Sunday, July 7, 2013


Writing that story, got me thinking of how our parents, grandparents and ancestors kept their clothes and linens clean. We've come a long way from rubbing our clothes on rocks by a river or over a washboard in a bucket. Before the more readily available modern methods of laundry, some cultures only did laundry a couple times a year! Yikes!

From my own childhood, I have vague recollections of my mom and my big sister using the old style wringer washing machine and them warning me not to get to close. I never really wanted to get close to that thing! To a small child, it was noisy and looked really big and scary as the wet fabric was pressed through the rolling pin like cylinders, squishing out the excess water. I avoided it whenever I could! However, it was located in a small area just off the kitchen - on the way to the bathroom. So, if you had to go while laundry was being done, then you didn't have much of a choice!  

After that old machine wore out, mom went through several models of washers over the years.

The machines have changed greatly over the decades, but they got the job done!

One of the washers that she had, worked great for a number of years, but eventually it started to act up a bit. The problem, was that the water wouldn't automatically fill to the water line. Dad tried to fix it himself a few times. but no such luck. Rather than haul it into a repair shop or have a guy come all the way out to the farm to fix it (and charge extra for the mileage and service call), they opted to just have a 2 1/2 gallon pail sitting nearby. Whenever they threw in a load, they'd just fill up the pail with water from the kitchen sink and then pour it into the washer when it automatically stopped! It wasn't an overly convenient solution as this had to be done for the wash and rinse cycles, but it did save some money and they joked that this was like doing weight lifting! That misbehaving machine was eventually replaced with a more reliable one!

I can only recall a handful of times that we had to use the Laundromat in town. That usually only happened if the washer was broken or the power was out at the farm and we were quite low on clean clothes. About the only other times were, if we hadn't been able to haul water for the cistern for some reason - such as the big truck that the water tank was loaded onto, was being used for harvest or if the ground was too wet (thanks to heavy rains or flooding) to back the heavy truck and tank up to the cistern. I don't recall when they finally started getting piped in water out on the farm, but it was long after I left home!

Whenever possible, mom did laundry on days that the clothes could be hung out to dry on the clothesline behind the house. With a nice breeze, they'd be dry in no time - and the scent of the fresh air lingered in the laundry! If it started to rain or a dusty wind came up before things were dry, there was a mad dash to get all the clothes off the line!  When the weather didn't cooperate or when the snow was too deep to get to the line, she'd use a couple of wooden clothes racks. If it wasn't raining or dusty - but just cold - she'd set the racks out on the back step or in our old unheated porch. The clothes would freeze dry. Then she'd move the racks into the kitchen or the living room and let them stand overnight to thaw and finish drying. She eventually got a dryer but still hung the clothes out whenever she could.

Back in the day, she used to iron pretty much everything - including the sheets! I also recall a pre-dryer incident where she inadvertently ironed creases into the front of the blue jeans! She'd been busy ironing all the dress pants and just kept going when she got to the jeans. We kids were NOT impressed!  With the introduction of perma-press and other wrinkle resistance fabrics, the iron wasn't used nearly as much in later years.

I don't recall how old I was when I started doing my own laundry, but I do remember helping hang, take the clothes off the line/rack and folding. Try as I might, I never did get the hang of ironing, so still avoid it whenever possible! I do own an iron but only pull it out if I absolutely have to! I don't even own an ironing board - not even a mini one. If something really needs an iron intervention, then I lay a thick towel on the kitchen counter and go from there! I'll gladly barter baking for ironing!

Since moving away from home, I've pretty much relied on the laundry facilities in the buildings I've lived in - or in a couple situations, a laundromat a couple blocks away. Of course, like most adult children, I was also known to haul my dirty laundry home on weekends! I still had to do it myself, but at least I didn't have to pay to use the machines!

Back around 1991, a building I lived in, installed some of the first front load washers. They were incredibly loud! Unfortunately for me, I was living in the apartment next to the laundry room on my floor and the thing sounded like a plane landing beside you! I had to turn up the radio/TV while it was running and wasn't getting much sleep when night owls decided to do laundry! I petitioned management and the tenants association to limit the hours so no one could do laundry in the overnight hours! They eventually agreed, but I also applied for and got a different apartment in the block!

Given my past experience with the front loaders, and even though I currently live several floors from the laundry room in my building, I wasn't looking forward to using the new washers that were installed a couple of years ago. Thankfully, the years have improved the technology greatly. All five washers running at the same time are quieter than the one of twenty years ago! You can actually carry on a conversation in the same room!

I still don't enjoy doing laundry, but it is one of those necessary things in life. So with that being said, best I take yet another load down to the laundry room. Apparently it isn't willing to go get in the washer and then the dryer by itself!


1 comment:

Anne said...

Was renting a flat up in Darwin way back when I was in my early to mid twenties. They had one of these and I just HATED it as everytime I tried to wind my sheets through they would start winding around the top part and hitting the lever to stop it wouldn't work so by the time I did get it to stop I had one big mess and would take me ages to unwind it as it was wound around so tight. NO NICE MEMORIES FOR ME WITH THAT MONSTER!!!