Wash day

Farm Forum

No matter where you lived, Monday was always wash day.

Every housewife was at it that day, and the clothes lines waved constantly from one back yard to another.

Why Monday for washing? No one really knows.

But it probably had something to do with the kids off to the first day of school for the week, dressed in a new set of clothing expected to last for the next five or six days, while the other set of clothing was undergoing emersion in the tub or washing machine.

Of course, washing clothing was the work of the wife. And while most probably did not relish washday, many remembered it fondly with the advent of the modern-day washing machine.

At our house, wash day started early, with a pot of navy beans brewing on the stove for most of the day. It was “serve yourself beans” from the bean pot all day, as mother labored on the porch or in the cramped basement.

Our basement had no drain, so it was my job to haul the dirty wash water out into the gravel road until the old machine and the tubs were all empty.

In later years my mother used store-bought soap, like Oxidol (or Oxydol) advertised on the radio by someone named Maw Perkins, but she would tell of using the homemade variety when she and Dad were first married. And she knew how to make starch by mixing a paste of product similar to cornstarch, adding it to the boiling water, then thinning it to the required consistency.

Another memory I have of wash day is the aroma of the clean, dried, frozen solid clothing brought into the house during the winter months. And the long underwear, frozen to appear as if dad was encased in them, over in yonder corner.

With the arrival of electricity, we got a powered washing machine, with the two solid rubber wringers rotating to accept the clothing as it was fished out by hand or with a sawed off old broom stick, and fed into those rollers.

The danger was to accidentally be caught up in those rollers so that your entire arm may be pulled through. Mother always warned us that many young children, helping with that part of washing, ended up with broken arms.

I can still picture her after the clothing had dried on the outside clothes line, with its center pole to prop up the line as it sagged under the weight.

For the starched items, she dampened them with a little bottle that sprinkled out the water, and then rolled them tightly. They were left overnight to be ironed on ironing day, which was Tuesday.

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