How on earth did Baby Boomers manage to live past the millennium mark?

By Kim Pederson 
Special Contributor 
Baby Boom columnist

Making it out to the raft and diving tower of the Mill Pond at EL Peterson Park was everyone’s goal, but you had to swim the gauntlet of weeds, snapping turtles, and river currents to make it.
This photo probably dates to the 1950s, about the time that “Bootsie the Wonder Dog,” survived a plunge over the Pelican Rapids dam.

Baby boomers love to tell anyone who will listen about how we barely survived childhood. Not that we had it worse than our parents or their parents before them, but we still like to crow.

One can understand why this wasn’t the best car seat design.

We didn’t use car seats or seatbelts, even after federal regulations required seatbelts in 1968. Mom’s or Dad’s arm was the only thing keeping us from the windshield. We stood on the seat, lay in the back windshield, and hung out the windows like Labradors. 

Swim lessons were for sissies, yet our parents wouldn’t let us swim for an hour after eating because we might “cramp up.”     After that hour, we were free to dog paddle across flowing rivers and lily pad ponds.

Playgrounds should have come with bubble wrap. Monkey bars and jungle gyms were made of metal with nothing but the hard ground underneath. Slides were metal, too, often rusted and with no side rails. If you made it up the 30-foot rickety ladder, your hiney either froze or fried on the way down, depending on the time of year. Size mattered on the, you guessed it – metal merry-go-rounds – because if you were less than 60 pounds, you stood a slim chance of getting on, much less staying on. Teeter totters a mile long and made of splintered wood turned every fifth grader into a pop tart.

Everyone smoked. Including our doctors. During exams. Parents smoked in enclosed cars. Teachers smoked in classrooms. Pregnant women smoked and drank alcohol. 

How this would save us from a mushroom cloud was anyone’s guess. Even today, I still take a short breath when I hear, “This is a test of the emergency broadcast system.” I’m always grateful when all is okay.
There’s nothing merry about this go-round.

Our school desks were the only thing that stood between us and nuclear fallout. For millions of people who grew up during the Cold War era, a drill known as “duck and cover” was just as familiar as a school fire or tornado drill today. Students were urged to duck under their desks and cover their heads to protect themselves from a nuclear detonation. 

Most baby boomers recall their parents’ attending “old-time” dances at supper clubs and 3.2 joints. Perry’s and Spruce Lodge were hot spots. Our siblings were our babysitters. If no one was old enough to babysit, everyone piled into the car. Many a ’59 Chevrolet harbored boomers who waited in the car for parents to emerge after a night of polkas and Hamm’s beer. For our part, we were jacked up on Atomic Fireballs, Pixy Stix, and Nesbit’s orange and Bubble Up pop. No kidnapper would have been foolish enough to test their mettle on a car full of grubby, we-bathe-once-a-week-if-we’re-lucky, candy cigarette-smoking, black and blue, ankle-biters who looked more uncivilized than a feral cat and had just beat and kicked our siblings into submission in the front seat. 

In hindsight, couldn’t they at least have given the immunization shots behind a curtain so we couldn’t see it?

As elementary school kids, we sniffled and shuffled in long lines to get shots to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, and other plagues of the time with nurses in full caps and white dresses perched at the end of the death march. They clenched six-inch needles and something resembling a shingling gun. Each of us thought that the kid ahead of us would surely die, which would at least slow the process down.

And home remedies. I’d love to hear from readers what odd home remedies their parents used to treat the day’s ills. I double-dog dare you to try to top mine. I offered to put warm milk in my great niece’s ear for an earache. I haven’t been asked to babysit since. Just sayin’. 

Contact me at with your memories of whacky home remedies. I’d love to share them!

Kim Pederson

Special Contributor, Baby Boomer columnist

Editor’s note: Pelican Rapids High School graduate Kim Pederson’s regularly appearing column in the Pelican Rapids Press is a special feature, for the Baby Boom generation..

Pederson herself is a “Baby Boom” era product—Pelican Class of 1976.

Her reflections will appear in future editions of the Press.

Born and raised in Pelican Rapids, Kim continues to live in the area. Kim spent most of her professional life working at Otter Tail Power Company in Fergus Falls and was the manager of Market Planning at the time of her retirement.

She is a freelance writer and is currently working on a series of short children’s stories.

We encourage readers to connect with Kim at a special email address: