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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Washing Day the Old Way

By Dorothy Moffitt

When I was a child, washing day was a major operation. First, fill the copper with water, soak the clothes, then light the fire under the fuel copper and boil up the clothes.

Then load the steaming hot clothes with a copper stick into the first concrete tub, then into the blue rinse and through the wringer to be pegged onto the long clothes line.

The washing had to be brought and aired before the afternoon fog arrived. In winter, if left out overnight, the clothes froze on the line.

When I married, it was back to the old routine again on our dairy farm. How I hated that smoky copper. One time, we found the cause of the smoke. Rats had dragged hubby's dirty socks left on the laundry floor, into the chimney and made themselves a nest. I boiled up the nappies on the stove in a half kerosene tin.

When electricity finally arrived at the farm, I started with an unwieldy washer and wringer over the concrete tubs. It was a great day when we bought our first Hoover twin tub which heated the water, washed and wrung the clothes. The first Hills hoist clothes line was a great innovation also.

Now I finally have an automatic machine which does all the work but hang them on the line and a drier, if the weather is not co-operating. So I am all for progress.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Had I ever had to go through that process, I might still be
wearing dirty clothing!

Dorothy - Nice story.

I suppose the next innovation in this process will be disposable, environmentally friendly, biodegradable clothing and linens! - Sandy

In 1950 when I was married we had an Easy Spin Dry Washer, which was anything but EASY!

You had to lift all the clothes out of the wash water and pack them into the spinner to remove the excess water. Then, you had to take them all outside to the clotheslines and hang them up to dry.

The day I got my Westinghouse dryer was the greatest day of my life. We only had enough money for either an automatic washer or a dryer and I picked the dryer and was never sorry I did.

I always thought the washing part was easier than the hanging up and taking down part,especially in Winter...

Dear Dorothy,
We had a washer with a wringer but it did not heat the water. We heated the water on an old woodburning cookstove. We put the clothes in the washer let the center post go back and forth so do the washing, then put them one-by-one through the wringer into the first rinse tub to take out most of the soap, ran them through the wringer into the second tub for the final rinse. It took most of the day to run all the loads. In the winter we hung the clothes all over the house to dry.
Thanks for the memories.
Michigan Grandma

I wonder how our white's stay white now without that bluing rinse our mother's and some of us always used. Great story of the past.

Sometimes the past becomes the present. I enjoyed my washer and dryer until 35 years ago when my second husband and I moved to the mountains to live more consciously and build a round house. I lasted only a few months of hauling water, using a scrub board while sitting on a stump, wringing clothes by hand, and hanging them on lines. Took on a small paying job instead to pay for a laundrymat. I did note that the hand scrubbing made my whites whiter so I think it had to do with the scrubbing action. Now I have a water saving machine but only dry in the dryer in the winter. Clothes fresh from the sun and air, esp. linens, bring the outside in. I also started a prayer of gratitude for the clothes I hung as there was a time when they weren't in such great shape from that period of minimal income. Believe me I like technology and I'm learning not to take it for granted.

My mother purchased a Thor.
It was a washer, and you could lift the agitator out, and insert a rack and wash the dishes! It was a job to change everything.

Whenever my hubby mentions going off to live in remote Alaska, I think of all the work that would be involved in washing clothes. Let me tell you, I have no intention of running off to hard work, no matter how peaceful and lovely. Thanks for sharing!

My post disappeared! Let's try again. I said: Even though we did eventually have electricity, laundry for 5 was a full-day job (4 beds, towels and farmer's smelly clothes)so our Monday night meals were either leftovers, or soup or cornmeal mush, eaten under lines of wet clothing. My sister and I helped in the summertime, and my father cooked when he had time, but still it was an ordeal.

I do remember how wringer washer and put rubber diapers through that wringer diapers and explodes and I ruined a couple of shirts
Did you ever get anything caught in a wringer?or ruined a couple of shirts?
an article of the wash may
wrap several times around a roller before it is noticed; unwinding such a
piece is often difficult, sometimes impossible without removing a roller.

My only hardship laundry tale was when my twins were born in 1970. My husband was in Viet Nam and we had no washer or dryer. No disposable diapers either. I would pack up the babies and two tubs of diapers and go to the laundry mat in a taxi every day. (No car either) I love technology!

So many fabulous memories here, are we all older washer women? My mother was enslaved by the copper boil up, not only for washing but for the family weekly baths! She had to carry the water from the wash house in a kerosene tin to the bathroom.What a wonder woman she was. Yet she used to sing & whistle her way through her daily chores back in the 30's & 40's. She got her first washing machine when she turned 50, what a birthday present.Her name was Dorothy! Thanks for starting this stroll down memory lane Dorothy. Are you an Ozzie? Did you know Hills Hoists were an Australian invention

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