Column: A sweeping appraisal of brooms

If you’ve said it once, you’ve probably said it a hundred times.

“They don’t make ‘em like they used to.”

It’s a general lament for anyone older than, well, 58. I know a few folks that old.

At work Tuesday I found a perfect example of that old adage.

Stepping outside my private entrance to the Galion Inquirer to enjoy a few seconds of one of the three beautiful days Galion experienced last month, my adoration of Mother Mature’s good work was spoiled by dozens of disgusting, dirty, filthy white, off-white and non-white cigarette butts flicked to the sidewalk.

I don’t smoke. I knew they weren’t mine. Still, those ugly-as-sin butts were ruining my view.

Still, perfect, spring-like days are few and far between in February, so I went inside to find a broom to sweep those butts out of my life — or at least away from my private door.

That’s when I discovered the reason for this column.

I asked co-worker Alison Allonas if we had a broom. No, I don’t do a lot of cleaning at work.

Alison said there was one behind the bathroom door. I grabbed it, and immediately it felt different. It was heavier and the handle far thicker and sturdier than brooms I’m accustomed to.

It was a broom Heath Ledger could have used to win a joust.

Dick VanDyke could have cleaned a thousand British chimneys with this broom.

If the Oakland A’s had used a broom like this one in the 1989 World Series, they’d have swept the Giants in three games … maybe two.

That’s how rugged, how good, how above-par this broom was.

They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

I buy a lot of brooms. At least one — often two — each year. Why? Because I use a broom as a snow-shovel during the winter, at first, must on my my porch, but it does a darn-good job on concrete sidewalks and steps too. Still, nails and gravel take a toll on the straw.

But when it wears out, I recycle.

The snow-shovel broom takes the place of an older broom I keep in my pickup or one by my garage door.

If you’ve seen my garage — all 200 square feet of peeled red paint, walls that lean every which but straight up and down, crooked windows that defy the laws of physics and dozens of sparrows, chipmunks and feral cats — you realize why I need all those brooms. I have a natural-selection food chain going on in that garage and it gets kind of messy. I’ve invited NatGeo to do a show about omy garage, but as yet they’ve not responded.

Also, 0ld brooms are great for getting the snow off my pickup in the winter, brushing away the red tree buds and maple seeds in the spring and whisking leaves away in the fall. I’ve also been know to turn that broom upside down and put an old shirt on the straw part. Then I lean it against y truck. That faux scarecrow even keeps those sparrows from soiling my windsheld, and bumpers, and windows, and fenders, and tailgate.

Every 17 years, that broom comes in handy when the locusts come back to life. I’ve also been know to use my oldest broom to clean up Beatrix piles in the yard. And when it gets pretty old, it becomes the grand prize in a pretty rambunctions game of fetch between Beatrix, my white pitbull, and yours truly.

Finally, after Beatrix chews on it for a few weeks, it becomes fire-starter.

So, when I say I know brooms, I’m not kidding.

If I had inherited a broom like the one I used to sweep away those dirty cigarette butts, I would still have it.

A normal size human could step on that broom and not break the handle. The straw (yes, real straw) was still more than 12 inches long and still worked. It didn’t miss a single butt, nor did it miss any of the rock salt used on the sidewalk to melt ice.

It truly was a broom unlike any broom I’d seen before.

Witch Hazel — you know from that classic Bugs Bunny cartoon — could have planted her ample posterior on this broom and rode it all the way to the Warner Brothers lot.

Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy would haven’t been so grumpy in Hocus Pocus if they had owned a trio of brooms like this one.

That wicked witch in Oz would have been a lot less loathsome if she had been able to ride a broom like the one I used to clean up those butts.

Although I don’t really need a new broom, I took a trip Wednesday to one of our local box stores to window shop. My was to ascertain whether I had just been buying cheap brooms … or if all brooms are cheaply-made.

My conclusion. Good brooms are still being manufactured.

But, they’re not making ‘em like they used to.

On I found an “Authentic Hand Made All Broomcorn Broom.” It looked the part. And I liked its off-red color. The handle looked cheap. Still it was going for $36.95. It has to be good. Right?

I found an O-Cedar broom, a “Heavy Duty Commercial 100 percent Corn Broom with Solid Wood Handle.” It was $25.99. But just looking at it, its handle didn’t compare to the broom behind the bathroom door.

I checked a few other box-store websites and found nothing comparable.

Curious, I checked out the brooms baseball umpires use to sweep dirt off home-plate?

What umpires buy today, I would not consider a “real broom.” They no longer look like brooms. But for $21.30, they must be good. Right?

For now, I’ve given up my quest for a broom like the ones I grew up with.

Just like those butts outside my private office door, that type of broom is gone forever.

I think I’ll just steal the one behind the bathroom door, and replace it with a shiny new one I saw on eBay.


Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email him at