I’m a “young” Baby Boomer, born toward the end of the 18-year generation, which spans from 1946 to 1964. My son is a young Millennial, a high school senior. Though he’s definitely interested in the way things were during my childhood, and the zeitgeist of the 1960s and ’70s, there are just some things he and other Millennials could never truly understand because…you just had to be there.
1. Beatlemania. Even I have a hard time with this one, because I was basically “born into” it. I don’t remember a world without the Beatles–and I’m glad. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to endure doo-wop and the white-bread pop music that dominated the charts in the late ’50s and early ’60s. The Beatles were ubiquitous, part of our everyday lives. They were cheerful and adorable. Whether we were toddlers or seniors, most of us had a place in our lives for the Fab Four. We called them by their first names because they were part of us. And they set the bar for every other band. “They’re good, but they’re not The Beatles” or “They’re famous, but they’re not The Beatles”—How could anyone who wasn’t there understand?
2. Camelot. “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” Me? I was in my crib, so I have no memory of the assassination. But I do remember the name “Kennedy” being part of the fabric of my early childhood and, when that name was uttered, it was usually with reverence, because the Kennedys were the closest America ever had to a royal family. Can you imagine your neighbors having a framed portrait of George Bush or Barack Obama hanging on the living-room wall or perched atop the mantle?
3. Waiting by the phone/busy signals/collect calls. The cute guy who works in the record store asks you for your number. “I’ll give you a call,” he says. You rush home after school and ask your mother (you couldn’t text her during the day), “Did Patrick call?” If the answer is “no,” depending on how interested you are, you don’t wander too far away from “the” phone—the only phone, the “downstairs” phone, or the bedroom phone—for hours, or maybe days, and every time it rings, you run to pick it up. You threaten your brother when he tries to make a call, because the cute guy won’t be able to “get through”—instead, he’ll get a busy signal, because call waiting hasn’t been invented yet. (For those of us who grew up in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, the phone was a shared household staple, not a cherished personal possession.) If he calls and you’re not waiting by the phone—too bad; there’s no answering machine, either.
4. Missing A Charlie Brown Christmas and having to wait a whole year to see it again. Same goes for The Wizard of Oz and The Ten Commandments. Like birthdays, Christmas, and Thanksgiving, they came just once a year. Sitting in the living room with your family, with all the lights turned off, you’d count the minutes until 8 pm. If you needed a bathroom break or a snack, you’d make a run for it during the commercials and try to be back before the commercials were over. If you had a favorite TV show, you’d have to make sure to have the TV tuned to that program on the specified night and time. But if you missed an episode of Three’s Company or Laverne & Shirley, it wasn’t quite as bad—you’d have to wait only until summer rerun season.
5. Pen Pals. Imagine a time when, not only was there no SnapChat, no Instagram, no Facebook, and no Internet, but there were no computers and only authors, secretaries, and well-to-do college students had typewriters. You might meet a kid your age at the shore or in another state or country during summer vacation and decide to stay in touch. Short of visiting that person (not really too practical if your new friend lived in another country), the only way to correspond was through the US Postal Service. You’d write—by hand—a letter, maybe include a photo (which you’d have to send away or go to a photo lab to have processed), mail it, and then wait for a response. If you forgot to mention something important in your letter, you’d have to write another letter. You’d correspond with your friend until one or both of you got bored.