Archive for January, 2013

Brooklyn Boomer: Growing Up in the Fifties

January 18, 2013

I have been doing lots of book readings on Long Island for my memoir Brooklyn Boomer: Growing Up in the Fifties. Below is a review of Brooklyn Boomer that was published in ETC: A Review of General Semantics last year.

Martin H. Levinson. Brooklyn Boomer: Growing Up in the Fifties. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2011.

This compelling time-binding memoir and social history of Brooklyn and America in the mid-twentieth century is both entertaining and instructive. The author, who grew up in the “borough of immigrants and underdogs,” clearly knows how to tell a tale. I was fascinated by his Mark Twain-like adventures through the Prospect Park woodlands; his trips to the Brooklyn Riviera, which was Coney Island in the 1950s; his descriptions of the ecstatic reactions of Brooklynites to their home team winning the World Series in 1955; and his escapades in and out of the hallowed halls of Erasmus Hall High School, the alma mater of Barbra Streisand, chess-wiz Bobby Fischer, and Neil Diamond.

Brooklyn Boomer also provides a rich overview of what was going on in the United States during the 1950s including chapters on TV programs that took place during the “golden age of television;” the birth of rock and roll, Playboy, female contraception, and the suburbs; America’s obsession with cars; and a fascinating account of beatniks, science, and technology–the latter elucidated in a timeline going from the h-bomb to pantyhose. In addition, there is an appendix that spells out by year prices and the cost of staples in the 1950s (e.g., in 1950 the minimum wage was 75 cents an hour, the average salary was $3,800, gas was 27 cents a gallon, and it cost 3 cents to mail a letter). Illustrations of famous people and places of the era are provided as well.

If you’re curious about the 1950s (a pivotal decade in understanding American life today) or want to know more about a time that some consider an idyllic period in American history then this book is for you. To quote the title from the first rock and roll song to make it to the national American music charts, a recording performed by Bill Haley & His Comets in 1953, it’s “crazy man, crazy.”