April 3, 2011

Sharing Memories (Week 14 of 52): Scrub Those Clothes Clean!

It's Week 14 of our Sharing Memories - A Genealogy Journey Follow along each Sunday as we write and sometimes share, our memories of childhood. Your descendants will be so thankful that you did!

This week I've been thinking about laundry day and how my Mom did the weekly wash. Mother had a wringer-washer (remember those?), the kind that looked like this one.

I don't know how or where she did the laundry before my dad and brother dug a basement for our house but once we had a basement, the wringer-washer had a place of pride near a newly-installed laundry tub.

Every weekend we kids would lug the bedding and dirty clothes downstairs and into the basement. Mother worked in "the City" as a secretary so weekends were the only time free. It took all day for her to wash the clothes and hang them out on the line to dry.

The best part for me was watching her put the wet clothes through the wringer. I loved that silly wringer! I wanted so badly to do that but mother wouldn't let me until I was about 10 years old. Then I think she was glad to step back and let me go to it! My job then was to take the wet clothes one load at a time and put them through the wringer, then into a clothes basket.

Mother then took the basket outside but once I was a bit older, my job was to hang everything up on the line. Either my sister or I would bring the clothes in a day or so later. In winter they looked so funny because they were often frozen solid! So they were in the shapes of the clothing which always struck me as humourous.

I remember once in June my sister brought the drying in but I guess she didn't shake it before putting it in the basket. When she got dressed she started to scream because a June bug was inside her underwear.

But I did love laundry day with all it's clean smells and sloshing sounds plus that wonderful lovely wringer.


Mary said...

Lovely memory...my mom had a wringer washer for awhile also. I personally still hang my clothes on a clothesline (mainly because we've got lots of sunshine here and I like my clothes 'air dryed'). But AZ is known for it's crockroaches....several times I've gone to get dressed and found one inside my clothing...yuck! So I can really empathize with your sister.

Joan Miller (Luxegen) said...

I remember those wringer washers. My long hair got caught in the wringer once and I was lucky I didn't get scalped! I was probably around age 10 or so.

S.P. Bragg said...

I remember them too and the hanging out to dry part as well. We use to bring in the clothes in the winter and they would be frozen solid. Ah, the memories lol.

Ane said...

I remember the wringer washer diapers wrapped around the wringer,If it does, an article of the wash may
wrap several times around a roller before it is noticed; unwinding such a
piece is often difficult, sometimes impossible without removing a roller . And I ruined a couple of shirts,
Its you're already happened?

Eric said...

My mother used to tell similar stories about washing day. She was fascinated by the wringer and couldn't wait until she was old enough to run the laundry through the wringer. At some point my grandmother bought a washer with an electric wringer. This meant less work and more fun. When my mom finally got to use the new electric wringer, she was so excited that she didn't let go of the laundry. That wringer actually pulled her hand through the rollers and it broke several bones in her hand and wrist. It wasn't a fun day for her and it was a serious break, but she fully recovered and went on to become and artist, a writer and a teacher. She never did care much for doing the laundry. One time during college, my brother sent his laundry home with a friend for her to wash. She sent it back to him dirty!

GeneBugGrams said...

Thought I would share this memory with you.....

The smells associated with laundry when I was a child bring back a lot of memories. Today detergents are made to wash clothes in cold or warm water, but I remember when water had to be so hot, you couldn’t stand to put your hands in it.
Before we ever had a washer in our home, Mother used to gather and sort all of the laundry into separate baskets, load them in the car, along with boxes of
bleach, and a bottle of
bluing, and struggle to get the baskets into the back seat of the car. Then off we would go to the local “wash-a-teria”.
Going to do the laundry was always an exciting experience. We entered through a large set of double doors and there was a center aisle with a row of 5 machines on the left and 5 machines on the right with work space in between. Each machine was set up with a square tub to the side of the washer so clothes could be run through the wringer right into the rinse water, and there was a table for folding, etc. beside the rinse tub, near the wall. A system of hoses was suspended from the ceiling so that each washer had access to hot and cold water. The machines drained directly into troughs in the concrete floor and to a central drain. It was always hot and humid in this building without any air conditioning. Doors were left open for circulation. The various detergents and chemicals had odors that permeated the air and it is a smell I will always remember.
Delicate items, then unmentionables were washed first, followed by sheets. Next were the colored clothes then the towels. Last were the really dirty work clothes. The water would get so dirty the machine had to be drained and refilled before the last of the clothes could be washed. Likewise, the rinse water would collect enough detergent, it also had to be refreshed. There was a stick, probably cut from a broom handle, we used to fish the clothes out of the hot water and start them through the wringer. Following the rinse, we would carefully put the clothes through the wringer again, but hold them so they couldn’t go back into the water. Then they were folded to put in the baskets to return home.
Once home, it was time to put them on the clothes line. The sheets and towels went on the line that could be seen from the street. The undies went on the middle line, and the colored clothes went on the back line. The world may have stopped spinning if the undies were ever seen by someone driving by.
Another gamble we were taking on laundry day was whether or not the clothes would get dry before the wind would stir up a dust storm. At the slightest breeze, it was a race to grab everything off the lines and get it inside before the dirt started blowing. I remember dirt storms that lasted all day on occasions. With little rain in West Texas in the 1940s-1960s, there was little vegetation to keep the dirt down and we certainly didn’t want it on the wet clothes making mud.
When Mother and Daddy finally had enough extra money to get a washing machine, it had a place of honor in the corner of the kitchen and Mother’s life was suddenly so much easier. She could run one load of washing whenever she wanted and it didn’t have to be an all day affair. It was over 35 years before she finally gave up her clothes line and got a dryer though. The smell of line dried clothes just can’t be duplicated.

The Grandmother Here said...

I've enjoyed reading all these comments. It took me back to my childhood. Basic needs take less of our time now so we should have time for more good deeds.