Laundry in the 1950’s Part 2

clothes line 2Once all that mountain of wash was done, the heavy, wet wash had to be lugged out to the clothes line, no small feat.  Mother had three lines stretched between T-shaped supports.  Shaking each piece to get in basic in shape after its trip through the wringer, the towels and diapers gave a nice, sharp pop!  She propped the heavy lines up with clothes line poles so the wash could dance in the breeze.  Woe be it to the foolish kid who’d run off with her clothes lines poles.  I’ve been known to do it!

She usually sent us out several times to check to see if the laundry was dry.  There is no smell fresher than line-dried laundry.  I just loved sliding into bed between sheets fresh off the line.  The mountain of laundry was likely to be piled on a bed till it could be folded.

Starched clothes came off the line still slightly damp, if she caught them at just the right time.  Rolled into tight balls and stuffed into a pillow case, they’d be stuffed into the freezer till ironed.  If they got completely dry, she’d have to sprinkle them before stuffing them in the pillowcase, by dipping her hand in water and flipping droplets on the clothes.  One Christmas, I gave her a sprinkler cap that fit in a coke bottle.  She said it was the most useful gift she ever got, making her sprinkling so much easier.

When Mother had to wash in rainy or wet weather, laundry was hung lines on the back porch, and on chair backs.  Once in a while, after a string of rainy day, she’d get desperate and have to take laundry to the Washateria to dry, but that was a huge hassle and unnecessary expense, not to mention, we only had one car.  That meant she had to take Daddy to work and pick him up, not a small undertaking with small children in tow.

As soon as we were old enough, we were pressed into service on clothes line duty and folding and putting away the laundry that didn’t have to be ironed.  Naturally, I thought that was awful, having to do “Mother’s work.”  I did have enough sense to keep my opinions to myself after a couple of complaints, though.

Mother kept an eye out for sudden rain, flying to the line to get her laundry.  If it wasn’t quite dry, it went on the back porch to finish.  Laundry had to be in as early as possible, for fear of sudden showers.  God forbid, from time to time, birds left a surprise on the drying clothes.

At the end of this relaxing day, Mother usually set us down to a slow-simmered supper(not dinner) of beans or soup and cornbread since she’d been working on laundry all day.

It was the life!

39 thoughts on “Laundry in the 1950’s Part 2

    • Mother had to string hers on the back porch. Basements must be wonderful. In Louisiana, they’d be called swimming pools. I love my daughter’s basement in New Jersey. She has her whole laundry down there. Doesn’t have to bring anything up till it’s ready to put away. My washer and dryer are in utility room and I iron in kitchen. Looks kind of untidy.


  1. Back in England we didn’t have a fridge hence no freezer either but a cold room with marble shelves, right up until I was 12 too. We didn’t have a dryer, not ever just a drying rack, which by then sat in front of the fire with the clothes taking their turns to be dried. I think I remember a sprinkling bottle. many years earlier I do remember, again when I was 3 ish or 4ish that the electric iron was plugged into an attachment in the light socket. I also remember hot irons heated in the fire.


  2. I forgot about the sprinkler cap/soda bottle.☺ What great memories here. We always had whites in a bag in the frig waiting to be ironed…even undergarments !! It was one of the first chores we took on quite young. And…so right. I miss those bed linens dried outdoors, I can still remember the smell. Thanks. ☺

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  3. Washing day was a real event. I am sure my nan used to do it on a Monday, and it was a very similar routine to what your mum did back then, with a washboard and a mangle. She then had a twintub which I remember pretty well. Who needed gyms when they had days like these.

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  4. I from time to time wish I could hang the clothes on the line because it was fun back then. While reading this, I could smell the starch cooking on the stove and on the clothes as they were ironed. Then mom started paying my Aunt’s mother to iron our clothes. She was blind and took in ironing, I was amazed. She also knitted and crocheted. You must be a southern girl with the beans and cornbread for “supper” rather than dinner. Takes one to know one.😀

    Knowing your sense of humor, I can’t leave you without sharing that my mother was hanging out “clothes” one day and my dad came out and placed his hand on her bottom and said “Betttty”. Her skirt had been tucked into her panties the whole time she was out there. Poor mom.😁

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  5. I remember my mother hanging clothes on the metal clothesline before an impending summer thunderstorm and her getting shocked from distant lightning. There was nothing better than the fresh smell of line-dried linens. Us boys, also had to help hang clothes. I could still do it if I had to.

    Liked by 1 person

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