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What was the lawn care industry like 30-40 years ago?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by SoloSulkySurfer, Mar 30, 2008.

  1. SoloSulkySurfer

    SoloSulkySurfer LawnSite Member
    Posts: 224

    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?
  2. mowing grass 1111

    mowing grass 1111 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 433

    there was grass back then:laugh:
  3. Jason Pallas

    Jason Pallas LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,325

    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.
  4. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    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
  5. bill8379

    bill8379 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 778

    In the 70's (not sure if this is true, Lou Dobbs said this) the USA government deported 11 million Mexicans.
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    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.
  7. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,899

    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.
  8. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,403

    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.
  9. kleankutslawn

    kleankutslawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,185

    seems like this question should have been about the 70's-80's
  10. Richard Martin

    Richard Martin LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 14,700

    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.

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