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Friday, August 6, 2010

Memories of Wash Day ~ MysticSilks

I don't know what made me think of the days gone by when we did the laundry and called it 'wash day'?
Back in the early 40's and 50's, and before that time period, housewives had a day designated for doing each of their chores.
Yes there was some organization to their lives, and my mother was obsessive compulsive organized.
Monday was wash day. That day started out by mother stripping all the beds, taking the clothes from the hampers, then with arms filled ,she'd walk carefully downstairs to the basement,her head cocked to the side so she could see around the mound of laundry to where the steps were. She'd get to the basement, drop the clothes to the cleanly swept floor, and head back upstairs to remove the towels and facecloths from the bathroom. Back to the basement she went and began to sort all the clothes into piles.
She'd put the white pile of clothes closest to the washer, then the lightly colored clothes into another pile, and lastly the jeans , plaid shirts, and dark socks into their own pile where they were never mixed with the other clothes.
Oh, dads dirty work clothes, he was a plumber, went into the furthest pile from the washer: For some irrational reason, she thought that his clothes might contaminate the other piles of soiled laundry.
All that running up and downstairs would tucker out a modern day woman.
But we were just beginning the wash day.
We had a EASY SPIN two tub washer with an agitator in the washing side of the washer, and attached to that was a smaller tubular wringing tub. Even though the big tub had an agitator, she had a wash stick that she would use to push several times, the clothes under the water. Why she did this I don't know?
Wait I'm not done!
Attached to the very end of this washer was a ringer, consisting of 2 rollers you fed the clothes through to squeeze out excess water.
OK, dirty clothes were put into the tub with the centered agitator. The hot water was added by a hose attached to a stationary tub that stood against the basement wall, and where you rolled the washer to on wash day. Into that hot tub of wash water went chips of Fels Napta soap, tide, and a cup of bleach.

There were two tubs to the stationary tub. On one side mom would fill with cold water, that was the rinse water. When the agitator tub full of clothes were washed, she would take each piece feed it through the rollers, into the tub of cold water. Then she'd take each piece of washed laundry, dunk it up and down, up and won several times, then run it back through the rollers and into the spinner tub, where by centrifugal force, that water was removed.
Then the contents of the spinning tub were removed and put into a tub of cold water that had 'bluing' in it. Bluing was a bottle of blue liquid content, and when added to cold water it would make your white clothes whiter. Sometimes as a treat , mom would let me put several drops of bluing into the last rinse tub.
From that last rinse tub of blue water, mom would then run the clothes through the ringers, into the spin tub, where they went through their last spin.
She would remove the clean, clean clothes from the spinner into a clean wash basket. Set it aside, then filled the washer tub with the light colored clothes, and set them to swishing back and forth, and then during the summer, up the stairs we'd go out to the back yard and the clothes lines.

Each article of clothing was shook out before placing it on the clothes line, and secured there by two clothespins. The sheets, and pillow cases were place open on the grass. The grass, mom stated, made the white clothes even whiter.
By the time we hung that batch of laundry it was time to go back to the basement , and go through the entire process of rinsing the next batch of laundry.
And, so the day would go.
As each clean basket was taken out to hang on the lines to dry in the summer sun, Mom and I would go through the clothes that had been hanging there awhile to see if they had dried.
Then each clean, dry, piece of laundry was removed, folded and placed in a basket for ironing later that day.
I loved to take the clothes off the lines. The fragrance of the clean sun dried clothes, was a pleasure to my nose. And later at night, after a bath, I'd snuggle those clean fresh sweet smelling sheets to my nose,take a deep breath and know all was well with life and the world. Of all the commercial fragrance sheets sold today, there is nothing that compares to line dried clothes.

While the last tub of laundry was washing dad's scrunggie work clothes, mom would have the ironing board out and was busy ironing shirts ,blouses, my dresses, pillow cases sheets, slacks and anything she felt looked better pressed out.
Those were the days before modern steam irons. Mom used a Pepsi bottle filled with water, that had a corked metal top with small holes. She'd sprinkle each piece of laundry, rolled it into a ball, set it aside to be ironed.

Wash day would begin at 7am, and end at 6:00pm with only a break in between for lunch, and supper . Usually by 5:30pm she would be finishing the last of the ironing, and running up and down stairs putting all the clean laundry into their appropriate closets, or drawers.

Years later in 1965, my brother Jim, surprised mom for her birthday with a totally automated washer.
In 1970's I went up to Michigan to stay with her and help her after a surgery.
I went downstairs to do some laundry---against the wall on a table were a few piles of folded clothes. I yelled upstairs, " Mom, where's the dirty clothes you need washed?"
" Oh , there on that table down there Sis."
" The ones that are folded?"
"Yup!" She replied .

I took the pile of white clothes over to the automatic washer, push the button to start the hot water into the top loading tub. Added the soap, some bleach, then the clothes. I began to shut the washer lid, when I noticed sitting in the stationary tubs her old washing stick.
Just for old times sake I picked it up and shoved the clothes under the water~~~figured mom would approve.

Today I am amazed when I hear women complain that they have clothes to wash , and they have no time.

Oh, by the way, mom was also a working outside the home mother.

Thank you for letting me share~