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‘Cardinal Charlie’: Push lawn mowers used to be self-propelled

Published 10:07pm Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Things of the past in my mind of the good old days, like the way of mowing one’s lawn.

gillNo gasoline or electric motor jobs like some have today.

We had one of those iron-wheeled, hand-push mowers with turning roller blades.

Yes, they were self-propelled (by myself).

A gas or electric grass trimmer was substituted by a large metal hand grass shears that took forever to do the trimming.

Here are some long-ago smells that are no longer here in Dowagiac.

The smell of a pile of burning leaves, or a burning barrel in one’s backyard for your trash.

The smell of horse manure on our Dowagiac streets.

The odor of hot melting tar from a roof job or when used to patch cracks in the streets.

Remember those old stinking tar kettles?

Also, I used to like the smell of salt-rising bread that came from the bakery on Front Street and, of course, the wonderful odor of the Woolworth candy display as you went in the front door (I can still see those big chunks of chocolate under glass).

Another thing was the smell of fresh-ground coffee beans at the old Kroger.

Of course, I remember that leather smell of old John Hoover’s shoe store and I can recall a nice odor of Oppenheim’s and Phillipson’s clothing stores.

And I think of some of those old metal garbage cans had a smell in the hot summer (not one of the better stenches).

Does anyone still alive remember the old car the Hupmobile? They had flower vases suspended from the panels between the doors.

Here is something kids used to do for entertainment in years back. You would pad the inside of a big old wooden barrel with burlap bags (foam could be used these days).

Find a hill with no trees and get in the barrel and roll down the hill.

We kids used to make long chains out of dandelion stems.

When we kids played marbles, we used to have a (steelie) ball bearing from something.

And what was a “pee dab” marble?

Remember how when you bought an old used car, the first thing you did was buy “seat covers” to spiffy up your baby?

Not long ago, while cleaning out some junk in my basement, I came across a spinning knob that you fastened to your large steering wheel cars years ago.

Using it, you were able to turn the steering wheel with just one hand real easy.

It was great for doing spins around empty ice-covered parking lots in the winter.

I bet a lot of old mothers who are still here remember when they had a big water-filled Pepsi bottle with a sprinkling head cork in the top that she used to sprinkle her clothes before ironing them.

Though we didn’t have much money in the 1930s, our life was rich in the things that money can’t buy.

“Cardinal Charlie” Gill writes a nostalgic weekly column about growing up in the Grand Old City. E-mail him at

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