If You're Not a Baby Boomer, Don't Even Bother with This Quiz!

By: Torrance Grey
Image: Smithsonian Channel

About This Quiz

The Baby Boom generation was born in the late 1940s through the end of the 1950s (or early '60s), the era when GIs returned from WWII and women gave up their wartime jobs, then they married and started families. The following years saw so many pregnancies and births that it was called the "Baby Boom." This generation, large in numbers and raised in an era of peace and prosperity, was expected to dominate culture, fashion and politics. And, later, to put a serious strain on the retirement and health-care system, as they left the workforce and began drawing benefits in the same huge numbers that they did everything else. 

But before all that, back in the 1950s and '60s, the Boomers were children, sharing a set of cultural influences. This is truer of the Boomers than the Gen-Xers or the Millennials (especially the Millennials). Boomers lived before the days of the internet or basic cable, with just three television networks. They saw the first color programming and the first televised presidential debate. They lived in homes where a phone was used only for talking and was shared by -- it's true! -- an entire family!

Come back with us to a time that was simpler, if not necessarily easier. If you're a Boomer, you'll certainly remember most of what we've included on this quiz, and if you're not, you'll probably learn a thing or two!

Where was Lyndon Johnson sworn in as president?

Johnson was sworn in only hours after Kennedy's assassination. With no Bible available, he took the oath with his hand on a Catholic missal.

The ___-track tape was a beloved technology of the Boomer years.

Who can forget the commercials for music compilations of the 1960s and 1970s? They offered you a choice of vinyl record, cassette, or 8-track tape. Some enthusiasts still have the players.

How did you (most often) dial a telephone?

The fifties and sixties were the age of rotary-dial phones. You stuck your finger in the correct hole and turned it until it stopped. You did this seven times -- ten in the rarer instances when you were calling out of your area code.

Reversing the charges was also known as calling _____.

Boomer college students didn't worry about minutes on a phone plan. If they wanted to call home, they got the operator on the line and asked to make a "collect call" to their parents' number.

Approximately when did microwave ovens start showing up in homes?

The first popular home microwave ovens went on sale in 1967. How soon your family and neighbors had them depended on how wealthy your neighborhood was, but the late '60s were the starting point.

Which toy let you draw on a silver screen by turning knobs?

The cool thing about the Etch-a-Sketch was that if you were very patient, drawing lines vertically and horizontally until the whole screen was covered, you could see the mechanism underneath that made the drawings. Basically, you were scratching a silver coating off the screen from the inside with a moving stylus.

What was a "clicker"?

One difference between a regular middle-class home and an upper-middle-class home was having a "clicker" for the TV set. Regular folks had to get up to change the station. Of course, remotes are more important than ever today, with half a dozen streaming services. But only older folks use the term "clicker" anymore.

Back in the day, you'd hear a credit card being called a _____ card.

While we still sometimes refer to "charging" something, the term "charge card" - along with "charge-a-plate" - has fallen out of use. "Debit card" didn't arise until the late 1980s.

What was the Boomer name for flip-flops?

These were cheap rubber shoes, often sold in a big pile in the middle of a drugstore aisle. Back then, there were no "Flip Flop Shops" with high-fashion versions.

Finish the lyric: "I am a ______ for the county."

That's right: In 1968, a songwriter called Jimmy Webb had the strange idea to write a country-pop song about a telephone repairman. And it paid off. "Wichita Lineman" was a huge hit for Glen Campbell. Check it out; this working-class anthem will stick in your head for days.

In the rock opera "Tommy," what was Tommy?

"Tommy" was written by The Who's Pete Townshend. It includes several things young people in the '60s liked: pinball, acid and cults.

Which of these were the natural enemies of the Mods?

Mods and Rockers were a British phenomenon. Mods followed the fashion cues parodied in "Austin Powers," rode Vespas and liked culture (certainly forms of it, at least). Rockers were drop-outs of the James Dean school, liked leather and didn't shave much.

Who played the lead in "Spartacus"?

"Spartacus" might be famous now more for the people involved in its making than its actual merits as a film. The then-little-known director was Stanley Kubrick, and it was written by Dalton Trumbo, who was at that time blacklisted for having suspected connections to the Communist party.

If you've had a "gas," what have you had?

You might know this one from the song "Jumping Jack Flash." You remember: " ... it's a gas, gas, gas!"

Which of these Monkees was actually a musician?

Tork and Nesmith were originally musicians. Davy Jones was an actor with some singing experience, and Dolenz was an actor who did not play the drums (his instrument on the TV show). They pulled together to become a credible band, with hits like "I'm a Believer."

Who played the young hero in "Forbidden Planet"?

Before he was a staple of slapstick films like "The Naked Gun," Nielsen played an upright space commander, John J. Adams. This cult movie is still played on the big screen from time to time.

What were racial segregation laws in the South called?

The name came from a blackface performance called "Jump Jim Crow." The lunch-counter and city-bus protests of the 1960s opposed these laws, which required separate water fountains, restrooms, restaurant seating and more for black people.

Who was the first American in space?

Shepard had a quick wit. After his mission, when asked what he was thinking about just before liftoff, he said, "That every part of the ship was built by the lowest bidder."

What was Sputnik?

The Soviets launched Sputnik in October 1957. This was the beginning of what people of the 1950s and '60s called the "Space Race."

In what country was the Bay of Pigs invasion?

The invasion was a failed U.S. attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro. The term "Bay of Pigs" has become a figure of speech for "a disaster."

Which of these films did NOT feature Elvis Presley?

Elvis had a longer filmography than most people realize. However, "Leaving Las Vegas" didn't come out until the early 1990s. (You might have been thinking of "Viva Las Vegas.")

Which of these was NOT a Boomer-era talk show host?

Born in 1947, Letterman is a Boomer. But his talk-show career fell solidly in the Generation X years: he was the hottest talk show host of the '80s, widely expected to replace Johnny Carson when he retired. (Spoiler alert: he didn't.)

How long did the Cuban Missile Crisis last?

A U-2 spy plane confirmed the presence of Russian missiles in Cuba, with a capacity of easily reaching the U.S. mainland. President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev brokered a solution that saw the missiles withdrawn, with the U.S. agreeing it would not invade Cuba again. But for a time, the two nations seemed on the brink of a "hot war."

Which of these was NOT a Boomer-era TV show?

Don't be fooled! "The Pee-Wee Herman Show" might seem like classic, nostalgic TV. But it was a subversively humorous show, created by Paul Reubens, a former Groundlings comedian.

In 1968, what became required by law?

Many carmakers had made these standard equipment by 1968. But President Johnson signed the law that made it mandatory. He did so in 1966, giving automakers two years to fully comply.

The moon landing was made by the Apollo __ mission.

The Apollo 11 sent men to the moon, two of whom walked on the surface. But to this day, there are conspiracy theorists who believe the whole thing was faked.

Which movie director is suspected of having helped fake the moon landing?

Part of this conspiracy theory is based on the movie "The Shining." The boy Danny wears an "Apollo 11" sweater, which believers say is a nod to Kubrick's involvement.

In what year was JFK inaugurated as president of the United States?

Kennedy was elected in 1960, and therefore inaugurated in January 1961. He was assassinated in 1963.

Whom did Kennedy defeat to win the presidency?

Kennedy and Nixon appeared in the first presidential debate to be aired on TV. Kennedy's good looks compared to Nixon's are believed to be a factor in his victory.

Where would you see a test card?

The test card is the pattern of rainbow bars a TV station would put up when the signal wasn't going out properly. They'd actually calibrate and align the signal, much like your printer uses a sheet of paper with colored bars on it to align cartridges.

In what year did Castro become prime minister of Cuba?

Castro assumed the office after the capitalist leader, Fulgencio Batista, was overthrown. Castro spent decades in power, finally stepping down in 2008 (only to cede power to his brother).

Which of these is a Rolling Stones album?

The Rolling Stones were one of the iconic acts of the Boomer era -- and they might not be done touring yet! "Let It Bleed" came out in 1969.

Which of these American presidents was previously an Army general?

Eisenhower had one of the more distinguished service records in presidential history. He served as Commander-in-Chief from 1953 to 1961, formative childhood years for many Boomers.

"The Old Man and the Sea" won the Pulitzer Prize for which author?

Hemingway was a larger-than-life hero for Americans in the mid-20th century, as much due to his adventurous, globetrotting life as to his literary output. He won the Pulitzer in 1953.

Which band produced "Sunshine of Your Love," "White Room" and "Tales of Brave Ulysses"?

Cream was a blues and rock trio. Their guitarist was a guy called Eric Clapton - you might have heard of him.

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