I think most of us who have mowed the lawn in our day will attest to the fact that even if you have a self propelled lawnmower or a riding lawn mowed, if you done do that job early in the morning or on a cloudy day, its hot out there. Its usually so hot and sticky, in fact that we have to take frequent breaks to head indoors to cool off in front of the air conditioner. Finally, in the 1950s, someone decided that the world needed a cooler way to mow the lawn. So, they added what can only be described as a giant popcorn popper to a riding lawn mower. They gave it its own electric generating system for operating running lights, a radio telephone, air conditioning, and even a cooling system to provide a chilled drink on a hot day. The assumption was that people could see its value beyond the lawn. It was described as a useful tool for many purposes. It could mow the lawn, weed it, feed it, seed it, spray for insects, plow snow, and haul equipment. It was even touted as a machine that could be used as a golf cart.
The old style push mower could only be classified as a workout machine, if you ask me. It took more muscle than some of the equipment many of us pay dearly to use at the local gym. And as to speed…well, it was nonexistent. Those old rotor style lawn mowers were brutal machines, and when the job was done, you needed a hot tub, a massage, and Excedrin, not necessarily in that order. The motorized lawnmower that most households have today is considered to be an amazing tool. It makes mowing something that even kids can do. The self-propelled mowers are light weight, and actually have an engine that maneuvers it forward, with a lot less effort than the older gas and electric mowers.
I’m sure that the inventor of the air conditioned lawn mower of the fifties had visions of everyone mowing their lawns in comfort and style, but the reality is that the cost of one of the newfangled machine was far beyond what most people could afford, so it never really took off. As mowers became more and more lightweight and easier to use, the necessity of a way to keep cool has lessened, be it slightly. Still, the newfangled airconditioned riding lawnmower of the 50s was simply not cost effective, and so it was not a widely purchased or even widely known item. In one advertisement I found, it was called the “Lazy Man’s Power Mower.” I’m sure that kind of advertising didn’t exactly make people want to run out and buy one. There are air conditioned lawn mowers today, but they are mostly on industrial mowers, which makes sense, since people might spend hours at a time in one.
On this day, January 24, 1965, my 15th cousin once removed, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill passed away. As an eight year old girl, his passing had little impact on my life…then. I wasn’t even aware that he was my cousin, that he had passed away, or of the impact his life had on the people of the world. I especially had no knowledge that as his cousin, I might have been in line for part of his estate, but I was in line for part of it, nevertheless.
Of course, in the end, that portion of his estate went to England. From what I am able to gather, Winston Churchill expressed a desire to divide his estate among all of his living relatives…all of them, and believe me, there were a lot of them. The catch was that all of them had to be found or the money went to the state. With family members all over the world, that was a very tall order, and one that would prove fruitless…or at least too big for the task to be completed.
They found our family and the rest of my dad’s side of the family, but somewhere along the way, the search for Winston Churchill’s many family members dwindled to a dead end, and the portion of the estate that was to go to us, was lost to us forever. It’s strange that even then, I knew nothing of the man, the money, or the world-wide search that had taken place. Many have said that perhaps they didn’t search as hard as they should have, and others have said that the search was handled be a disinterested agency. Whatever the case may be, the search failed to find everyone it needed to locate, and that was the end of the story.
I seriously doubt if the money, no matter how substantial, carried a huge impact of the wealth of England or the English Crown. I don’t know how much would have gone to each of the many relatives who were living at that time. It may have been such an insignificant amount that it would have gone almost unnoticed…or maybe it would have been enough change the life of every one of them forever. We will never know, because we don’t know the amount, for sure, or how many would have benefitted from it.
In later years, after I learned of the strangeness of Winston Spencer Churchill’s will, and of his relationship to me, and my part in his will, I wondered why he would have written such a will. He must have known how hard it would be to carry out his last request. He must have assumed that the share each person would receive would be small, at best. So, why would he write such a will? I’m sure he had his reasons, and I am just as sure that we will never know them, but I have never stopped wondering. I’m sure people would think that I wonder about it, because I’m sorry I didn’t get a share of the money, but in reality, it is my opinion that money is a tool to get the things you need, and to bless those around you. All too often, when handed a large amount of money with no understanding that happiness does not come as a side effect of having it, money ends up ruining the life of the person who received it. So does that mean that I’m against wealth…certainly not. I just think that money has a place, and it makes a great tool, but a terrible master.
I have great respect for Winston Spencer Churchill. His abilities, especially in winning wars are well known. I don’t believe he was crazy when he wrote out his will either, but was maybe a man who felt that he could do some measure of good for those who were his family, and by requiring that all be found, he eliminated the ability to leave his inheritance to a chosen few…just in case they were tempted not to look further.
My girls were babies about the time the wind up baby swing was invented. Boy was that thing ever a life saver. Babies who were fussy and wouldn’t sleep would almost instantly fall asleep in there. Of course, I didn’t let the girls sleep there over night…that would not be a good plan, but it did offer me a little break once in a while.
My girls loved their swing. Soon the time of being a newborn passed, and they were babies who could be a little bit more alert and aware of their surroundings. They still loved their swing. I remember getting ready to put them in, and they would giggle and kick their little legs in anticipation of the ride. It was like having their own carnival ride. I think most babies get to a place where they really enjoy their swing. It becomes more than just a tool to get a cranky baby to sleep. Just like kids who are older…babies like to swing.
For a time, we hung toys from the crossbar for the girls to play with, but they never really could make that work very well, so we gave them a stuffed animal to play with. Funny thing is, the toys were really not necessary. Kids are really very resourceful, and they can make toys out of most situations. In the absence of real toys, they will look for things that will work as a good substitute.
And as we all know, it doesn’t take kids very long to find something to play with. It is right in front of them as they are laying on their back on the floor. They play with their hands and their feet. Their hands were the first thing they played with in their swing. Chewing and sucking on them, but since neither of my girls ever really took to the whole thumb sucking thing, their hands got old pretty fast when it came to being used as a toy.
Then came a very important day in the lives of my daughters. There they were…tired of their hands, and looking for something new…something that would get rid of their boredom and still allow them to stay in the swing they so loved. They looked around for something new. What could they use as a new toy? Then, just when they thought they might have to do something drastic…like cry, they looked over the edge of the swing, and wonder of wonders, there it was! Inspiration hit them…”Hey, I see my feet!!”