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.

Oilcan Harry and the Washing Machine

imageMother was stuck taking us everywhere she went, even to buy a new washing machine just days before her fourth baby was born. She never asked anyone to keep us since that would have insured she had to return the favor and keep someone else’s monsters in return, probably some of our killer cousins. She was always on guard against that. We followed her into to appliance store. It was maddeningly dull to me and my Brother Billy. We wanted to ride in the dryers and jump on the doors, but she put a stop to that pretty quickly, making us sit on our hands with our backs to each other where Phyllis could watch us. Eventually, she made her choice and went to sign the mortgage papers. I knew all about mortgages! I was an avid fan of Mighty Mouse! He’d saved Sweet Alice countless times when Oilcan Harry was about to do her in all on account of that danged mortgage, and here my own sweet mother was about to sign a mortgage. I set up a protest, as only a righteous eight year old can do!

“Mother, Mother, don’t sign it. We’ll lose the house! Please don’t sign a mortgage!”

She was infuriated, as only an overwrought pregnant woman can be, snarlingly at me hatefully through clenched teeth. “Go over there and sit down. If you say another word, I’ol tear you up right here in this store!”

I do believe she meant it. She got her washer and Oilcan Harry didn’t get the house.

Let me cut it

Mother doesn’t eat dessert.  When she was pregnant sixty years ago her doctor told her to watch her sugar.  She might be diabetic one day.  Since that day, I don’t believe she’s eaten a whole cookie, piece of cake, or slice of pie.  She never makes or buys dessert, hardly surprising, since she won’t buy anything she can help. Also, as long as she doesn’t buy it or make it, she is watching her sugar.

Naturally, she can’t resist desserts when visiting.  Adamant that it is off limits, she refuses to be served along with everyone else.  “I don’t eat dessert.  Don’t cut me a piece.  I just want this little corner.  It looks like she wields a power saw!  Normally, round items don’t have corners, but cakes or pies under Mother’s knife are transformed.  Cookies have to be broken.  The best I can tell, bizarrely-hacked goodies have no calories.  It takes a trip or two to satisfy her.  Bud is particularly offended by this callous treatment of HIS desserts.  All the desserts at our house are his.  This doesn’t mean he prepares them.  He just cherishes them.  God help the person who gets the last bit!

Anyway, Mother messes them up!  Before leaving, she takes a final whack at them.  After all, she doesn’t eat dessert.

Laundry in the Old Days, Part 3


See how happy this woman looks while washing clothes.  She is obviously demented.  If memory serves, when Mother ironed, stringy hair dangled in her scowling face, her dress front was wet. Most often, she was barefoot, since since it was common for the drain hose to slip out, drenching her.  Image from Smithsonian Files


Above you can see my proudest possession, my 1940s model America Beauty iron.  I’d looked in resale shops all over till I found this one. I like an iron that gets super hot to iron jeans.  This one has to move constant to avoid scorching.  It does a great job.  I need to be on the lookout for another, since it’s a possibility this one won’t last forever.


Ironing in the 1950s was a huge chore. As soon as breakfast was over, and the kitchen tidied, out came the ironing board. A stack of wire hangers hung on the doorframe, waiting to be pressed into service. Mother pulled a few pieces of balled up clothing from the pillowcase in the freezer. Her coke bottle sprinkler was at hand just in case a piece had dried out too much. It could be re sprinkled and balled up to go back in the freezer till it was just

Mother always attacked Daddy’s clothes first since that was the biggest and most demanding job. With a freshly cleaned iron, she went for the white shirts Daddy wore for casual and dress. They had to be spotless, crisp, and perfect. The iron temperature had to be high to do the job, but a bit of hesitation left a dreaded scorch mark. A time or two, Mother hung a shirt in his closet with a little scorch she hoped he wouldn’t notice, and he’d throw a fit, wad it up, and throw it down. “I can’t wear a mess like this!” I don’t know why she never killed him. His khaki pants had to have perfect creases. She starched them and put them on pants stretchers to ensure proper creases They dried hard and could stand alone when she took them off the line. His blue work shirts were hard work, but not so challenging as the pants and white shirts. His five pair of pants and five to seven shirts must be been an exhausting challenge. He would sometimes wear his pants twice without laundering, so he did help a little with the laundry. His handkerchiefs made quick work.

The dresses and school clothes came next. I can assure you, after Mother took the time to iron all those frilly little home-made dresses, we changed as soon as we came in from school, so we could wear them at least twice. When we put them on, she had to rough up the underarm seams to soften them.  Otherwise, they’d scratch at our tender flesh. The skirts were so stiff, they belled out even without a petticoat. My brother’s pants and shirts were less challenging, which was fortunate, since he normally got the knees of his pants so dirty, he could only wear them one day. Naturally, last of all, she ironed her cotton housedresses, since she was a lady of leisure and didn’t have to “work.”

Before she had five children, I remember sheets and pillow cases coming at the end of the ironing list. Over the years, she got lazy and those fell by the wayside. Little girls were taught to iron hankies and pillowcases first. Ironing was “women’s work” not just something a boy needed to know. How fortunate for them!

Usually by the end of ironing day. Mother had thirty-five to forty crisp pieces hanging on the threshold of the doorway, seasoning and waiting for the closet. Every week, she counted those pieces without fail, proudly cataloging her work. I thank God, we don’t have to do that now!

Affirmations for the Resistance #8

Art by Rob Goldstein

Carrie Underwood – The Champion ft. Ludacris

They say that every champion is all about his principles

A quote from Alexander Hamilton: If it were to be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of security in a Republic? the answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws—the first growing out of the last. It is by this, in a great degree, that the rich and powerful are to be restrained from enterprises against the common liberty—operated upon by the influence of a general sentiment, by their interest in the principle, and by the obstacles which the habit it produces erects against innovation and encroachment. It is by this, in a still greater degree, that caballers, intriguers, and demagogues are prevented from climbing on the shoulders of faction to the tempting seats of usurpation and tyranny.Be champions of the Constitution and the Rule of Law.

“If it were to be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of security in a Republic? The answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws—the first growing out of the last.  It is by this, in a great degree, that the rich and powerful are to be restrained from enterprises against the common liberty—operated upon by the influence of a general sentiment, by their interest in the principle, and by the obstacles which the habit it produces erects against innovation and encroachment. It is by this, in a still greater degree, that caballers, intriguers, and demagogues are prevented from climbing on the shoulders of faction to the tempting seats of usurpation and…

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Pulpwood Joke

Two Louisiana gentlemen who’d always worked in the pulpwood industry found themselves in a bad way when the pulpwood industry fell off.  Hearing of a state employment office, they headed down there, hoping for work.

Joe saw the counselor first.  “I see you’ve always worked in the forestry industry.  Exactly, what did you do?”

”I cut pulpwood!”  He answered proudly. “When I get going, can’t nobody keep up with me.  I’m the best pulpwood cutter in the country.”

”I’ll bet that’s something to see,” answered the counselor “but the pulpwood industry is dead around here.  I don’t have a single job for a pulpwood cutter.  Hope it picks up soon.”

He showed Joe the door.  “Next!”

Bubba followed him in. He was out in just a few minutes.  “I got a job!  I start tomorrow or the next day!”

Joe couldn’t handle that and stormed back in, confronting the counselor.  “What’s going on here?  How come you found him a job and not me?”

“We don’t have any jobs for a pulpwood cutter, but he’s a pilot.  We have lots of jobs for pilots!” answered  the counselor.

“That don’t make no sense!  If I don’t cut it, how’s he gonna pile it?”



Little House in the Big Woods – Jennie Fitzkee

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Reblogged from A Teacher’s Reflections:

I began reading aloud a new chapter reading book, Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  In thirty minutes, I had read only four pages.  Four!  There was so much happening in the story, we had to stop and talk.  That always means learning.  And a captive audience.

Let me back up, as there is much to tell about yesterday…

The day before, we finished reading The Story of Doctor Dolittle.  At the end of the book I closed it and said, “I don’t want the book to end.”  This is what happened next:

Ella said, “Can we read it again and again and again?”

Me:  ” I wish we could, Ella.  Your Mom and Dad can read it to you again.”

Ella:  “But I don’t have the book.”

Me:  “The library has the book.  Mom and Dad can get it…

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Laundry in the Old Days Part 2


Image courtesy of Pixabay

Once 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 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, 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!

Laundry in the Old Days

Images from Smithsonian collection

When she first married in 1946, Mother washed on a rub board. By the time I was born, they’d come up enough in the world to acquire a second wringer-washing machine. It cut her work tremendously. Wash days were so much more pleasant and relaxing. All she had to do was sort the laundry into whites, colors, towels, and work clothes.

She  manually filled the machine with hot water from a connection on the back porch as well as several pans of water boiled on the stove for her whites. Adding plenty of Clorox and laundry soap, she turned on the agitator and loaded her whites. The machine agitated the wash vigorously till she turned it off. When she was satisfied the whites were clean, the water was was usually still steaming hot. She’d turn the agitator off. While the clothes were washing, she’d fill two big galvanized tubs with rinse water, using the hose

After  switching the wringer on, she’d fish the whites out of the scalding water with a stick and carefully run them through the wringer, allowing the wash water to drain back into the washing machine tank. The flattened clothes fed from the wringer into the first rinse tub. She worked them up and down with a plunger to rinse, then swiveled the wringer into position between the galvanized tubs, to wring the wash before the second rinse, plunging and wringing again and winding into a basket for the line.

Water had to be added to the the washer and tubs after each load, since a great deal of water remained in the clothes and ended up on the floor. Between loading, agitating, and rinsing, the laundry not requiring starch had to go on the line. The washer had to be manually switched into drain. Since the washer was on wheels many times the drain hose ended up on the floor, instead of the drain, ensuring plenty of excitement and extra mop up.

Now the good part, starching. Using powdered starch, Mother cooked up a thick batch of starch on the stove. Refilling the washing machine with hot water, she mixed the cooked starch in, making sure to stir till the mixture was absolutely smooth Our good cotton dresses, pants, shirts, and Daddy’s work clothes went back in to agitate, then were run through the wringer, into the laundry basket for the line. Of course, they were very hot. As the family got bigger, Mother had to starch two or three loads.

The floors were a dirty, sloppy mess by the end of laundry day, necessitating a thorough scrubbing. The greatest hazard was getting caught in the wringer, hence the phrase, putting you through the wringer.”

Tuesday was ironing day, another treat.