Another Quiet Day In Our Neighborhood
Today, our neighborhood was inundated with gardeners – our gardener, three of our neighbor’s and the HOA’s common area gardeners were at work. All you could hear all day long was power mowers, power hedge clippers and the loudest leaf blowers in the world.
This caused us to start discussing gardeners and how lawns were tended in the 1940s and 1950s. First only the very affluent owners of big properties employed gardeners. Instead most people cut their own lawns and tended their own plants and shrubs. Some of our older or more affluent neighbors would hire neighborhood kids to mow their lawns for a quarter or two in the 1940s and a dollar or two in the 1950s. When we were growing up many neighborhood boys earned their spending money cutting grass while some more industrious ones earned a major portion of their college expenses through summer and after school lawn work.
In the 1940s power lawn mowers were almost non-existent. People used push mowers to cut grass even in parks, public areas and around large mansions. We both remember teams of boys and men lined up side by side in unison pushing non-powered lawnmowers across broad expanses of city parks. Even the grass in ballparks was hand-mowed and hand manicured.
In the mid 1950s, lawnmowers powered by electricity or gas-powered engines became available for home use. The gas-powered mowers of the fifties were loud, temperamental and frequently hard to start. The electric mowers while quiet, reliable and easy to start presented a different problem. They were connected to household power by long, heavy extension cords that had to be pulled along behind the mower. These cords frequently became tangled or snarled in shrubbery or lawn furniture. Care had to be taken, especially when turning corners, that you didn’t run over and sever the extension cord while mowing. A severed cord necessitated stopping mowing operation and splicing the electrical cord. When we had an electrically powered mower, the extension cords used to connect it seemed to have a black tape covered splice about every ten inches.
Lawn clippings were always a major problem even in the forties and fifties. Most people simply raked up the grass clippings after they mowed – a back-breaking, time-consuming endeavor that usually took longer than the mowing. Other people had large, cloth, bag like grass catchers attached to the back of their lawnmowers. While these grass catchers significantly reduced the need for raking, they required the users to stop mowing frequently to empty the clippings that would accumulate in the grass catcher. Power clippers, trimmers and leaf blowers were unknown in the 1940s and well into the 1950s.
At that time, people used simple hand clippers and shears to trim and lawn rakes to gather clippings and leafs. Also, in the forties and fifties, people hand clipped and meticulously manicured their shrubs and hedges. Leaf blowers were not invented and people raked, swept and then hand collected their \leafs, clippings and other yard debris.
As we sit here in 2014 trying to relax and hold a conversation over the constant din of power mowers, power trimmers, clippers, leaf blowers etc., we can’t help but think that while yard maintenance was much more labor intensive when we were growing up maybe we were better off. The lawns looked fine, more people were employed doing yard work and our neighborhoods were PEACEFUL and QUIET.
Pat & Frank Fleming
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