Odd Jobs from the Past: Weird and Wonderful Occupations

By Jack Ripley | June 7, 2024

Keeping the Bowling Game Going: Pinsetters

Ever wondered what life was like for those who kept the world turning in centuries past? From pinsetters dodging flying bowling balls to rat catchers catching vermin, these weird and wonderful occupations explore what life was like in the time before automation and machines. We'll shine a spotlight on the unusual and offbeat work that kept the wheels of progress turning, one odd job at a time, from Victorian London's gritty streets to 1950s America's alleys and everywhere in between.

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Back in the 1920s and 1930s, bowling alleys weren't just places to roll a few balls: They were social hangouts where families and friends gathered for fun. While all the laughter and strikes were happening on the lanes, young boys called pinsetters worked behind the scenes to keep the party rolling.

Pinsetters were the backbone of the game, stationed at the end of each lane. Their job was to quickly reset the pins after every roll. With balls zooming and pins clattering, they had to move like lightning to keep up.

Despite the pressure, it was a decent job. Pinsetters earned a pretty penny for their efforts, giving young boys a chance to pocket some cash while learning the ropes of hard work. It was a gig that taught valuable lessons and put a little extra jingle in their pockets. Sadly, the game changed in the 1950s with the invention of automatic pin-setting machines.

Keeping the Streets Safe: the Lamplighter

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Before electric street lights stole the show, there were lamplighters. Every evening, like clockwork, they'd hit the streets with their long poles, each tipped with a flickering flame to ignite the gas lamps that illuminated city streets. Being a lamplighter wasn't a walk in the park. They were on the job, no matter the weather, bringing light and a sense of security to even the darkest corners of the city. 

But it wasn't just about lighting up the streets; it was also about being the reliable guardians of the night. Each lamp had to be tended with care, ensuring that they were lit and extinguished at just the right moments. The role demanded both reliability and a sense of responsibility. It was also a job that commanded respect. These were the folks who brightened up the community, in every sense. With the invention of electric streetlights, however, their role gradually dimmed, fading into history.