Archive for Thursday, July 7, 2005

Lawns and lawn mowers

July 7, 2005

Before 1950, lawns were cut with reel-type lawn mowers. Many of the yards in Lansing were just left to grow and were cut only occasionally.

When I was 10 years old, I cut a yard for someone in the East End of town with a whip cut because the grass was too tall. They only had it cut once a year, and I spent all day doing this for 75 cents. All the sickles were right-handed, which did not work for a left-handed kid, and the whip cut had a long handle and could go either direction.

We always cut our own yard with a reel type push mower. My dad was very particular about the yard, so my brothers and I kept it in pretty good shape.

When I moved into the house on Lois Street in 1951, the front yard's grass was two feet high and a reel type lawn mower simply would not work. A friend, Bill Wenzel, brought his new power mower over and helped me catch up, and I have been using a power mower ever since. It was a new era in grass cutting.

I had a riding mower for a short time - long enough to discover that my body was not designed to cut grass while sitting. I would rather walk than ride; besides, it's good exercise.

The lawn mower was invented in England in 1830. The first U.S. patent for a lawn mower was given on Jan. 12, 1868, by Amariah M. Hills. It was not popular before WWI because there were not that many lawns.

The American Lawn Mower Co. is 110 years old and still making reel type mowers, from 700 to 900 a day. A reel type mower consists of a series of blades arranged around a cylinder with a wooden push handle. Today's models range from 16 to 32 pounds.

The early-day lawn mowers were low maintenance and self-propelled, known as sheep. They were used for many years and were quite efficient.

When we drive around our community we are amazed at the beauty of the countryside. Lawn tractors take care of acres. The state-of-the-art, adjustable-deck, twin-blade, variable-speed-setting, automatic-shut-off lawn tractors with headlights and beverage coolers are a big-ticket item over the reel model of the Sears and Roebuck 14-inch mower in 1902 that cost $3.40.

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