Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wash Day- Not What It Used To Be!

The invention of modern day appliances has made life so much easier for us women, but we often take these things for granted.  Take our modern washer/dryer combo, for example.  How often do we grumble about the laundry piling up and how much time it takes to stay caught up on our laundry?  We really have it made compared to pioneer women...

This photo made me reflect on the story my Mom used to tell me about wash day when she was a child.  She said that Saturdays was usually wash day on the homestead.  Although the family didn't own many clothes, it was a major chore to wash them.  First, Mom and her siblings had to gather water from the nearby river into large pails and carry the pails back to the house.  She said she often stumbled from the weight of the heavy pails, being as she was just a small girl.  Next, her mother and grandmother would fill a big wash pot with water and heat it over an open fire.  The wash pot was made from iron to sustain heat and it was very heavy.  I would imagine the scene was very similar to the one above.  When the water reached a boil, the clothing and pieces of lye soap was then added to the pot.  The women then stirred the pot, melting the soap and mixing it into the articles of clothing.  The clothing was then removed from the pot and placed into a large metal tub of cool water, where the women rubbed each article of clothing on an aluminum type of scrub board.  Once cooled, the clothing was then wrung out by hand and hung on a line to dry.  Just imagine what it would have been like if those families did own a lot of clothing?  They would never finish doing the laundry!  

I remember watching my own grandmother do the laundry as a child.  She was so proud to get a new washing machine!  It was similar to the one in the above photo.  When these machines first hit the market, many of them had a crank handle which had to be hand turned to wring the clothes out.  But grandma was fortunate enough to have an electric one which made her job a lot easier.  I remember that the washer was on their back porch and I watched her as she pulled the clothing from the large tub and run each piece through the electric wringer.  She would do this at least two times for each article of clothing.  The jeans and shirts were "flatter than a flitter" by the time she was done.  I remember how noisy the whole contraption was and I sometimes put my hands over my ears as I watched.  As the clothes were wrung out, grandma would toss them into a large metal tub.  When the washing process was complete, she carried the tub out to the back yard and hung the clothes on the line to dry.  I remember the smell of air-dried clothes, so fresh and clean!  

We've come a long way since then.  Most families own a washer/dryer combo these days.  Those that don't usually go to the local laundromat.   I had to do that for years- load up the kids along with 3 or 4 baskets of clothes and head to the laundromat where I listened to noisy kids and local gossip for two hours or so while the clothes were being washed and dried, then load everything up again and head home.  Still, I had it made, compared to my mom and grandma.  Nowadays, women have everything right at the touch of their fingertips- load the washer or dryer, turn a knob, press a button, then move on to something else while the clothes are washed and dried.   The part that takes most effort is folding or hanging them and putting them away.  That seems easy enough, but I'm amazed by how often the clothing stays stacked on top of the dryer for days before someone finally offers to put them away!  All in all, I feel really blessed by modern conveniences and wouldn't want it any other way ;)

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