George Ballas,1925-2011: Inventor of the Weed Eater
Or download MP3 (Right-click or option-click and save link)
This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
George Ballas of Houston, Texas, lived a long life. He was a businessman and property developer. A university lecturer and author. A dancer and dance studio owner whose son Corky and grandson Mark followed in his footsteps into the dance world.
And Mr. Ballas was the inventor of the Weed Eater.
The man who found an easier way for people to cut grass and weeds died in Houston on June 25th (2011). He was 85 years old.
George Ballas was born in Louisiana. He joined the military at seventeen. He served in World War II and the Korean War. After the military, he became a dance teacher and executive in the dance school industry.
In the 1950s, he built a dance studio of his own in Houston. People called it the biggest in the world. Dance City USA had one hundred twenty teachers. Mr. Ballas sold the studio in 1964.
By the early seventies, he was on to the next big thing. The idea had come to him at a car wash. He watched the needle-like bristles of the brushes as they went round and round against his car. Could a similar idea be used to cut grass in places out of reach of someone pushing a lawn mower?
To find out, he placed lengths of fishing line through holes in a tin can. He attached the can to the spinning part of a motorized grass edger. The result? A revolution for millions of people who cut grass for a living or just to keep their neighbors happy.
His invention grew into a company which he later sold.
George Ballas became known as the "Weed King." As he once told the Houston Chronicle, "A Weed Eater comes along once in a lifetime."
Today the idea lives on in a new generation of string trimmers and edgers that people often call weed whackers.
The noise may not be the nicest, but neither is a loud mower. Trimmers work well in corners and along walls and fences. And, as weed expert Bill Curran at Penn State University points out, they avoid the use of chemicals. Or the labor of pulling weeds by hand.
Of course, in the wrong hands, a weed whacker can do damage like any other power tool. The high-speed cutting line can whack pieces out of trees, wood fences, stone surfaces or birdbaths.
In 1952, George Ballas married Maria Louisa Marulanda, a flamenco dancer and film actress. They were together for 59 years until his death.
And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I’m Bob Doughty.