Thursday, October 29, 2009


Washday!! I was married in 1949 in the days before automatic washers and dryers - although there may have been some then but so expensive they were out of reach for a lot of couples. So this is the washing machine (not the exact one but one like) I and millions of other women used. It was a big step up from the washboard or washing clothes in the river on stones but it was still labor intensive and an absolute all day chore. I don't think anyone liked laundry very much. Monday was washday.
This is the set up that was used - the washer and two laundry tubs. The wringer was on a swivel thingey that you could move from over the washer to over the first tub, then on to the next. You ran the clothes through the wringer into the first rinse tub. Then into the second, and on to the clothes basket. The very first step was sorting the laundry - white and lights, colors and darks. They were on piles on the floor. By the time the laundry was done, both rinse tubs were pretty soapy but no one seemed to be bothered by that and clothes were fresh and clean.
See the words "push to release" =that was what you hit if something got tangled around the rollers - or if you ever were so really unfortunate to get your hand caught! I never did that but I know a woman who had that happen. Dangerous being a housefrau back then! The next step was getting rid of the water if you weren't in a basement with a drain. In one little house I did the laundry on the enclosed backporch. I simply hooked the hose to the faucet on the side of the machine, put the hose out the door onto our driveway which was slanted, and ran the wash water down the driveway. Gone! Some folks used it to water gardens.

Another chore had to be done and that was starching the clothes. We always used Linit which you mixed up, dipped the clothes in, wrung them out and then hung them to dry. (Doesn't this sound like fun?)
Pressing on, all the clothes had to be dried. On a lovely sunny day (and on many days not so sunny or lovely) you hung your clothes on the lines in your yard. Some folks had permanent ones, others put up the clotheslines between trees and from the house to the trees. There were also clothes props to hold the lines up to keep the sheets and longer articles from dragging on the ground. I will say this about the "old days" there is nothing to compare to the smell of sheets dried outside on a cool day. Such a wonderful smell to fall to sleep to. We don't have that anymore. In the winter, if you had a basement you had lines down there. If not, you dried them wherever you could.
On with the rest of the laundry. When the clothes and towels, etc., dry, they have to be either folded and put away or readied for ironing.

Here is the next step - see the little metal thing on a cork in the top of the bottle? You bought those at the dime store and put them in the bottle of your choice and presto - a sprinkling bottle! It was now your task to sprinkle the clothes, roll them up, put them in an oilcloth lined bushel basket and it was time to IRON and IRON and IRON!! That would take lots of hours cause there was a lot of starched stuff - shirts, dresses, overalls, etc. That was what Tuesday was for. I have not even mentioned pants hangers which you put into work pants, stretching them taut and you didn't have to iron or crease the legs. But you still had to give the tops some ironing. All this is making me tired just thinking about it. I did want to mention if you could not get to your ironing right away, you had to keep it in the refrigerator to keep it from getting mildew.
Here is the Happy Little Fifties Housewife doing her ironing (that is not me but I am sure I felt that way many times!)
I finally got an automatic washer and dryer - after both of my little babies were out of diapers. I think what is neat is that you do what you have to do, don't think about it and enjoy your life no matter what. Nowadays everyone has all the time saving devices and still no time! We just need to slow down and enjoy the ride.


  1. Carol,
    What a fun read, I remember it all : )
    Loved the little bottle with the clothes sprinkler top. Thank heaven for wash 'n wear.

  2. My oh my indeed - I faintly remember what my Mum used to go through in our dungeon basement at the time - and my Dad was required to wear a shirt and tie for work - so she kept pretty busy having to do this on top of everything else. The ONLY thing great (and still do today) is bringing in laundry air dried - that is the best smell I know! Thanks for blogging on this!

  3. I used to have long hair and it got caught in the wringer twice!

  4. I can remember all of the ladies in our neighborhood ironing in the kitchen with their little black and white T.V.'s going and of course back then an ash try with a cigerette going. It seem that they all smoked and took to watching t.v. while ironing.

  5. My friend Jewels pointed me to your post, knowing how much I'd like it. My mom had a wringer washer when I was little, and I remember hearing her humming as she did the laundry. She was certainly cheerful about the whole enterprise. And while I hang out clothes whenever I can, I hadn't thought about clothes props for ages and ages.