Washday Blues

Image courtesy of The People’s History

Mother had some bad luck, then some good.  She was a  passenger in a car hit by a drunk driver and sustained a cut over her eye.  The good news was, she wasn’t badly scarred and got a two-thousand dollar settlement from the driver’s insurance.  Daddy and Mother were rich!  (He was the man and what was hers was his.) That was a lot of money in 1956.  She said the first thing she wanted was an automatic washing machine. She and Daddy made for the local furniture store.  When Daddy saw what a new Maytag cost, he balked. The set pictured above retailed at $494!  Of course, purchase of a dryer would have been ridiculous, since she had a clothesline and nothing but time, but the price of a new washer alone was outrageous!  They had a lot of better places for that money!  The upshot was, the salesman finally admitted he had taken a used Maytag in trade.  That was more like it.  Daddy always went for used.   That fine, used washer came home with them, for only fifty dollars.  It took place of pride on the screened-in back porch and Mother’s old wringer washer became a trade-in.

It worked okay for a few weeks and Mother dealt with her disappointment at not getting a new Maytag.  Soon, it revealed its true nature.  Apparently, the switch was moody.  It began to protest moving between cycles.  Sometimes it made a grinding nose, sometimes it meditated.  Eventually, it died.  Mother was livid.  They had wasted fifty dollars on a piece of trash.  At least her old wringer washer was dependable.  Of course, by now, the two-thousand dollars was history.  They’d paid some bills, and Daddy had purchased a small sawmill so he could go in the cross-tie business.  It looked like a great deal till the bottom fell out of the cross-tie business.  Money was tight as always.  Daddy had heard that a neighbor, J. D. Offut, worked on appliances, so he sent a kid over to ask Mr. Offut to stop by when he got off his day job.  This was before we enjoyed the luxury of a telephone.

I have no idea what Mr. Offut’s day job was,  but his hobby was soon performing CPR on Mother’s chronically ailing Maytag washer.  He always tinkered long enough to revive it for a few days.  Invariably he’d leave Mother with a handful of small unnecessary parts.  “I bypassed the such and such, so I didn’t need these.  You might want to keep them, just in case.  I don’t know how long it will hold up.”  His confidence in his work was well-grounded.  It rarely ran more than a few days, leaving Mother to  fish out a heavy load of cold, soggy laundry in anticipation of Mr. Offut ‘s call.  Sometimes, he had a previous commitment, so she’d have to finish the load by hand.  It was unfortunate she didn’t swear.  I believe it would have helped her feelings as she truminated on Daddy, the washer, and Mr. Offut.

Mother never did learn to appreciate that washer.

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