they looked different. We walked into the showroom and meandered around until we thought no one took notice of us. Undetected, we slipped into the service section. Off to one side sat several newly designed vehicles polished in anticipation of official display. Proud and excited over our advance knowledge, we also worried about getting caught, but the dealers knew our curiosity lacked devious intent. Occasionally, we received a crooked smile and a goodbye as we left the establishment. If we remembered to purchase the aspirin, our lengthy outing proved not to be an issue.

The house rule was the last one home locked the front door for the evening. The Chicago suburb expanded steadily, but the town still remained quiet and peaceful. At age 10, I would walk to the Tivoli movie theater, pay 35 cents, a nickel for candy, and enjoy a newsreel, previews of coming attractions, cartoons, and a double feature. When the movies were really good, and my backside could take it, I spent the entire day watching them as many times as they were shown all for the one admission price. My brother and I heartily objected when the price rose to 50 cents.

Books, dolls, paper dolls, tinker toys, Lincoln Logs, little green toy soldiers, metal trucks (probably coated with lead paint), and coloring books entertained our daytime hours. Viewing television on a 12-inch screen fascinated the entire family. Until, of course, we replaced that with a 16-inch TV screen. Evenings were consumed with Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen, and Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners. Exciting new shows came to life such as the Mickey Mouse Club, Bandstand with Dick Clark, and Disneyland featuring the three-part series “Davy Crockett.” It truly became the golden age of television, though we were oblivious to that fact at the time.

My memory of the vehicles my father owned began with a 1940-something Buick Roadster, big, black, and notched by three holes outlined in chrome gracing the front sides near the headlights. I recall a blue Studebaker, a 1953 maroon Nash, a lavender with white top, four-door 1957 Chevy with gray primer spotting the beige and white original paint job and sporting a competition steering wheel. It died six months later on a highway when it blew a rod.

We’re in the ’60s now, high school and the assassination of John F. Kennedy; they were turbulent times. The door to our home was now locked day and night. My parents worried when I went out with friends. They initiated curfews and waited up until I arrived back home. But more of the ’60s in the next article.

From the June 22-28, 2005, issue

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