Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Summer 1950

I often wonder how so many women accomplish so much. They hold fulltime jobs, read copiously and blog thoughtfully, all the while running a household and raising children.

My mom never had a job when I was growing up in the 40's and 50's. But then, just doing the family laundry was a job-and-a-half! Listen to this, all you sweet young things (under 59).

We lived on an old farmplace with no plumbing. There was a hand pump at the kitchen sink with a "slop bucket" underneath. We would pump hard water into a big, crusty old Everware steam kettle to heat water for doing dishes, cooking or washing up and dump the water down the drain. If we were inattentive, the bucket hidden under the sink would run over and create an emergency-not funny when you're getting ready for church on Sunday morning!

Anyway, on Monday the first thing was to bring in the soft water for washing clothes. There was an open cistern holding rain water beside the back porch. It was the designated job of us four kids to take the cover off the cistern and lower a bucket on a rope down into the depths and pull up the water. Sometimes we'd bring up frogs which was fun. The water was carried into the kitchen where Mom had positioned a huge oval galvanized tub over two stove burners to heat the water.

Mom would then pull the wringer washing machine into the kitchen from the back porch and line it up with the double washer tubs on wheels. We'd have to bring in more buckets of water to fill the rinse tubs. Next we'd gather all the dirty clothes and bring them to the kitchen to be sorted into piles all over the floor.

Mom dipped hot water from the tub on the stove into the washing machine, added the clothes (always the whites in the first load) and Oxydol detergent. The gyrator was turned on and the lid lowered to help keep the water warm as long as possible.

When the timer rang, the wringer arm was swung into position and the whites were wrung through into the first rinse tub. The next load went into the washer and the first load was put through the second rinse, and then into the laundry basket. The wet clothes were taken out to the clothes line where they would hang until they dried. If it was a breezy day, they would dry fast enough that some could be taken down before the final load was done.

It was late afternoon before everything was done. Then we had to carry all the wash water and rinse water to dump outside, put the washer and tubs away, clean up the kitchen, bring in the dry laundry and get supper started. No wonder Mom was always tired!

We lived in that old farm house for only one summer. But it was a really old house, so some poor woman lived there and did laundry for many summers and winters. Bless her heart.

So all you sweet young things (under 59) go give your automatic washer a great big hug!

3 comments:

^..^ Corgi Dog Mama said...

Women really, really worked then, didn't they? They didn't have much leisure time, to sit and contemplate on what they had, or did not have.
They were more satisfied I think, because their hands were always so busy, and they probably slept very well at night too!
I'm 57, and loved growing up in the 50's. It was such a special time, that is so different from today.

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

Loved the trip down memory lane! The woman who had our house before we did was 86 when we bought it, 6 years ago -- she had quite a few rainbarrels arranged to catch what little rain there is here, because she told me that she refused to wash clothes & her hair in anything but rainwater! She was such a sweetie! And her hair was bright white and looked like silk.

Ms Sparrow said...

Corgi mama & Pennigig, There were many things to remember fondly about the 50's but doing laundry wasn't one of them. But, the freedom of childhood was great!
Like building forts and playing all over the neighborhood. Song triggered by memory: "I don't want to play in your yard, I don't like you anymore, You'll be sorry when you see me, Sliding down our cellar door, You can't holler down our rain barrel, You can't climb our apple tree, I don't want to play in your yard, If you won't be nice to me."