The Great American Mow Down

Men in 1950s suburbia mowing lawns

Vintage 1955 Beer Ad Beer Belongs. “Showing off the New Power Mower” illustrated by Fred Siebel #108 in series Home Life in America

 The Silent Spring mornings of the suburbs were often broken by the sound not of birds chirping but of a symphony of puttering gas lawn mowers synchronized all over the neighborhood. The power of purring motors, oscillating sprinklers, tires screeching, the belches of diesels and the bone shaking roar of a jet would play backup.

The air would permeate of fresh cut grass and gasoline.

Green With Envy

A lush green lawn was the pride of every 50’s suburban homeowner, and the competition fierce. The only green we worried about then was the emerald green carpet we would get as a result of serious chemical warfare.

My father  was justifiably proud of our lush, green country-club like  lawn.

I would tag along with Dad as he mowed the lawn each Saturday. Like shaving, mowing the lawn was a necessary chore, unless you wanted a scruffy lawn, which in the clean cut suburbs was unacceptable.

Rocket ship in space Chemicals ad 1950

Proudly Serving Industry Agriculture & Public Health

But looming large on the horizon of chemical progress was Hydrazine, a rocket fuel with many other industrial uses.

Suddenly, thanks to research and the commitment of scientists to find a better way Hydrazine became the basis for many new ultra efficient insecticides and herbicides.  “A welcome friend to the man who mows his lawn, soon you’d be seeing it everywhere”, the ads promised, promising plenty of green in Mathieson Chemicals pockets.

Legacy of a Suburban Lawn

While shopping  at our local garden center, one Hydrazine compound caught Dad’s eye.  He wanted to see what all the shouting was about.

In fact he owed it to himself.

It promised to reduce the familiar drudgery of lawn mowing, not by you drinking the stuff to fuel you up, but instead, through slowing the growth of grass.

Don’t you have more important things to do than mow your lawn?

In fact while you relax, light up with a cigarette, have a beer and enjoy the hydrazine injected tobacco, for a real mellow smoke. An active day sure takes a lot out of you. Delight your neighbors they’ll be happy with your clear headed thoughtfulness in your lovely lawn.

And not to worry, the eventual liver and kidney failure from exposure to Hydrazine will be just as slow growing as the grass. Enjoy the genuine Hydrazine….it’s the trend friend.

Suburban 1950s man mowing lawn


Excerpt from Defrosting The Cold War: Fallout From My Nuclear Family Copyright (©) 20012 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Ladies and Lawns | Envisioning The American Dream

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