Did you imagine yourself part of Howdy Doody’s Peanut Gallery? Before the age of technology, did View-Masters, Polaroid cameras, and colored TVs absolutely blow your mind? Do you remember family road trips with no seat belts, car seats, or air-conditioning in a Woodie? On Sunday nights, did you gather in front of a small TV set with rabbit ears to watch The Wonderful World of Disney eating Swanson TV dinners?
Recently, I meandered down memory lane with Barry Silverstein’s new book, Boomer Brands: Iconic Brands that Shaped Our Childhood. As Bob Hope famously sang, “Thanks for the memories.”
With a warm fuzzy feeling, the book helped me remember watching iconic shows like Bozo the Clown (I loved that show so much that I named my imaginary friend after this clown), Beany & Cecil, Romper Room, H.R. Pufnstuf, and Mighty Mouse. I recalled fondly all the sugary cereals we boomers ate and snacks we feasted on like Twinkies and Ding Dongs without gaining a pound.
Little Golden books, Jiffy Pop, Tang, Silly Putty, Bazooka bubble gum, Schwinn bikes, Hush Puppies, MAD, and Ovaltine. It’s all in Silverstein’s book along with popular beauty products, automobiles, restaurants, and music that we adored. We baby boomers are a sentimental bunch and this book is sure to bring a smile to those who grew up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
Of course, I had to interview this boomer who “retired” from his career running a marketing agency and went on to reinvent himself as a freelance writer, consultant, author, and blogger in a quest for a productive and fulfilling second half of life. Here’s his thoughts on being a baby boomer and becoming an author later in life:
What’s your personal favorite baby boomer childhood memory?
Without a doubt, it was watching Saturday morning television. In particular, I loved eating my bowl of cereal and milk in front of the TV and imagining I was Rusty, the human pal of Rin Tin Tin on the television program, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.
What do you think is the best part about being a baby boomer?
The best part is being able to have a realistic perspective on the past. It is looking back with gratitude for a life well lived, accepting the challenges, failures and pain, while cherishing the successes and love-filled memories.
How old were you when you wrote your first book?
Many writers have a “novel in the desk drawer” that never goes anywhere. Mine was a coming-of-age novel that I wrote right after graduating from college at age 21. My first real book, however, was non-fiction. It was titled Business-to-Business Internet Marketing, and it was the first book to be published on the subject. It became a business bestseller. I wrote the book in 1998, when I was 50 years old.
What inspired you to write that book?
My inspiration for writing it was driven by business: I had my own direct marketing agency, and the Internet was just coming on the scene and revolutionizing the way we had to do business. I knew if we didn’t change we wouldn’t survive, so I researched the topic. When I realized there was no single source available, I wrote a book about it.
Did you always dream about becoming a writer?
Even in grade school, writing came naturally to me and I loved writing essays and stories. My love of writing continued into college, where I wrote for a university newspaper and also started a satire magazine with some other students. Writing was always a key part of my career.
What advice do you have for other baby boomers who want to write a book in their later years?
Writing is a wonderful form of expression, but it can be time-consuming. Thankfully, many boomers have the luxury of time, so it is quite possible to write a book. I would suggest doing a few things that will help make it a more productive pursuit. Read a lot of books, particularly in the genre that interests you. Writing fiction is very different from writing non-fiction, so think about what story you want to tell or what topic you want to cover. Find your own personal comfort zone and writing style. Write every day. Decide if your book is a personal project or if you want to try to get it published. Getting published is easier than ever, since you can self-publish, but producing and marketing a book, and attracting readers, can be daunting tasks. Seek out advice from other writers and from writing consultants — lots of free information is available by doing Internet searches.
Barry Silverstein is a baby boomer, freelance writer, and retired direct marketing/brand marketing professional. He is the author of the new book, Boomer Brands: Iconic Brands that Shaped Our Childhood. Silverstein has written numerous marketing and small business books, including Branding 123 and The Breakaway Brand. He also writes Happily Rewired, a blog for boomers. Visit his website for more information.