GOSHEN — Thank Brian Garber’s grandparents for the clutter — motors, parts, manuals, tools and more — in his old lawn mower shop.
“They grew up in the Depression,” he said. “You don’t throw anything away.”
But don’t call it junk. Amid it all are some classic and curious lawn mowers, including a model from the 1950s that hovers above the ground on a cushion of air (more on that later). And the collection, while not necessarily worth a fortune, is Garber’s pride and joy.
“Most of it’s just sentimental value,” he said. “Everybody collects what they like and that’s what’s so interesting.”
The lawn mowers had sat tucked away, hidden, at the old Ideal Lawnmower Shop location at 921 E. Lincoln Ave. Since Garber, owner of the store, moved the 64-year-old operation earlier this month to more spacious digs at 528 E. Lincoln Ave., it’s freed up space at the old spot, which has become a private museum of sorts for his vintage grass-cutting machines.
There’s an old rider mower from the 1950s — much smaller than its brethren of today — that looks like it could be a fancy go-kart.
“That was top of the line,” said Garber, who took over ownership of Ideal from his grandparents, Cecil and Wilma West, in 1999. “You were top of the block in the neighborhood for that.”
There’s another model that has the gas tank in the oversized handle.
There’s yet another motorized reel-type mower fashioned from a bicycle. A motor powers the three-wheeled bike forward and the movement of the rear two wheels powers the reel that cuts the grass.
But the one that seems to generate the most attention is a 1960s-era Toro Flymo 19 that floats above the ground like a hovercraft. A fan in the peculiar mower creates an air cushion that keeps the mower off the ground, enabling the blade to turn and cut grass.
“When it starts, that fan just lifts it off the ground,” said Garber. The novelty notwithstanding, sales of the model never quite took off, though Garber — and others — are fans.
“That just stops people in their tracks,” he said.
Of course there are also old-fashioned reel mowers, the human-powered kind you push, causing the reel to move and cut grass. When those were the norm into the 1950s — before the rotary type common today started taking over — cutting the grass could be an all-day thing.
“It’s really the true environmental mower because it’s just you,” he said.
Garber, 40, who started helping his grandparents at Ideal when he was 13, has no grand scheme with his collection of mowers. He just likes the machines, and if you ask him how models of yore compare to the mass-produced versions today, he’ll sniff.
“Today’s stuff is much more disposable,” he said.