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These professionals were employed to wake people up before alarm clocks were invented

Before alarm clocks, knocker-uppers were employed to wake people, using methods like tapping on windows or pea shooters.

These professionals were employed to wake people up before alarm clocks were invented
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Tirachard Kumtanom

Relying on smartphone alarms to wake us each morning, it's difficult to imagine a time without such technology. Before the era of smartphones, alarm clocks were the go-to solution for ensuring punctuality. Yet, fascinatingly, there existed a profession in industrial Britain known as "Knocker Uppers," dedicated solely to the task of awakening others. Industrial workers relied on these individuals to make sure that they did not wake up late, per BBC. Knocker uppers, often spotted with long sticks by their customers' homes, roamed the early morning streets. The profession became more prevalent in certain mill towns where people worked in shifts that had unusual hours.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Enikő Tóth
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Enikő Tóth

Most knocker uppers utilized a long stick that resembled a fishing rod, but others used soft hammers, rattles and pea shooters as well. Paul Stafford, a 59-year-old artist, recalls how his parents hired knocker uppers. He shared how these workers would not spend a lot of time at one house and would only give three or four taps before going to the next house. One of the problems that the people in this unique profession faced was that they often ended up waking many people. Therefore, this was when they began to make use of a modified long stick that they would tap on the bedroom windows of their clients.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Kampus Production
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Kampus Production

This clever method enabled them to awaken their clients without disturbing others nearby. Even though watches existed at the time, many workers were too poor to afford one, which meant that more people took up this peculiar job. Knocking up became so widespread that Charles Dickens made a casual reference to it in his famous novel, "Great Expectations." As time passed, knocker uppers also emerged in non-industrial areas. Caroline Jane Cousins, who was fondly nicknamed "Granny Cousins," was born in Dorset in 1841. She was Poole's final knocker-upper, tasked with waking up brewery workers up until her retirement in 1918.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush

Some families went fully into the domain of being a knocker-upper. Mary Smith, renowned for her use of a pea shooter, gained recognition as a prominent knocker-upper in East London. Following in her mother's footsteps, her daughter, also named Mary, continued the tradition. Sadly, with affordable clocks becoming widespread and more homes gaining electricity, knocker-uppers saw their demand decline, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s.

Coming back to the modern world, we sometimes find ourselves waking up before our alarm goes off. There is an actual scientific reason for this behavior in humans. According to the Arizona Daily Sun, our body's functions are regulated by a cluster of nerves called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, situated at the center of our brains. This nucleus governs vital processes like body temperature and blood pressure, as well as our perception of time. Moreover, it determines periods of wakefulness and extreme drowsiness. So, when you find yourself waking up late on occasion, you can attribute it to this little-known culprit.

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