Our world is full of innovations, not only in technology, but also in all areas. A product arrives on the market, it’s very expensive and we buy it because we think we need the latest thing. Then two years later, the product is reduced to half the size to make it more useful and half the price, but performs the same function. Oh if we had just waited a little, wow, we could have saved money!
So because of innovation, there are things you just have no use for anymore and as a result, some old jobs have been eliminated. Here are several such jobs, some once performed more than 100 years ago, others only about 50 years ago.
First, there was the bowling alley pinsetter. Do you know what that was? Bowling alley pinsetters were mostly young boys (notice not girls) employed at bowling alleys to set up the pins for bowlers. Of course, this was long before electronic pin machines. I can remember when I was very young going to a bowling alley where there were people running back and forth in the back of the lanes. I’m told that in the 1940s and 1950s, there were three lanes in the basement of the old Kroger store building on the southwest corner of Plum and Fifth streets, now part of the Elks Lodge, where human pinsetters were used. When the pins were knocked over, they were quickly removed before the second ball came, that is, if it wasn’t a strike the first time. The pinsetter would jump up on a ledge above the lane to keep from getting hurt. When the frame was over, all the pins would be reset by the boy, and once again the bowler could start rolling the ball down the alley.
Here’s a really crazy one – the human alarm clock called knocker-uppers. Right away that doesn’t sound quite right, but they were essentially alarm clocks. These people were hired to ensure that their clients would wake up on time for their jobs. In the 1800s, the knocker-uppers would use sticks, clubs or pebbles to knock on clients’ windows and doors. I can imagine in our world of craziness now, these people would be arrested for trespassing.
Then there was the ice cutter. Before modern refrigeration techniques became widespread and people needed to keep food cold, ice cutters went out bravely on frozen lakes and cut ice. Can you imagine? It was a dangerous job often done in extreme conditions.
When I learned of these ice cutters, it made me think of the stories I have heard about the old icehouse located on N. Maple St. just north of the current railroad crossing. However, longtime Marysville resident Dick Hornbeck tells me that the first icehouse was on N. Main St. adjacent to the water plant. He went to work there in 1947 and they were still making ice. But shortly after that the water plant went out of the ice business and George Bright built his own ice business at the site on N. Maple St.
Ice was delivered in trucks and Dick tells me the vehicle had wooden sides and canvas which covered the ice. If you wanted ice, you put a sign in your window saying 25, 50 or 75 pounds needed. The people on the truck would then cut the piece of ice, carry it in and put it in your icebox, which often had one big door and another small door inside on top where the ice fit. Sometimes kids would follow the truck and look for little ice chips to chew on.
Here may be the grossest, no longer needed occupation – rat catcher. They were employed in Europe to control rat populations and went down into sewers and in alleys to actually grab the animals by the tail with their hands! Oh my gosh, that whole thing really gives me the creeps. Of course, these men ran high risks of suffering bites and infections, but helped keep the public safer. I guess somebody had to do it!
A touch of kindness at Edgewood
As I entered the driveway at Edgewood Elementary School this week with my grandson, Berkley, I watched several women out in front of the building guiding students safely to the sidewalk and into the school as their families dropped them off. When I pulled up closer to the door, Berkley got out and I heard one of the women near us say to him, “Good morning and I hope you do your best today at school.”
That brought a smile to his face. I assumed this to be a random incident, but as I moved along with the window down, I heard another lady say to him. “I hope you have a wonderful day.” His smile widened. I thought, what a great way to start the school day!
After checking, Principal David Hensinger told me this is a conscious effort by three staff members, who are outside every day, to make the children feel happy and comfortable. One never knows what happens before they get to school, so this is an effort to give them a good start to the day. He said that it is, of course, important to have good test scores, and this is a way to help make school a comfortable place for the students to learn.
He also told me that as the children enter the building and head down the hall, there are other staff members stationed periodically to greet them and guide them safely to their classrooms.
I thought it was a touching way to bring more kindness into our lives. We can’t have too much kindness!
(Melanie Behrens – email@example.com)
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