Where Are All The Handymen?

Where Are The Handymen?

One of my fondest childhood memories is accompanying my dad to the hardware store (nearly) every Saturday morning. We lived on acreage which was constantly producing jobs to be done, be it maintenance, repairs or enhancements. Coupled with my father’s unnatural enthusiasm to tackle everything himself, I found myself spending most weekends following my dad around our property just doing stuff.

Although my dad had a tonne of bits and pieces stored/stacked/stashed anywhere and everywhere around the place, we often found a need to get to go to the hardware store. This would be done first thing Saturday morning so that the rest of the weekend could be spent carrying out the intended tasks.

My earliest memory of the local hardware store was a place that was somewhat dirty, smelt, and always had an assortment of old men (when I was six, anyone past 15 was old) who seemed way to unimpressed.

It wasn’t long before we had to change hardware stores though. Our favourite local burnt down and there was never any intention to rebuild or relocate. The local rumour mill had it pegged as an insurance job.

My dad was a mechanical engineer and a very clever man. I’m not sure where his handyman skills came from but there wasn’t a job around the house he wouldn’t attempt.

Here is a small list of tasks that I can remember dad doing. There’s more than what’s on this list and I’m sure there’s way more than what I remember.

  • Installation of irrigation system
  • Building a pergola (several), including building supporting brick pylons*
  • Building a horse paddock, complete with new fence and stable
  • Several sections of concrete (which eventually made up a patchwork of differing levels)
  • Building an outdoor BBQ from bricks & mortar
  • Tree felling & bush clearing
  • Mower rebuilds and repairs (several)
  • Retiling bathrooms
  • Paving of verandas
  • Converting garage to self contained unit

Mostly, I followed around mostly getting in the way but keen to help as a young boy usually is. Dad wouldn’t let me do most things. He certainly wouldn’t let me use any of his power tools. This was more because he was afraid I would hurt myself than worrying about me breaking his equipment.

As I grew older, the interest started to wane, and by the time I was 15 or so, I don’t think I even noticed dad working around the house anymore, certainly I didn’t know what he was up to. Friends and video games and everything else was more important.

However, I did pick up something. My wife & I bough our first house when we were 22 and it wasn’t long before I was out there building my own fence, pond, bridge, letterbox, paving, gardens, etc. etc. I’m not saying any of it turned out any good, but I did it myself. In fact I’m pretty sure my wife’s most common expression was “why don’t you get the professionals to do it”.

Fast forward 10 or 15 years and now I’m too busy to do anything around the house. I look out the window and 28 projects come to mind and I feel a little anxious and then I remember – I have work to do and money to make because I have a family to feed and the bills won’t pay themselves and I can keep making excuse after excuse. Too busy.

I don’t think I’m the only one. I can pass a dozen lawnmowing guys, professional handymen, plumbers, electricians and a representative of everything that can be done around the house, in short drive to the local shopping centre.

Home services are now a booming sector and I believe it’s because no one has time anymore and consequently we are losing the skills. And it may not be a bad thing, I mean, if you don’t like doing stuff around the house then so be it, what does it matter.

In time, handyman skills will be sought after and it will be difficult and expensive to employ the services of a handyman but also necessary, people will need to pay and wait.

* There were disasters too. I remember dad building the pylons, laying brick after brick and the pylons not looking so straight. Several days later, whilst having dinner, we all hear every loud crash. We ran outside to find 3 out of 4 pylons had fallen to the ground. They were professionally built after that.