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Real Life Charlie Brown Contest "Winners"

Oh man, what a competition! There were tons of great entries for our Real Life Charlie Brown contest. (Like the gal who needed to go #2 in the woods, only to find that the tree she squatted under was right in the middle of a high school's cross country path! Or the drum major who slipped on his way to the podium, and tried to conduct the song's final measures on his back, with one arm clutching to the podium.) But these were the 3 that made us laugh the loudest:

  • Mrs. Djs' tale of being locked out of her honeymoon suite on her wedding night"¦ barefoot and scantily clad. She found that no one at the hotel was on duty, so she ended up hitching a ride back to the reception with a Domino's delivery boy, to borrow her mother's car, to try to get some keys—all while still in her nightgown! Oh, and there was a bloody groom involved too! Worst wedding night ever.
  • Natasha's story of spraying Lysol at her work's historic Civil War bathroom, then using the facilities, only to find that the combination of the old toilet seat material and the cleaning agent had created a super glue.
  • Kathy A's horrific tale of trying to make friends in a new school under awful conditions. Despite having an allergic-reaction puff up her face (part I of the awful story) and having been turned into a zebra by a novice hair stylist (part II), Kathy tried to make friends with a sports buff by showing off her sporty sneakers. While she got the guy's attention by sticking her shoes near his desk and casually flaunting them, she later realized it was less because of the Cubs insignia on them, and more because she'd stepped in something on her way to class.

Congratulations to all the winners, who'll be receiving T-shirts of their choice from the mental_floss store! And for those of you who didn't see the original post on Charles Schulz and his no good, terrible luck definitely click here. It'll make you feel much , much, much better about your day.

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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History
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, MLive.com 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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