Monday, August 2, 2010

2 August 1956 “Take Me To Your Leader…Er, Uh…I Mean Your Lawn: Robots and the Atomic Age.”

robotmower Many times I will come across things in my vintage magazines that surprise me. This was one of them. A remote controlled robotic lawn mower. I love this on so many levels.
louistherobot First off, the idea of robots infiltrate the Atomic Age. Rather as an aggressor or a helpmeet.forbiddenplanet (first photo from this wonderful Flickr stream HERE of robots, Second photo from wonderful 1956 movie, Forbidden Planet) The advanced and sudden surge of technology due to WWII lead many people to expect a rapid advance in such things.
Second, the new obsession with the lawn. Prior to the world wars, lawns were really the province of the upper middle and upper classes. estate1 Big estates and large homes had the staff to maintain their endless green stretches. breakerslawn It was a form of decadence that allowed the leisure classes to have garden parties, ornamentation and places to put the pool and formal gardens. After WWII, the every man had his own little plot and home ownership was really up. Returning G.I.’s were promised a land of milk and honey, their own home, a happy beautiful wife, 2.5 children, a good job and of course a beautiful lawn to maintain. Yet, to the community minded 1950’s family, it was also a reason to socialize and be a part of the neighborhood, not a means to keep out others.50sbbq2 It brought the family together with raking and mowing and the neighborhood with bbq’a and block parties.
Finally, it ushered in the beginning of the new product push. The lawn and garden chemical. lawnad1 Promises of beauty with ease was everywhere and we sprayed and poured and crystallized our way to a beautiful lawn. Of course, we were unaware that the chemical warfare of WWII was now the new money maker for burgeoning middle class desiring the perfect lawn.plantfood Things are not always better here in 1956. If only I were truly here and could help others to see that we are perched on the verge of such a great future. Sure, we can have a lovely yard and we should want to improve, but if only we could hold onto the 40’s Victory Garden and give some of that space over to veg and fruit. Yes, there is everything we need at our new local Grocery story, but to grow our own is part of our colonial and frontier heritage. And let’s embrace advancements such as robot lawn mowers, but also realize the joy in pushing the old heavy man powered beast around the yard as well.
I always feel that same sort of sadness and nostalgia when I think of such things. I, too, want that land of milk and honey, but I am sad how our modern 2010 world has been sold out from under us. To be those happy determined people of the 1950’s but not to slowly allow ourselves to be lead down the path of ease without consequence, we were promised, what a world we could have made! So, in many ways, my vintage life is an attempt to regain that. Firmly planted in 1956, but recalling the war year gardens, the canning and thrift of my childhood in the 1930’s and the determination of my fictional grandparents in the 19th century, all can culminate into a new modern way of living.
But, I have to admit, I do still want a Robot Helper, don’t you? Even if I will have to deal with this crazy Robot repair man. Although in 2010 where tv repair and such is no longer a profession, I am sure our future robots will be ‘throw away’ whenever the ‘new i-Robot’ comes out.
Oh, and remember we pronounce robot:  ROW-BITT here in 1956.
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