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11 Things Only Boomers Born in the 1950s Can Truly Appreciate

By Paul - July 14, 2014

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Baby boomers are one of the most unique generations around, given they grew up in some of the most radically transformative times this past century. That’s not to discredit the generations that existed before and after boomers, but they pale in comparison to the sights and sounds that the baby boomer generation experienced. In honor of them, we take a look at some of the neatest events they lay witness to.

1. Beatlemania

There have been few musical acts like the Beatles, and the mop-topped quartet from Liverpool really took the world by storm. Bursting onto the music scene in 1960, the Beatles threw everyone into a frenzy, inspiring mobs of screaming fans that attended their concerts in hysterics. By the time they arrived at JFK Airport in February of 1964, the Beatles had already appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, which further cemented their place in history as a band to be reckoned with. The closest comparison in recent history is Justin Bieber, but even he pales in comparison to Beatlemania.

2. Woodstock

At first, this three-day music festival had trouble just getting off the ground. Concert promoters were worried that no big name musician would get on board but once Creedence Clearwater Revival signed up, the floodgates opened. All in all, a total of 32 musical acts — which included Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, and Jimi Hendrix (whose rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner is still talked about today) — played for 400,000 people, making Woodstock the most famous and infamous music festival ever.

3. First American in Space

NASA had been experimenting with rockets and launches prior to 1962, with astronaut John Glenn participating in a series of tests. But it was one thing to undergo simulated tests and quite another to fly all the way into zero-gravity space, as the endeavor was fraught with risks and peril. But he made the trip successfully, taking only 4 hours and 56 minutes to orbit the earth three times. When he touched down on terra firma, President Kennedy awarded him the Space Congressional Medal of Honor.

4. Walk on the Moon

In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to ever set foot on the moon. This historic event was watched by millions of boomers everywhere, and if you ask any of them what they were doing at that time, they’ll be able to immediately tell you. The space race between the Americans and Soviets was at a high, underscoring the two countries’ bitter animosity toward each other. In the end, the Americans won out and it became a defining moment in our country’s history.

5. Rolling Stones Fever

As popular as the Beatles were, the Rolling Stones were the only other band who came anywhere close to matching them. Fans of the Beatles like them because they were nice, clean-cut boys; the Stones, however, offered quite the opposite. They were genuinely bad boys who smoked, drank, did drugs, and slept with anything female that moved. Their music was also bluesier and harder-edged, giving rise to the debate that still stands today: who was the better band, the Beatles, or the Stones?

6. Martin Luther King, Jr. is Gone

His was a voice that spoke out strongly and clearly against racial discrimination, leading the way in civil rights activism everywhere. King was an idol to blacks and whites alike for his message of peace and resilience, epitomized by his “I Have a Dream” speech, spoken after his March on Washington in 1963. Sadly, King’s life came to an all-too-early end when he was assassinated at the age of 39 on March 29, 1968.

7. JFK is Silenced

One of the most charismatic presidents we’ve ever seen, John F. Kennedy helmed the United States through turbulent social and global times. He was a renowned orator, too, such as his New Frontier speech he delivered for the 1960 presidential election against Richard Nixon. But he’s perhaps best known for how he handled the Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis, deflecting disaster in both cases. When he was fatally shot by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963, the whole nation stopped what it was doing and mourned the death of a great man and leader.

8. Rosa Parks

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was sitting on a bus when the bus driver, James F. Blake, ordered her to vacate her seat for a white person. She refused, and became forever associated with the burgeoning civil rights movement in the States. Although she wasn’t the first person to refuse to give up her seat on a bus, her action did kick off the Montgomery Bus Boycott, both of which became hugely important symbols to fighters everywhere.

9. Vietnam War

Many critics accused the U.S. government of fighting a Cold War proxy war instead of actually accomplishing anything concrete in Vietnam, and this baby boomers’ sentiment grew stronger as the body count grew. It inspired countless protests and sit-ins. As the years dragged on, public opinion grew more and more bitterly opposed to the Vietnam War until in 1970, only a third of Americans supported the war. A big issue was also the concept of the draft, with young fighters feeling forced to engage in something completely against their ideals.

10. Drive-In Movies

Drive-ins started in the 1930s but their popularity really came to a peak in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, with about 4,000 theatres spread across the country. Also known as “passion pits”, drive-ins gave teens and adults a place to go on dates where they’d be relatively secluded in the privacy of their own cars. Some seniors may remember the Johnny All-Weather Drive-In on Long Island, New York, which, at 29 acres, was one of the largest in the country. Unfortunately, rising real estate prices triggered the decline of drive-ins and they’re now only about 1.5% of all movie screens.

11. Rise of Television

Today, having a TV in the home is as common as having a cell phone, but it wasn’t always the case. Baby boomers were the first generation to grow up with TVs in their homes, and quickly made use of them. The first sets were black-and-white but it didn’t take long for color to creep in. Another big change was the number of channels, as TVs started off with just a few and now have hundreds.