Jo-Ann Boepple: The evolution of the garage

Published 2:08 pm Friday, September 10, 2010

boeppleNearly every recent woman’s magazine contains articles about uncluttering our lives. They imply that we collect too much stuff and we need to get organized. “Hoarder” is a new term applied to these collectors.

All kinds of organization systems from shoe boxes, to sophisticated shelving, hangers and cabinets are promoted. My closets will never look like like some of those pictures because I call myself a saver, not a hoarder.

Haven’t you thrown out or given away something and within a short time you find that you needed it? Or maybe you needed something and you couldn’t find it in your clutter and you bought another one only to find it the next time you were looking for something else.

For the next few weeks the museum is featuring the cluttered look with a new display, “Grampa’s Garage.”

Garages started out as a place to keep your car. They grew a little bigger so that a workshop could be put into them with a workbench. Then came the two-stall garage for the extra car that everyone seems to think is necessary. And now it is the three-stall garage so that there is a place for the riding lawnmower and various other pieces of equipment.

As we acquire more energy and time saving items we need more space to store them. In some neighborhoods it’s an additional shed or storage building at the back of the property but for many the snowblower, lawnmower, fertilizer spreader, trash cans, bicycles, (well, you get the idea) and the garage is where they end up. Some garages are as large as the house.

I remember when my folks had a one-car garage with a dirt floor. When they moved they still had a one-car garage but my mother kept the cement floor scrubbed and cleaned. It was part of her weekly cleaning regimen.

Garages used to sit at the back of the lot or on the alley. They were hidden out of sight. When were they moved to the front of the house? Maybe when builders were trying to get as much as possible out of a small lot and alleys disappeared, they decided that the garage was necessary at the front of the house. I have always thought they were not that attractive and should be relegated to the backyard.

Another part of the garage that has changed is the garage door. Garage doors folded open to the side because they were left over from the carriage house days when carriages were stored. The doors were on hinges and folded outward.

Around the 1920s overhead doors were invented. They were one-piece solid doors that rose to the top of the garage. It was much later that the roll-up type door was invented. Then followed the electric garage door opener.Grandpa’s garage probably didn’t have any of these modern marvels but it did have anything you needed. No trip to the hardware store was necessary.

To take a glimpse of what his garage may have held, visit the Edwardsburg Area Historical Museum and and “Grampa’s Garage” until Oct. 20. The museum is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.