Question from Sue L.: My daughter and I were talking the other day and somehow the topic of alarm clocks came up.
We both ended up wondering how people made it to work on time before alarm clocks were invented?
I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I figured if anyone knew the answer it would be you.
Rick’s answer: That’s a very interesting question, Sue.
And to be perfectly honest, I had never really thought about this until I received your email.
I did some research and discovered that there use to be an actual profession in which people called “Knocker-Uppers” would go from door to door and wake the workers of the household up.
At first the “Knocker-Uppers” accomplished their mission by banging on the person’s door with a stick, a hammer or some type of baton.
But that method was quickly replaced by quieter methods after the “Knocker-Uppers” began receiving rather unpleasant feedback (such as having buckets of water dumped on their heads) from neighbors who didn’t appreciate being awakened on days when they could sleep in.
The “Knocker-Upper” method of rousing sleeping workers began in Britain soon after the beginning of the industrial revolution, and it continued well past the mid-20th century.
The practice began to wind down in the 1950s when the wide availability of affordable (and reliable) alarm clocks ultimately rendered the “Knocker-Upper” profession obsolete.
I wasn’t able to find any information about how workers managed to make it to work on time before the “Knocker-Uppers” came along, but here’s my best guess…
Perhaps being prompt wasn’t considered all that important until people started working in factories on a large scale?
Who knows, maybe your guess is better than mine!
To finish up, here’s a rather interesting short video about how the “Knocker-Uppers” operated in England and Ireland. Check it out!
Note: As always, you can watch the video at full screen by clicking the “square” icon that will pop up in the lower-right corner of the video after it begins playing.
Sources: Wikipedia and BBC