In Defense Of The American Garage


In some parts of the country there appears to be a trend shifting away from the two-car garage to a one-car garage or to no garage at all.  This is troubling, in that the housing industry is undoubtedly looking at forecasts pointing  to a future with far fewer cars and hence, less need for a garage.

Perhaps they feel global warming will force us to abandon personal transportation in favor of riding a bus, or maybe they see the American middle class being so economically devastated by the off-shoring of jobs that homebuyers won’t be able to afford both a new house and a car?   In either case, the American garage appears to be in trouble and that’s seriously bad news for the U.S.A.

But “oh” you say, “surely that’s an overstatement!”  Really?

Think of what’s come out of American garages.   Apple computers and Microsoft for starters, as well as, Google and Disney.   Ritchie Valens and the Velvet Underground got started as garage bands, and although I can’t prove it, I’ll bet old Buddy Holly did too, along with dozens of others who were foundational for mainstream rock n’ roll.    There’s also  Mattel and Maglite and finally, although this is, if anything, an incomplete list, the great Harley Davidson motorcycle.

They all came out of  somebody’s garage or somebody’s parent’s garage, which argues for more and bigger garages, not fewer.   Considering all they’ve given us, our elected leaders should think about setting aside a date on the calendar as “Garage Appreciation Day.”

The time will come when that piece of oil-stained cardboard your father threw down on the floor because the old Rambler blew a gasket, will be framed and hanging in the local museum as a testament to all that we once were.

Garages have done more than house our cars.   They’ve been a springboard for cultural development and a cultural repository.     Without garages, where will we go to create?   Where will all those kids in the Midwest build their floats for thousands of high school homecoming parades?  Imagine America without Apple, Harleys,  Disneyland and rock n’ roll.   America, without Mickey Mouse and Homecoming?

I suppose those who follow will find some other space to create, but it won’t be the same.  It can’t be, for nothing is more American than the American garage, with its oil stains, old license plates, lawn mowers, a big coffee can filled with mismatched nuts and bolts, old tires, your dead grandfather’s golf clubs, the steering wheel from a 54 Olds, motorcycles, gas cans, garbage cans, outdated pinup calendars, campaign posters, tools on a peg board, greasy rags, old baseball gloves, skateboards,  garage bands and all.

And over in the corner an old mirror hangs cockeyed from a rusty three penny nail, reflecting all that we are.


“Pains of Love” – American Garage Band/1970’s – Harrisburg, PA  (click on pic for enlargement) photo courtesy of Michael Jones

5 thoughts on “In Defense Of The American Garage”

  1. My motorcycle shop was certainly born out of my first garage on Stearns Ave back in the early 70’s. I was young and dumb, and didn’t give much thought to tearing down the back alley at midnight, testing a fresh tune. I promised my neighbors not to start a bike past 10pm. Poor George and Wilma Paetznick.

  2. When I lived by Dodger Stadium in LA, near Elysian Park, I befriended a whole family from South America who lived in a single garage. The kind from the twenties, built into the hillside, big enought for a Model-T. A single swinging bulb hung from the ceiling. Family of five. Wrap your mind around that. They were grateful to be in the U.S., and making a better life for themselves. At that time, I owned a 56 MGA Roadster. Not very practical, but it got me to work and back, and for that, I was grateful. I had the same sized garage, and there was hardly enough room for my car! Lordy!!! We have changed in the size of our vehicles. I can barely get out of my car door sometimes in the parking spaces we have now! On the east coast, garages are like the cherry on top in the winter. Sure is nice to pull into an attached garage. Yummy! You don’t think of those things when you buy in the summer, do you? Thanks for your thoughtful Blog, Ron, always interesing reading!!!

  3. You ain’t never lied Ron…

    I can testify to the necessity of garages for every reason that you’ve cited, including the formation of my band, and the band that mentored my band.

    We heard the band that would eventually mentor my band rehearsing in Mrs. Williams’ garage, daily. The 21st Century’s rehearsal’s were legendary in the hill section of Harrisburg, PA. In fact, their discipline inspired me, and my crew to start a band create some magic.

    Man, my band days were incredible. From 1969 (6th grade for me) to mid 1971, some would say we were making noise. However, if you asked us, we were finding our way musically, by “wood-shedding.”

    After that so-called “noise making” phase, and excellent mentoring by the 21st Century band, we hired a manager and a booking agent. We actually toured up and down the East Coast, parts of the South, and the Mid-West from mid 1971 until 1976 (upon graduating high school for me. The camera became my lover in 11th grade, and after graduating, I was off to WTPA-TV, and my touring days with the band were over).

    I totally understand the kind of trouble my crew and I avoided by rehearsing every day (after homework was completed) in Mrs. Lowery’s garage. The big payoff from being in that garage most of the week was traveling to night clubs and concert venues EVERY weekend (chaperoned of course).

    The fun, the excitement, the standing ovations, the interaction with people from so many cities and states was amazing. Yes, touring made us grow up fast, but it sure beat the hell out of being bored and stuck in a one horse town every weekend with the serious potential of becoming juvenile delinquents…

    With the exception of a recording contract, millions of records sold, and tons of fame, the Jackson 5 had nothing on us. Yep, we were that good…

    And it all started in Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Lowery’s garages…

  4. Just two things, Ron.

    I’ve got a lot more work to do, moving into our Denver house — all of it waiting for us, out there in our two-car garage.

    And this is the best thing you’ve written on this great blog. Awesome!

  5. P.S. Members of the band that mentored my band went on to record the following hit records under names different from the 21st Century:

    “Bounce, Rock, Roll, Skate – Vaughn Mason & Crew

    “We Got The Funk” – Positive Force

    Rapper’s Delight” – Sugar Hill Gang
    Our mentors were the musicians playing the instruments on this, the first successful rap record that crossed over and sold millions of this track world wide. (Personally, I don’t care for rap, but this particular song was fun.)

    In any event, those are just a few of the songs the guys that mentored my band recorded.

    The garage worked wonders for me and my crew…

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