Laundry in the 1950’s Part 1

imageWhen 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.

imageShe 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.

imageimageAfter 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.

 

Them That Don’t Work……..

Five kidsThere was always more work than Mother could possibly get done by the time there were five kids.  In addition to the house and cooking, Daddy kept Mother running errands for the farm.  “Run up to Manolia and get me a magneto for the tractor.  On the way back, pick my saw up from the shop and a couple of cans of gasoline.”

Magnolia was forty miles away.  Unless Daddy got his request in early, by the time Mother got back, we were in from school.  If I saw a chicken thawing in the sink, I knew to get supper started.  No instructions were needed.  Chicken meant fried chicken. Ground meat meant meatloaf.  I’d change clothes, peel and boil mountains of potatoes, cut the chicken up and get it started frying, or get the meatloaf on and get some vegetables started, if Mother hadn’t left a pot of beans simmering on low.  God forbid, I should let the beans cook dry and scorch.  That was a catastrophe.  While the chicken fried, cornbread or biscuits went in the oven, no “light bread” ever defiled the table at our house.  Daddy frequently bragged about that.  It reflected well his authority and manhood.  Supper was on the table at the expected time.  As soon as dinner was over, we got the kitchen cleaned up.  After the first time or two I got a meal on the table, never Mother worried again if she was held up, knowing dinner would be ready on time.  Only once did I foolishly decide I had better things to do than cook supper after I had started that routine.  Turns out, I didn’t have anything better to do.  We also had dogs, cows, and chickens who didn’t take care of themselves.  They ate before we did.

At about the age of seven or eight, when I initially got the devastating news that I was going to start having “jobs” to do, I was appalled and disgusted.  I was a kid. I was supposed to play.  It was my parent’s job to take care of me.  Life wouldn’t be worth living!  Sometimes Mother would send me back three or four times till I did a job right.  Daddy had a much more time efficient method.  He’d just kick my butt and make it worth my time to get it right.  After three or four years of involuntary servitude, I realized it was easier to do what needed to be done than deal with the alternative and still have to do get busy.  Eventually, somehow I started needed doing without being told.