Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wash Day

It is Monday morning and when I was growing up on the farm this was always washday. Washing clothes was an all day project. It was a lot of work. When I was young we did not have automatic washing machines or dryers.
There was a small building just outside the back door of our house. This was the wash house. It did not have any heat or air conditioning. Inside the wash house was the washing machine with the wringer, the wash bench, and two big galvanized wash tubs. The washing machine was electric but all of the rest of the process was done by hand.
Mama did all of the washing every Monday but when we were not in school we had to help. First, we sorted the clothes into piles. These were put into laundry baskets and carried outside into the wash house. We had hot and cold water facets in the washhouse, which we hooked a hose to and filled up the tub on the washing machine. We set the wash bench beside the washing machine and set the two wash tubs on it. These two tubs were also filled with water. One had warm water and the second one had cold water. You always rinsed the clothes in the warm water first. After we took the clothes out of the rinse tubs, we put the clothes in the empty laundry basket that was setting on an old chair. Everything was set up so that the wringer on the washing machine could be put over the washer, or each of the rinse tubs and laundry basket as needed.
When it was time to start washing clothes we put a load in the washing machine, along with Cheer soap, and turned it on. It would swish the clothes back and forth. We let them wash a while and then turn the machine off and turn on the wringer. With the wringer over the washer you put a piece of clothing into the wringer and the two rollers would roll the clothing through to the other side while squeezing out all of the water and drop it into the tub of warm water on the other side. Put another load of clothes into the washing machine and start it going again. All of the clothes were washed and rinsed in the same water that was put in each tub. That is why you always wash the white things first and work your way through until you did the darkest colors last. Then we picked the clothes up and down out of the rinse water to get the soap out of them. Bring the ringer around so it was between the two rinse tubs and again put the clothes through the ringer to squeeze out the water and drop them into the second rinse tub. Pick up the clothes and rinse up and down for a second time. Now they were clean and free of soap. For the third time you put them into the ringer, now turned around so that it was over the laundry basket.
It was now time to go hang them out on the clothes line. Mama had a child’s wagon that two laundry baskets would set in and when she had two baskets full and ready to be hung we would pull the wagon out into the farm yard where the clothes line was. Hang each piece up a certain way with at least two clothes pins. Jeans and daddy’s overalls were hung by the legs. Blouses were also hung upside down. Bed sheets were laid clear over the clothes line and then pinned. Towels hung by the end.
You had to watch the weather. If it started to rain, you had to go running out and bring all of the clothes inside. On the other hand, if it was a rainy day you still did the washing on Monday but the drying was done inside the house. We had a large metal drying rack that opened up like an umbrella. It had cord strung from corner to corner all around so there was room for lots of clothes. This was placed over the floor furnace.
I remember playing outside and seeing a big brown cloud in the south, coming towards our farm. It was a dust storm! I ran in the house and told mama then we had to hurry really fast to take all of the clothes off the clothes line and into the house.
It was also fun in the really cold winter time when mama would bring in daddy’s overalls. They were so thick and heavy that they usually did not get dry before the end of the day in the winter. They would be frozen stiff, mama would stand them up in a corner in the house, and we would laugh because mama was standing daddy up in the corner! I remember once pretending I was dancing with daddy!
Mama finally had an automatic washer and dryer after all of us girls were gone from home. But I still remember how wonderful all of the clothes smelled when they were dried outside, and how nice the house would smell when all of the clothes were drying in the house whenever they had to be brought in to dry.

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