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!

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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.

Laundry in 1950s Part 3

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/laundry-in-the-1950s-part-1/

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/laundry-in-the-1950s-part-2/

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 right.

imageimageimagestretchers   image

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.  She had to rub the underarm seams to soften them up.  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 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!

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.

 

Blackie and the Great Diaper Monster

My grandparents, Roscoe and Lizzie Holdaway, a few months after her stroke.  She was about 4″8″ tall.  Note the large, black purse on her left arm.

family6

Grandma had a stroke when she was fifty-eight.  The doctor came out to see her and said she’d never walk again.  Ignoring him, she scooted around in an old desk chair for about three months because she wasn’t about to waste money on a wheelchair she’d never use again.  After that, she put up with a cane for a few days till she was sick of it, then it was business as usual.  Ever afterwards, she was a little weak on the right side and her gait was off a little, but she didn’t let it hold her back.  She just carried her gigantic old-lady black purse on the left side to balance herself.  She crawled in every time the car started, and made every trip anyone else did, be it the hardware store, grocery store, or vacation.  Her stroke just made it a little easier for us to keep up with her.

She lived far enough away that she always stayed a couple of weeks when she visited.  Upon her arrival, she insisted on taking over the family laundry, washing, hanging out on the line, and folding.  We always had mountains of laundry with five kids, including two babies in diapers, so Mother was glad to have the help.   Always afraid the neighbors would talk about her for letting Grandma toddle back and forth with the laundry, she always sent one of us to help.  I always volunteered, since Grandma was known to hand out nickels when she was pleased.  I endeavored to make sure the other kids didn’t stumble into this gold mine.

The whole time I was growing up, we had a sequence of gentle black dogs, usually named Blackiefamily6.  I have no idea how many we may have had, but we always had one.  Numerous though they had to have been over the eighteen years I lived at home, they all merged into one in my memory.  One hot summer afternoon, as Grandma tottered back from the clothesline to the back door, the poor dog must have awakened from his nap in the shade only to see a short-legged, top-heavy voluminous load of fluffy, white diapers advancing toward him, lurching from side to side.

Terrified, he leapt up barking and lunged at the terrifying diaper monster, pushing her over backwards, the diapers landing atop her.  Mother had seen the whole thing and rushed out to rescue Grandma from the jaws of the slavering beast.  As soon as the dog heard Mother coming for him, he took off.  We were all sure Grandma was dead.  Mother tore at the pile of diapers only to find Grandma laughing so hard she couldn’t get up.  She had to get her laughing fit over before we could pull her to her feet.  She was totally unhurt, except for the indignity of wet pants.  I can’t speak to the poor dog’s shocked condition.