A Hog a Day Part 18

Photo shows girls dressed in styles reminiscent of dresses I wore in  the 1950’s

 

children wearing pink ball dress

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Church clothes were special.  Starch was the order of the day: crisp shirts for Daddy and Billy, frilly homemade dresses for the girls, shirtwaists for mother. While still wet from the wash, clothes were dipped in a dishpan of boiled starch and allowed to almost dry before being rolled in a tight ball and stuffed in a pillowcase in the freezer till time to iron. Should she miscalculate drying time, Mother sprinkled them with water from a stopper-topped coke bottle. I magnanimously gave her that sprinkler top for Christmas one year. It cost fifteen cents. Ironing was a huge job, so we had to hang up those fancy dresses the instant we got home. Tossing one in a heap on the bed or floor ensured real trouble. The rough armhole seams felt like razors if Mother forgot to crumple them before ironing. Even though I hated dresses, I have to admit they made an impressive show worn over full petticoats. Those lace and beribboned petticoats were a wonder to behold, way fancier than the dresses that covered them.

When I was little, before school started each year, we got five new dresses, most often homemade or rarely ordered from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. Billy got five shirts and three pair of pants. Besides that, we might get a gift of clothes at Christmas and Easter. I thought clothes made an awful gift. As kids were added to the family, the budget was stretched tighter and of course, we got less. Until I reached sixth grade, we could wear pants to school, a great boon on the playground and on cold days. The cold wind sailed under skirts, making frosty days a misery.

Dresses on the playground cut down on the fun of monkey bars, slides, and swings. I feared hearing boys sing out, “I see London. I see France. I see Linda’s underpants!” One day, I had the horrifying experience of catching my skirt tail at the top of the slide and reaching the bottom in only my slip and bodice, the red skirt left flying like a flag at the top. I was the object of hilarity as girls gathered round me to hide my shame as I skulked in for the teacher’s assistance. I expected her to send me home, but no. She pinned that skirt roughly back on and I had to finish out the day looking like a ragged sack of potatoes. A few times, I’d have a sash ripped off playing chase on the playground. Boy, was I in for it when I got home in a ruined dress! Three-cornered tears were the worst! Unlike rips, they couldn’t be mended.

I was always delighted to see someone else suffer a wardrobe humiliation. One Sunday evening, Brother Robert taught a class of young people before evening worship. Right off the bat, we noticed his open fly. I never paid such close attention to a lesson before, struggling not to look. I kept my eyes on his face, as did the rest of the class. He was a stern man. No one dared tell him. The instant class was over, he marched straight to the podium making ready for his sermon. One of the deacons did him the kindness of tipping him off. With a shocked look, he spun to zip his pants to the amusement of the choir filing in behind him. He had nowhere else to turn. It was lovely.

One Sunday morning a few years later, my sister Connie provided the entertainment for the service. She was sitting proudly near the front of the church with her new fiancé and his little niece, Amy. Connie was lovely in a beautiful yellow, spring dress. As the worshippers stood for a hymn, little Amy slid behind Connie, grasped the tail of Connie’s dress, and raised it as high as her tiny arms would reach, giving most of the congregation something truly inspiring amazing to consider, for which God made them truly grateful.

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.

Ironing and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

vintage-care-instructions-from-a-vintage-bookIt’s terrible how things from your youth manage to creep up on you as you are older.  Ironing, for instance.  After all the mountains of ironing I did as a kid, I swore when I got grown I’d never iron.  Then the miracle of permanent press and dryers came along.  Voila!  For forty years, I wore clothes hung up straight from the dryer.  Those items that required a bit of pressing were hung in the closet and passed over time after time till I just had to wear them, like to a funeral, wedding, or special event.  A dress or blouse might spend five years in the dark only to be discarded when I tired of reaching over it.  I had no problem wearing polyester or blends if they spared me ironing.  Of course, as a nurse, I wore non-descript scrubs, so work clothes weren’t an issue.

Then when I hit my mid-fifties, something terrible happened.  I became obsessed with cotton.  I only wanted cotton shirts and jeans.  Worse yet, I craved the crisp, starched creases of my youth.  It was awful.  I found myself starching and ironing jeans and cotton shirts.  I even got a few cotton dresses, and yes, I put in time ironing every week.  I couldn’t stand to see them sitting in the laundry basket.  I went to work as I took them out of the dryer.  Worse yet, I felt compelled to iron Bud’s jeans and shirts.  Jeans that have never before seen an iron.  I even bought him cotton button-up shirts.

As time went on, my disease progressed further.  Now, I feel compelled to iron in repetitions of five, or until I complete the pile.  As soon as I take items out of the dryer, I fold a stack of five and hang the rest up.  Though my back aches before I finish the third piece, I know I have to do five, so I alternate easy and demanding items.  Example, a long sleeved shirt with collar and pocket flaps is about as much work as a pair of jeans, so I can’t do them in succession.  I start with jeans and follow with a simple sleeveless, pocketless shirt.  The problem comes in if the items don’t line up right.  If the laundry wasn’t organized properly, I could have three pair of jeans and two complicated shirts that have to be done.  This is brutal, since the rule requires five pieces completed.  Another dilemma to face if eleven pieces are in the ironing pile.  I HAVE to do cycles of five, but I am not supposed to leave ironing for another day.  That means I have to iron five pieces the first go round, but knowing I will have one left over complicates things.  This means I have to come up with a plan.  I can substitute to simple pieces for one difficult piece and it only counts as six.  For example.  I could do two jeans, two long-sleeved shirts with pocket-flaps and two simple shirts or a simple shirt and pair of shorts.  Those six would round off to about five, however, the adjustment must be made with first session or I won’t have room to correct a possible miscalculation.

Ironing Exchanges:

Long-sleeved shirt with cuffs and pocket flaps                                                       1

Long-sleeved shirt with cuffs, pocket flaps, and air vent in back                         1.5

Jeans                                                                                                                                1

Pants with cuffs, thigh pockets with or without flaps and back pocket flaps     1.5

Simple short sleeve or sleeveless shirts with no pocket flaps                                0.5

Shorts with pocket flaps or cuffs                                                                                 1

Simple shorts                                                                                                                  0.5

Dress                                                                                                                                2  +/-  0.5 

As you see, it takes some managing to make each ironing session equal five.  I try to do difficult calculations first.  Should it be entirely too much ironing for one day, I have to leave my ironing board up as a pledge to come back the next morning.  It upsets me to not have pieces amount to five points per session.  If it looks like that might happen, I have to throw in another wash.  I hate it when that happens.

Then there is the mending, a story for another day.

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.