Washing and Remembering

Real men DO help with the laundry

Real men DO help with the laundry

August 22 – Before we got working on the tomatoes this afternoon, we brought in the washing from the clothesline outside. We’ve got a drier for the winter months, but nothing beats that fresh, crisp, dried-in-the-sun feeling! Dale always helps me with the shirts and socks, and maybe towels.

I always wonder what Grandma Christoph (my mother) would have done had Grandpa offered to do that for her! I can see the difference though. He worked from about 5 in the morning till 6 or 7 at night, walked both ways from home, and then worked in the garden on the weekend with a few hours left to play baseball with us. With seven kids to feed and clothe (not very fancy either), he and Grandma had to work day and night.

How well I remember the wash days that always came on Monday at our house. The night before a couple of my brothers would go down to the creek at the end of our property and fill the number of 5-gallon buckets it took to fill the big old copper boiler that was put on to a couple burners on the stove. It took awhile to get hot enough for washing, but eventually Grandma got out her wash board and started scrubbing, the light clothes being done first, then working on till she came to the big overalls and dirty socks. Flannel shirts and towels came in between. The boiler was kept full of good hot water, with the washed clothes tossed into a huge wash tub filled with cold water for rinsing.

Clothes on the line - you can't get that "fresh crisp feeling" in a drier!

Clothes on the line – you can’t get that “fresh crisp feeling” from a drier!

In the warm months, the clothes were hung out on a clothesline that was stretched from either end of the front of the house to the one post to make the triangle. In the winter we would come home from school on the old bus to find that the lines were stretched all through the three big rooms upstairs! Later on he bought Grandma a Maytag washer, and I can just picture that big machine, something I had never seen or  heard of before. Somewhere I think I still have the little book from Sears and Roebuck showing the payments he faithfully made each week.  

Those were the days that Grandma simmered big white navy beans all day long on the back burner. That’s all we had for supper. How in the world could Grandma change that under the circumstances? I remember one of us did a bit of complaining once, and Grandpa, who overheard us, said, “Well, if you don’t like what we have, I guess you don’t want to eat.”  And that was that! When he was making $17 per week for the nine of us, there wasn’t much money to throw around. 

Now Grandma never heard of a dryer, and we didn’t have one either when our kids were small. I had the same kind of wringer-washer as Grandma did, and hung out the clothes all through the year, ending up with some pretty well frozen fingers. Diapers froze right to the line, so I had to bring them back in and thaw them out in front of the oven. One memory I have of the wringer was the time that son David wanted to help me, so I agreed. He stood on a chair putting clothes into the wringer, and I would catch them on the other side. I’ll never forget the fright I had when along with the towels and socks, out came a small hand followed by an arm. Fortunately I didn’t panic, but hit the “panic” button that freed David’s hand! – CHRIS

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One Response to Washing and Remembering

  1. Tammy Hill says:

    I am thankful for automatics washing machines, however I always loved hanging the just-washed clothes on the clothesline with my mom when I was younger. Now living in the city, we aren’t allowed to have clotheslines in our neighborhood. Oh, and I remember getting my fingers stuck in the wringer washing machine when I helped my grandmother many years ago. Very scary!


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