I met a person recently who asked me, “How do you get your ideas to write your column each week?” That’s a good question. After seven and a half years, it is getting to be more of a challenge. But as you can see, I’m still going strong and haven’t had to repeat anything.
I’ve mentioned to my readers before that it’s quite common for me to carefully observe yards and landscaping as I’m driving around town. I will cut through neighborhoods and go different routes to common places, just to see a new area.
There seem to be a few recurring items that show up in folks’ yards. No matter where I travel, at least in Texas, I tend to see “yard ornaments” or yard art or whatever you call it.
I started wondering how these items came to be used in yards for display, so I did some research.
First, I’ll list the item and then tell you what, if anything, I found. After reading this column, if you know something about an item that I don’t cover, email me and let me know.
Pink flamingos: The first plastic pink flamingo was created in 1957 in Leominster, Mass. A sculptor at a local art school was hired by Union Products to create the novelty, intended to dress up and add color to the post-war undistinguishable neighborhood home construction. It wasn’t long until the colorful bird became the epitome of tackiness by the upper class and labeled as a lower socio-economic symbol.
It lost its popularity for a short time but came back and has remained an object of mixed uses, including decoration, practical joking, a means for fundraising and pranking.
Wishing wells: The history behind these is not quite so clear cut. In very ancient times, springs of water were sought out to meet the needs of the people in the cities. They would build structures around the springs to keep them clean enough for consumption. Many civilizations believed clean water had healing or magical properties. It is held that people tossed in an item of value (mainly coins and buttons) before making a wish, believing the magic could grant their wish.
Historical mention of these was found mostly in Europe. UCI anthropologists’ research found there were beliefs that a goddess lived in pure water and could grant fertility and healing to those who tossed an item in and made a wish.
No matter what is true, the traditions have been passed down and carried on. Most wishing wells I see nowadays are used as decorative planters and have no water in them.
There are other items that I would like to cover but have run out of space this week. If you would like me to research any item for you, let me know what it is and I’ll do my best to cover it in a future column.