Meet Your Candidates for People's Tribune

Okay, folks, the real election season may be coming to a close but ours is in full swing. Below are your three candidates for People's Tribune. You'll be hearing more from them later in the week, but for now, let's do the whole meet-and-greet, grip-and-grin thing:

Tucker Steele
Campaign slogan: "I will establish a meritocracy throughout the land, at least until I can figure out how to get campaign contributions."
Speech! Speech!: As a longtime reader of mental_floss, I know I would make a fantastic "People's Tribune." I know I can represent readers by personally revealing the solutions to P ≠ NP, the location of Hoffa's body, and why people are stilling flying to Vegas and dropping $100 on a Celine Dion ticket. As JFK once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," and while you are asking your country a question, please promote me, Tucker Steele, for PEOPLE'S TRIBUNE.

Mike Landau
Campaign slogan: "I know more useless information than anyone on the face of the planet."
Speech! Speech!: I am working on my Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Georgia. I have 23 consecutive years of education. I think I'm losing my mind. I would really like to win something. Please select me as the Tribune.

Lyssa (we're assuming she goes by one name, like Beyonce)
Campaign slogan: "Lyssa! Helping people since at least 10 o'clock this morning."
Speech! Speech!: Why should I be your candidate? Since "'cause I said so" only works with my sister's kids and a wussy ex-boyfriend, here's why! 1. Some might categorize me as a lurker. I say that I'm just so sneaky, you don't notice me participating. My ninja-like commenting skills go unnoticed by the untrained eye. And who doesn't love ninja skills? "Vote Lyssa, she's stealthy!" 2. I'm diverse! I love art, literature and science, but I am also known for sending friends gross facts and icky bug pictures to ruin their lunch. "Lyssa. Representing Shakespeare AND things you want to poke with sticks." 3. I'm full of great ideas! You want free healthcare? I propose Cooperative Preventative Healthcare Plan 2006! Every time you see a co-worker doing something that might potentially damage their health, you point a rolled up newspaper at them and go, "NO. No. BAD." (But you don't smack them with it. Cause that's mean. And you could cause a bruise or pull a muscle, defeating the purpose of Cooperative Preventative Healthcare Plan 2006.) ... Great ideas, diversity and ninja skills. You can't beat that with a nun holding a yardstick.

Start making your pro and con lists now; voting takes place on Wednesday. No hanging chads, we promise.

Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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