The other day as I was walking through my neighborhood with the intent of “garage watching” for this article, I found myself stunned at the sheer variety of activities that neighborhood garages were being used for.
If you live in a residential area, you know that there’s an invisible barrier that every mom of a young child has created: that of the garage door and ½ of the driveway. Kids are allowed to play in the garage and on a part of the drive, but they cannot venture close to the street. On my walk, I saw countless little kids prancing on pogo sticks, playing with garage chalk, dressing up dolls and destroying stuff with play hammers, swimming in blow-up pools, running through sprinklers, playing tag, or helping Mom. For those young families, the garage is a way to get outside while still feeling safe.
But a few houses down, I noticed one familiar couple–they looked to be in their ’70s and I’ve seen them on numerous other jaunts about the neighborhood–sitting side by side in folding chairs at the entryway of their garage. The garage door was open, they had a little radio playing some long-ago melody, and they were reading. She a novel and he a newspaper. What is it about the garage that makes you feel like you’re not in the house but you’re not out in public?
My neighborhood is pretty big (my route is about 4 miles if I cover all the cul-de-sacs) so there were plenty of other ways I saw the garage being utilized. Several people were working on their cars, or fixing something. There were a couple garage sales going on– spaces so packed with bric-a-brac collected throughout the years that shoppers had to carefully weave in and out of items so as not to topple the whole collection. There was one kid banging on his drum set (Neil Peart from Rush he was not—but maybe a few more years in the garage will remedy that).
From a workshop to a guest room, garages double upon necessity for each family. Maybe you used your garage to host last year’s yard sale, as a place for your talented son’s band to practice, as a venue for your daughter’s birthday party, as a workshop to build this year’s over-the-top Christmas gift, or maybe you use this space to polish your motor baby.
One thing in for sure, Americans across the nation have traditionally utilized their garage space to the max. Many big names even got their start by using the same space to construct their master plans and masterpieces, but for most of us, the garage symbolizes an opportunity for the pursuit of happiness. Whether it’s spending time with friends and family, a space to practice our beloved hobbies or an area to use for making a little extra cash on the side, your garage has you covered.
Garage Sales are Big Business
If you have a family with growing children, you know the value of a garage sale as both the buyer and the seller. With the lightning-fast rate that children outgrow clothes, shoes, toys, and entertainment, sometimes paying a fraction of the cost at a garage sale can help families save a lot of money. On the other end of the spectrum, when the size of clothes and shoes that you bought last month are now too tight for your growing child, and the toys that your children loved last year are reduced to expensive junk in a forgotten drawer, a garage sale is a life saver.
America is known as the land of opportunity, where a dream and hard work pays off for those who are passionate about realizing their ideas. At least a dozen start-up businesses began in the depths of a someone’s garage and eventually grew into multibillion dollar fortunes. The next time that you carry one of these brands through your garage and into your home, remember that you are bringing them back through the threshold of their birthplace. Without the valuable space found in the average garage, these beloved American brands may still be merely ideas of their brilliant founders.
Can you imagine where the music industry would be without the likes of Nirvana, Buddy Holly, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Soul Asylum, The Who, and The Kinks? Well, each one of those iconic groups got its start as an amateur bunch of guys practicing in the garage.
Most people might imagine that garage bands = bad bands, but it’s just not true. Some of the biggest talent in the music industry started from the garage out of necessity (who has money for a professional studio, after all?) and maybe there’s something a little magical about the garage that gets musicians inspired.
Continuing an American Tradition
The next time you venture out into the garage and think about remodeling the exterior or renovating the interior, consider that perhaps you, too, will come across a once-in-a-lifetime idea that could change the world. After all, garage dreams are an American Tradition.