Hard to believe but before my Grandmother passed away a few years ago, we were a six generation family. I only regret that we couldn’t get everyone together for a six generation photograph. Even when I was a child I was photographed with my Great-grandparents who were born during the Civil War. Unbelievable when you stop and think about it. I’m very fortunate to have had a family of longevity and health. I think it comes for hard work, personal pride and clean living.
I started this blog for a number of reasons and one goal is to introduce today’s families the way life was lived in times past. Not long ago I found myself with a dead washer and dryer. Heavens to Betsy in today’s world that is almost unheard of and possibly cause for a national state of emergency. Anyway, I decided not to replace them for a number of reasons, finances the head of the list. I should explain that the washer isn’t completely dead and will still spin a load.
The washer and dryer lived in my separate laundry room which by today’s standards is pretty big. It’s about 10’x10′ and with the appliances gone there was an entire room I could use for something else. That said I was beginning to contemplate the laundry situation even as I was creating a breakfast room where the laundry room used to be. The dryer was now completely gone and the washer is now housed in the back of the garage in the back yard.
I sat down to rest with a glass of iced tea and my mind wandered to life living with my Grandmother. Mama (we called her) had a Westinghouse
wringer washer. On wash day the washer was wheeled into the kitchen, a hose attached to the kitchen faucet and wash day had begun. Everything was manual. There was no spin cycle and no timer to change cycles, but it was electric. When the wash completed the tub was filled with water a second time for the rinse. My favorite part was the wringer. Mama would swing the ringer around so that it was now located over the sink and the wringing would begin. Two cylinders would rotate while the laundry was fed between them and the water squeezed out. As a six year old, I was a little afraid that if her hand got into the wringer it would not stop until it, well you get the picture.
When all the wash was done and loaded in the laundry basket, Mama would carry it to the clotheslines at the back of the house. There were three lines between two “T” posts and by the time all the laundry was hung the lines were all full. This was probably the first instance of “solar and wind power”. It’s funny how what’s old is new again. After everything was dry, the clothes were brought into the house sprinkled with water (I know, that sounds weird) but bear with me. When the clothes were properly sprinkled, they were placed in a pillow case and stored over night in the ice box. Yes, ice box. It took years for Mama to call a refrigerator anything but an ice box because for most of her life that’s what she had in her kitchen, an ice box. Back to the laundry. The next morning after breakfast and getting my Grandfather off to work, out came the ironing board and iron. Not just an iron you can purchase today. This iron, though electric, was as heavy as a bowling ball. Honestly, the thought in those days was the heavier the iron the better job it did. Out from the “ice box” came those sprinkled clothes from the day before. They were just right for ironing and iron she did for hours on end. It’s strange but my memories of Mama are her at the stove and the ironing board. I really can’t say that because she made the best chocolate cream pie, homemade fudge, divinity and….heck, anything she cooked was the best!!
Well, back to my laundry dilemma. As I was thinking about how hard working my Grandmother was as long as she lived, I was overwhelmed with the realization that if that life was good enough for my Grandmother, it was certainly good enough for me. So now when it is wash day, I fill the bathtub with warm, soapy water and wash my clothes. After they are rinsed, I take them to the back of the garage and put them in the ailing washer and spin the water out. Now they are dried on a clothesline hung between the back of my house and the front wall of the garage. The most rewarding part of this whole ordeal is bringing back something from the past and the wonderful fresh smell of my clothes when I bring them in from the yard. Because fabrics are so different today I don’t have to iron and boy am I glad because as much as I love my Grandmother and respect everything she did for her family, I’m not sorry I don’t have to iron. There aren’t many things I hate to do as much as iron.
So next time you use your modern day washer and dryer, remember this little story of how things were done a long, long time ago (and at my house, today). Convenience is great but there are some things that still provide satisfaction in knowing you can do things the hard way when you have too. In my case, it is a connection with the Grandmother I love so much and miss more than anyone can imagine.