The Monday After: Cleaning up the city

Trash. Garbage. Clutter of all kinds.

There were a multitude of discarded and forgotten items laying around the city 75 years ago.

And those were the targets of the city’s very public cleanup campaign – promotion of it came on the top of the front page of The Canton Repository – in the spring of 1947.

“Are you willing to spend just a little time to help make your home safe from fire – to help rid your neighborhood of germ-breeding conditions – to make Canton a better place to live,” began the promotional article, which was equal parts encouraging and shaming.

“Or, don’t you care if rubbish or trash accumulates in your home or garage and is a fire hazard? Or if the back end of your yard is littered with trash and junk? Or if rats and other vermin are running rampant where they are likely to spread disease among your children or those of your friends? “

The article, published in the Repository on April 20, 1947, speculated that “most of us” do care about living in uncluttered surroundings, so the newspaper suggested that readers “take a few minutes to clean up” their properties prior to the collection. of trash by city trucks that would began making rounds the next day.

“It can’t take you more than a few hours to do it,” the article estimated, “and they will be (hours) well spent.”

City divided into sections

Collections would begin on Monday of that week seven and a half decades ago, starting in the southwest section of the city. Trucks would make their way to the northwest, northeast, and southeast sections in subsequent days.

The Repository reported that two city officials – Service Director AW Fabry and Dr. WA Scott, acting city health commissioner – planned the cleanup campaign. Special targets for cleaning were visible trash-filled yards and vacant lots. But, cluttered interiors of homes were not to be ignored, the newspaper noted, because unsafe conditions could occur on both sides of walls.

Fabry, as the governing officer of the department that hauled the trash, told Canton residents through the Repository that city trucks would take away their piled up trash for free.

Dr. Scott, whose authority included lawfully enforcing the city’s health and safety ordinances, issued a warning. He would have residents arrested if they didn’t clean up their trash so it could be collected.

Cited reasons for cleanup

This was a spring cleanup promoted each year in the city, but the message conveyed carried special significance in 1947.

The Repository reported that this was the first time that the health department had “promised to prosecute owners of properties on which unhealthful conditions exist.”

But, it wasn’t the first time complaints had been filed about such unsafe environments. There had been many reports in the past, complaints that “can’t be ignored any longer.”

“If you know Dr. Scott, you know he’s not fooling,” the newspaper said in its article.

The good doctor didn’t joke about city safety.

“He doesn’t have to. He has a job to do and he’s going to do it,” said the Repository. “Just a little help from you, and a little work, will avoid you trouble and embarrassment.”

Cleaning up was a simple task

The Repository said the cleanup job “isn’t tough.”

“It only takes a little elbow grease on your part to collect the junk, trash and rubbish which today clutter up the city,” the newspaper said. “Get a container of any kind. Fill it and set it at the curbline where city trucks can collect it. They’ll do the rest. And it won’t cost you a cent.”

Some of the work could be shared, the article noted.

“If there is a vacant lot between you and your next door neighbor which is littered with trash, why not ‘incorporate’ with that neighbor and help each other clean it up? You, or your children, probably put it there in the first place or contributed to it at least. “

Helped to make a plan

The newspaper laid out a mini-plan for the cleanup, suggesting a few “pointers” for picking up what shouldn’t be stored up or laying around.

People could “check the attic, closets and basesment for old clothing, broken furniture, paper and trash.”

Homeowners could “bundle all papers and magazines with a strong cord.”

City residents could “put miscellaneous trash in cardboard or wooden boxes which you also wish to discard.” No containers used in the free pickup would be dumped out and left for re-use. Nothing was to be returned; it all was gotten rid of by the city.

Those cleaning up their surroundings could “put clothing in a rag bag or tie it together tightly,” the article said. They could survey their yards and elsewhere in their neighborhoods to look for trash left outside. And, they should set aside glass items in separate containers so none of it broke and injured city workers who collected it.

They should place the trash at the curb, unless it was raining – “wet cardboard boxes don’t hold together” – and do it promptly. Pickups would begin as early as 8 am

“Don’t expect the trucks trucks make special return trips to your home and neighborhood or the department crews to carry trash out of your house,” the article said.

Cleanup seemed to work

The next day the cleanup began with auspicious results.

“A whopping 108 loads of rubbish were collected Monday by 16 city street department trucks during the first day of the annual spring cleanup collection campaign in the southwest section,” the Repository reported. And still, the trucks “were unable to cover every street in the southwest area because of the heavy collection.

That southwest section work was completed by 19 trucks on Tuesday, before the trucks moved on to northwest section neighborhoods.

A “near-record” of 126 truckloads of trash were collected that second day, the Repository reported.

“That’s all right with us,” Service Director Fabry told media members as he viewed trash piled high along Canton’s curbs. “We want to get the city cleaned up. We want fire hazards removed and we want vacant lots cleared of rubbish.”

Trash pickup stayed strong the next two days, fueled by the added evidence that the campaign would continue long after “Cleanup Week.”

“Appointment of three new employees, two of whom will be available to aid in the enforcement of the campaign to clean up rubbish from local backyards and vacant lots, was announced today by the Canton board of health,” reported the Repository on its front page Friday April 25, 1947.

Rain halted collections on that Friday, the newspaper noted, but a record 493 loads of trash had been collected during the first four scheduled days of the campaign.Trash was to be collected from the final northeast and southeast section neighborhoods the next day.

The cleanup would continue, however, vowed both Fabry and Dr. Scott. The campaign had emboldened many Canton residents to complain about ongoing littered conditions still existing in their neighborhoods.

“It will take us a week or two to track down all the complaints received,” Dr. Scott told the Repository, “but we will take care of them as fast as we can and as soon as our new employees report for duty.”

Reach Gary at [email protected] On Twitter: @gbrownREP.

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