If the backyard was all toil, where did Americans have fun? In the front yard on the front porch. With no air conditioning, they’d sit on their porch at night to catch a cool breeze. A favorite piece of furniture was a porch swing where they could rock the baby to sleep or kids could sit with their best friend and giggle and swing. Neighbors who passed by on their way downtown to get an ice cream or soda would wave hello or stop and chat. People even strummed the guitar and sang.
As inventions like indoor plumbing, electrical washers and dryers, and refrigerators freed the backyard, families retreated to it, especially since it was more private than the front porch. Some people even pulled the porches off their houses and replaced them with stoops to look more modern.
During World War II when the world fought Hitler, families put their backyards back to work as victory gardens. They grew fruits and vegetables so the food that farmers grew could be used to feed the troops. Americans planted more than 20 million victory gardens and harvested 9 to 10 million tons of fruits and vegetables.
After the war, families threw down their rakes and stopped growing food. They wanted fun again. And, just as fast as families stopped growing food, manufacturers stopped making equipment for the war and started making fun things for the backyard: patios, furniture, swimming pools, and barbeques. Families bought them up and planted lush lawns over their abandoned victory gardens.
Today, Americans still love their backyards and their lawns. In 2005, lawns covered an estimated 63,000 square miles, about the size of Texas and would take 4,110 years to mow. If you are chasing your sister or brother in a game of tag around your backyard, you might well think your backyard is that big.