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View Full Version : What was the lawn care industry like 30-40 years ago?


SoloSulkySurfer
03-30-2008, 11:34 PM
Heres a question for some of you old timers. What was the lawn care industry like in the 60's and 70's? What kind of equipment was available back then (walk behinds?, zero turns?) blowers?. Did people even use lawn services back then?

mowing grass 1111
03-30-2008, 11:42 PM
there was grass back then:laugh:

Jason Pallas
03-30-2008, 11:45 PM
For starters there was so much work to go around that we all just laughed. We made money hand over fist. There was no such thing as "competitve pricing". The equipment paled in comparison to what we have today. I wasn't around (in business in the 60's but I was in the late 70's and 80s. It was a great time for sure.

topsites
03-31-2008, 12:07 AM
Well there was the Carter administration when inflation was 20% and they froze the price of gas so it was cheap except you couldn't get any because pumps had no supply, see the yin and yang in all of that? :) Sure there was plenty of work and plenty of unemployed too, at least in the 80's the top speed of a Toro Wb was like 3-4 mph and the prices were the same as today and sure things were cheaper but it took twice as long...

Don't forget mpg was at an all-time high in the 80's and this hasn't improved in 30 years (but it will soon) now lets not forget the powerless tools we had to drive... We're talking 0-60 in minutes flat and so we had gas at 1.159 but the cars weren't made like today.
Sure you could get a real nice car for like 10-20g and today everything costs twice as much but back then 1-200,000 miles was it for a car, once it hit 100,000 it was good as done, too!

Oh yeah, no lawn site. The fastest pc's around 1986 were non-IBM's below the 100mhz range and we're talking logging onto BBS'es with 300 - 1200 baud modems (today's slowest modem is 56,000 baud) you're talking text transfers that would scroll at high reading speed, you could literally READ the content as it loaded, all black and white no windows no wysiwyg no mice none of that... Hard drives? LOL think TAPE drive and you were lucky if yours had a 5.25" floppy drive, RAM was like 8k maybe 16 or 32k was all you needed, yes K not Megs.

No gps, no cellulars, no dvd's, no cd's, all that stuff didn't exist and you HAD to be a geek to own a computer, for one it required raw data input at the root command level.

Simpler maybe, cheaper sure, but better?
Was it really better?

So it all adds out, it really does, sosdd lol

bill8379
03-31-2008, 12:11 AM
In the 70's (not sure if this is true, Lou Dobbs said this) the USA government deported 11 million Mexicans.

topsites
03-31-2008, 12:19 AM
Oh, one more thing: We only had THREE refineries in the whole wide world.
Yeah, imagine that :laugh:

So of course you know we had to walk to school barefoot, in the snow, uphill both ways.
There were benefits to it...
Cars were easy to fix back then, no computer chips, no air bags, none of that EFI crap.
But they broke down more, too, and weren't nearly as safe...

The handling was garbage in comparison to today's rides, too.

Az Gardener
03-31-2008, 12:31 AM
My first mow jobs were for family when I was 10-12 in the early 70's. Both of my grandfathers had me mowing their lawns. No regular customers just who ever had a couple of extra bucks and took pity on me :rolleyes: There were no catchers that I saw. If there were line trimmers I didn't know about them. I used those get on you knees and squeeze the handle for the primitive scissor action for trimming. Blower :laugh: I ran the mower over the sidewalk and driveway to blow whatever might have ended up there. I got between 1.50 for small lawns up to 3.00 for a big 1/2 acre lot. I remember raising my price for one grandfather and he just went through the roof for a quarter raise. I think minimum wage back then was 2.65 I was able to use a 20" 3 H/P gas mower most of the time.

I was in a very small 18-20-K people rural Indiana town. I never saw a company doing lawn care but I am sure they were somewhere. When I graduated in 80 I went to work for a big company in Indianapolis. Mike Ryan lawn care we did commercial work and we did have line trimmers at that point but they were very big, shoulder strap and all. We had some good sized walk behinds. I'm sure there was a rider of some sort but I never got a whiff of it. Just the 21 and the line trimmers and at the end of the season I got a little time on the walkbehind an orange Bobcat. When it got cold I left town and that was my last mowing until the mid 80's and it was here in AZ.

brucec32
03-31-2008, 12:41 AM
In the late 70's my high school and college friends worked in lawn care during summer and after school and weekends in the spring/fall. These were middle class guys, and they were THE source of labor in my area to supplement a small cadre of American full time workers at companies handling apartment complexes and commercial jobs. It worked well as the seasonal nature of the business lent itself well to using student labor.

They had a good time, worked long hours, but because they had the comraderie of working with friends and people they were similar to, it was considered a plum job. They also were paid wages far above anything a young person could make anywhere else. The same went for construction. It paid quite well. When you hear stories about Latino workers being more willing to work longer hours today, this is probably why. The social aspect of it is completely gone for Americans today. Combine that with abysmally low wages that didn't even keep up with inflation and I can see why this is "work Americans won't do". Why should they when they can cool their jets in the air conditioning at an easier better paying job?

I hired similar aged people in the mid 80's for another outdoor business. Wages were lower than in lawncare but American student labor was still plentiful. I had many more applicants than positions. Again the work environment was tough but fun. 14 hour days in the summer were not uncommon, but everyone would head out to a restaurant afterwards for a good time on weekends. In the past 20 years since then I've not seen anything like the work environments that existed before. I think the corporate mindset has squeezed out any of that. Work environments seem depressing and tense.

Adding to the misery is the idea that formed in the late 80's that any form of physically involved labor was beneath the dignity of people. The baby boomer generation especially seemed to frown on their children working those jobs, or any at all in some families. With the advent of immigrant labor this sort of work was seen as "immigrant work" and lost further status, along with the lowering of wages that came with it.

Movies like "office space" joke about the humorless drab miserable work environments in offices today. But from what I've observed outdoor jobs are pretty bleak too today.

kleankutslawn
03-31-2008, 12:56 AM
seems like this question should have been about the 70's-80's

Richard Martin
03-31-2008, 06:24 AM
What I remember about it...

For the most part, to be in the lawncare business meant you were seriously looked down upon. Way more so than today. Most of the lawn care types that I remember seeing from the 60's and early 70's were black people out pushing with a 20" mower. Trimming was either not done or was done with those hand clippers. Edging was done with a trowel or some other sharp tool. A broom was the only way to remove clippings from sidewalks and driveways.

Minimum wage (when it was instituted) was $1.65 an hour and gas cost 30 cents a gallon.

Buddy Buds
03-31-2008, 06:38 AM
In the late 50s I used a Briggs&Stratten 3hp push mower. Started when I was 8, worked my way through school, quit after college. All during this time I made more money than my dad working all the overtime he could get in a cotton mill. Retired after 40 years in the food industry and now I'm cutting grass again.

Grassmechanic
03-31-2008, 10:13 AM
I remember National, Hustler and Yazoo as the major commercial mowers. Jacobsen made the best small walk behinds. No string trimmers, just hand clippers. Manual edgers. My, how things have changed....

jkingrph
03-31-2008, 10:19 AM
I mowed for my parents and one aunt who lived about 3 blocks away.This was in late 50's very early 60's. The aunt was supposed to pay me one dollar. She was one of the early slow payer's so I dropped her.

bigclawn
03-31-2008, 06:41 PM
Richard Martin is right--we still don't get a lot of respect but back in the early 70's the work was alot harder--people treated you like slaves if you let them---best mowers on teh market were Buntons if you knew wher ethe factory was---no trimmers--- no blowers---no velkes (a great invention!)--few fertilizing companies---you paid CASH for whatever machines you wanted to buy--no loans, leases, etc---it was a different world--but it was good honest work and those that have stuck with it all that time, for the most part, are doing just fine for themselves.

AWR
03-31-2008, 06:48 PM
i can only remember the late 80,s where cash was king, you got away with paying your guys off the books and no one cared.no cared if you had a mexican or two and at this time they were happy to work, not like now with the"you need me" attitudes.. everything was grand..........those where the days

shovelracer
03-31-2008, 07:04 PM
This is long before my time, but I have a client that likes to relive his glory days. Apparently he worked lawn care in the 60s. He claims to have made $12 hr, which is a heck of a lot for then. He would always tell me that they used to cut the edges by hand on their hands and knees, and is always trying to get me to leave a crew member there for a few hours to do the same. I always laugh and tell him sure if he wants to pay for it.

Now the 80s I know about. I remember guys not wearing shirts and rocking their mullets, ciggy hanging out the mouth, and weird sit down sulkies attached to WBs. A few guys around here I think are still the same, except for the ZTRs.

bill8379
03-31-2008, 07:18 PM
When was the gas trimmer invented? it must have been hell before that.

lawnboyoung
03-31-2008, 07:54 PM
the no blower trimmer or edger sucks, but the no compation sounds awsome.

Az Gardener
03-31-2008, 08:13 PM
They didn't have spell check back then but everyone could spell...;) weird hun. That comment was not directed at anyone in particular. I just thought of it and it struck me as peculiar.

mowing grass 1111
03-31-2008, 09:14 PM
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht
oredr the ltteers of a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist
and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you
can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not
raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

lifetree
03-31-2008, 09:22 PM
... I got between 1.50 for small lawns up to 3.00 for a big 1/2 acre lot. ...

I remember when I was mowing yards as a teenager, I only had a 21" self propelled lawn mower ... I had one customer that had a 1 acre lot and I got $ 4.00 for doing it ... and I thought that was a great deal !! LOL.

JB1
03-31-2008, 09:24 PM
It was a great time back then, the light bulb having been invented a couple of years before, people used to laugh and make fun of my lawn service until they realized how much money we were making cutting and fertilizing the grass. Why back then we could buy a whole herd of goats cheap. They would nibble the grass down low, if you left them in one spot too long you could have fertilizer burn. Then someone came out with a motor on a sickle bar with a seat on it and we had a motorized riding lawn mower. Then we did not need the goats anymore so we butchered them for meat, then you could say the rest is history.

jdmcat
04-01-2008, 12:22 AM
They didn't have spell check back then but everyone could spell...;) weird hun. That comment was not directed at anyone in particular. I just thought of it and it struck me as peculiar.

no spellcheck hun?

South Florida Lawns
04-01-2008, 01:09 AM
How about who even remembers the 60's and 70's:drinkup: Just kidding.

I always wondered the same, I bet people had half the accounts as they do today, because equipment speed.

I talked to a buddy down here and he said back in the day nobody mulched they just bagged and it was slow.

wildbilly1113
04-01-2008, 01:22 AM
I remember back in the day using Homelite gas trimmer with the engine and head together on the ground. Fun-Fun, but it was ok because my arms were toughened from swinging a scythe to weedeat for years. Man, we are spoiled today,Thank Goodness!

nosparkplugs
04-01-2008, 01:23 AM
I'm 36, and started at 11years of age on my fathers John Deere 110, and was the grounds keeper for the family Mobile home park in northern michigan, I was not able to use the tractor on certain areas, adults were scared I might crash, and a 21" push mower is what I was given to use. I have since graduted from college with degree's in assoicate of applied science & bachelors of health systems management. Now I am a full time LCO, doing what is my passion. I got were I am; only because I remember how tough it was back in the early 80's.

hackitdown
04-01-2008, 08:54 AM
I worked for a guy in the mid 70's who had a 10 acre property with about 2 acres of grass. I used a Gravely 2-wheeled tractor with a mower attachment out front. It had a sit down sulky which hitched on the back. It still took about 4 hours to mow the grass. If you engaged the drive wheels to quickly, the thing would do a wheelie, bending at the sulky hitch, and the handles would drive down into your thighs. Nice bruises. All for $2.00/hr cash.

I also cut lawns in the neighborhood for $3.50 per cut. Shoveling snow off driveways was $5 or $10. We would walk around town with our shovels and offer our services to anyone we saw.

Charles
04-01-2008, 08:59 AM
My first "job" was back in the 60s. Probably around 8 years old. This idiot had me and a friend mowing a field beside his yard with a push mower. I think the push mower burned up and we split $ 5 :rolleyes::hammerhead:

alphaboy1
04-05-2008, 10:47 PM
Locke Devere Reel Turf Mower, Self-Propelled Walk-Behind
Briggs & Stratton. This was the commercial mower from the 70's. Some say that this Legendary machine still can cut better than anything out there today.

Jason Pallas
04-06-2008, 12:17 AM
DAMM that mower brings back some memories! We used to call them "Butterfly" mowers - because the side mowing reels flopped down like the wings of a butterfly.

JohnnyRoyale
04-06-2008, 05:59 AM
They didn't have spell check back then but everyone could spell...;) weird hun. That comment was not directed at anyone in particular. I just thought of it and it struck me as peculiar.

Good Point LOL:laugh:

JohnnyRoyale
04-06-2008, 06:05 AM
Locke Devere Reel Turf Mower, Self-Propelled Walk-Behind
Briggs & Stratton. This was the commercial mower from the 70's. Some say that this Legendary machine still can cut better than anything out there today.

Wow! A batwing walk behind-thats genius. And to think theres nothing like that around today. Or is there?

mngrassguy
04-06-2008, 06:45 AM
Yes, some golf courses still use 'em today. Can't beat the cut you get with a bed reel mower.

I remember mom n dad paying a guy to treat our 1/2 acre lawn for $30.00 in the mid 70's

Gas was $.25/gal but during "gas wars" it was much cheaper than that.

Gramps bought the first rider I ever used back in the early 70's. It was a John Deere with an "out front" deck. They gave him a free snowmobile with the purchase of a combine!!!

Old folks talked about a loaf of bread for a nickel but it was $.50 then so I found that hard to believe

Ford2000
04-06-2008, 07:43 AM
The phone rang of the hook in the 80's we ( thought ) we were going to be rich.

We were use to seeing a truck with out a trailer now seeing a truck with out a trailer behind it just does not look right.

lifetree
04-06-2008, 08:08 AM
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers of a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

mowing grass 1111 --- This is great ... I laughed my head off when I read your post ... keep 'em coming !!

MOWEMJEFF
04-06-2008, 08:10 AM
I had my first lawn when I was 8 back in 93, I had to use a non motorized reel mower to mow the old lady across the street cause my dad said i was too small to use the 20" 3hp push. Wow that seems like 40 years ago. Technology has definitly changed a lot, for better or worse is debateable.

lifetree
04-06-2008, 08:10 AM
... Now the 80s I know about ... weird sit down sulkies attached to WBs ...

Actually, I remember sit down sulkies being attached to Gravely WB's in the mid to late 1960's !!

lifetree
04-06-2008, 08:17 AM
I worked for a guy in the mid 70's ... I used a Gravely 2-wheeled tractor with a mower attachment out front. It had a sit down sulky which hitched on the back. ... If you engaged the drive wheels to quickly, the thing would do a wheelie, bending at the sulky hitch, and the handles would drive down into your thighs. Nice bruises. ...

Sorry, I hadn't gotten this far in the thread ... the Gravely sulkies were actually available in the mid 1960's ... at that time they were considered to be the "Cadillac" of lawn equipment.

lifetree
04-06-2008, 08:19 AM
Locke Devere Reel Turf Mower, Self-Propelled Walk-Behind, Briggs & Stratton. This was the commercial mower from the 70's. Some say that this Legendary machine still can cut better than anything out there today.

Alphaboy -- Are you goiong to restore that machine since you have apparently held on to it for all these years ??

alphaboy1
04-06-2008, 08:28 AM
Yes. I am a collector of Lawn Equipment. These were manufactured in Bridgeport CT in the early days. What's amazing is the company still exists.. They have been in business since 1928.
http://www.locketurf.com/Products/WalkBehindMower.aspx

Check out this also.. Other classics...

http://www.locketurf.com/Showcase.aspx

Mowingman
04-06-2008, 08:52 AM
I started mowing lawns in our neighborhood back in 1957. I had an 18" Huffy push mower with a 4hp B&S engine on it. I had a pair of hand shears to trim with, and a broom. I still have the hand shears and the mower. The mower still runs good. The broom wore out. I think I got about $3.00 - $6.00 per lawn, depending on size.
I also worked for my uncle on Saturdays. He had a place with 3 acres to mow. We used an 18" and a 22" push mower to do this place. The big push mower was called a MOTO Mower. He finally bought a Wheelhorse tractor in 1959. Boy, that little 36" cut tractor was a big step up. I believe he started me at $.25/hr. I worked for him quite a few years and usually got a $.25/hr raise each season.
Those were the good old days.

lifetree
04-06-2008, 09:25 AM
... I am a collector of Lawn Equipment. ...

Wow, what other type of equipment do you have ... can you post some pictures of this equipment ??

Supertiger
04-06-2008, 09:42 AM
when i was your age i had to walk all the way over to the TV just to change the chanel,

lifetree
04-06-2008, 09:46 AM
when i was your age i had to walk all the way over to the TV just to change the chanel,

Yeah, I remember that ... it was lots of fun when our my parents told me to do it so they woldn't have to !!

alphaboy1
04-06-2008, 11:08 AM
What's funny about the whole thing is I was in my teens when the Locke was being used by landscapers which was in the 70's and my parents had over an acre of grass that they left for me to cut. My dad would throw a 21" Sears walk behind at me and say go to it! I would drive by those large monstrous Locke's and would suggest that to my dad who would just say.. Yea right!
I will need to take some more pictures. I just did a full restoration on a Simplicity Snow King 80's model which now looks like new

Mowingman
04-06-2008, 12:16 PM
when i was your age i had to walk all the way over to the TV just to change the chanel,

We did not have to change channels. We only got one channel on our TV.

outdoorpowerrep
04-06-2008, 12:52 PM
Locke reel mowers, Lawn Boy 18 inch "Buttercup" walk mowers, Toro and Jacobsen spin rachet recoil start mowers. Hahn 17 inch walk behinds. Little wonder electric hedge trimmers. No commercial walks until Herb Bunton's flat nose 36. Snapper had a 30 inch heavy duty mower with a turtle on the front of the deck. Snapper also sold alot of their rear engine riders. Just a few things that I remember.

J & D Greens
04-06-2008, 05:19 PM
I worked under a Japanese Gardner in the Denver area, From the age of 11-20yrs old. I'm sure running the business was an 60-70 hour a week job for Him. He ran reel mowers and trimmed out all the obstacles with a light two stroke 18" push mower. Gas was 25cents per gallon. While His son my brother and I were in school he had about three employees before we were ready to go to work. At first we trimmed with hand scissors, then rechargeable shears type and finally the string trimmer come out. He had on his trailer one four stroke (King) S P reel mower about 30" width, two 2-stroke (Queen mowers) S P reel mowers about 30" width, Little Wonder edger, push blower. three guys would run the mowers one guy ran the trim mower, He had about six cloth tarps to use for the grass while the guys mowed the yards. At first all us younger kids did was follow behind hauling the grass to his truck as they mowed on from house to house. We were also responsible for trimming the yards, edging was the first thing I learned to do. We also cleaned the walks off. We were paid not buy the hour but by the week, and the faster we worked the earlier we went home, but if we did a poor job we went back and did it all over again. You see these mowers you followed the same track every week, If you went the wrong way it looked like crap! Once we got a little older we worked with the bigger machines. He had 125 accounts that paid easily what they are paying today. Some houses were on land about the six acres in size.
When we left the they always looked like Coors Field only with the striped look instead of the checker board look.
I gotta say it was very hard work, but very rewarding. I started out earning $40- per week when I left for something that provided Insurance, I was making $135- per week.
I was done with team sports by then but I had plenty of money to support My Motocross riding.

TrapperJohn
04-06-2008, 10:43 PM
The weed eaters - my dad bought one of the first gas powered ones. Big heavy thing with four spools on the head. No tap on the ground, stop it and pull each one out. That's okay, doing the brick walk in front of our house before that was hours and hours with a knife and clippers, which was what I got when I misbehaved. I spent quite a bit of time every summer on that accursed walk.

I can do that brick walk in 20 minutes with a weed eater today. It's not fair, I tell you! I had to suffer, why should everyone else get off easy?

johnnybravo8802
04-06-2008, 11:33 PM
I started mowing as a kid in 78.' Through highschool,I had a fullblown lawn service. I used pushmowers and electric weedeaters and a broom. If you had a Snapper rider, you were rich! I didn't know a single person my age mowing in the 80's. They were too busy playing Atari and Nintendo. Lawn care didn't even become a profession until around 1990 and to this day, it's not as respected as a profession as it should be. I still have people wanting to pay me $20 to "cut their grass" like it's still 1983. Only, instead of having a $5 pushmower and fuel at $.70/gallon, I'm using a $10,000 ZTR and paying $3.25/gallon. We need to be like plumbers and electricians and have a bottom rate across the board or we're going out of business and revert back to the "old days" where it's no longer a profession.

lawnprosteveo
04-07-2008, 10:17 PM
I was talking to a guy who mowed in the 70's. He was about 16 then. He and another kid mowed for a guy. They mowed a couple of apartment complexes and condo places. He said they mowed with old green lawnboys...they bagged EVERYTHING...they dumped the grass in the bed of the truck and threw the lawn boys up in the bed on top of the grass...

There was a little trailer that the guy carried an old lawn tractor on...thats what he mowed with. They had no trimmers, and a McClane edger.

Almost makes me feel guilty! Dont know how they made any money that way.