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 Amazon.com, 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old tires, your dead grandfather’s golf clubs, the steering wheel from a 54 Olds, motorcycles, gas cans, garbage cans, outdated pinup calendars, campaign posters, tools on a peg board, greasy rags, old baseball gloves, skateboards, garage bands and all.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