Once in a while I will find myself awake in the wee hours of the morning, unable to fall asleep again. Sometimes I will curl up with a book and read until I am tired again. Other times I will make a cup of cocoa, sip it at my kitchen table and let my mind wander. Many times that wandering takes me back in time.
This morning I got to thinking about life in the late 1950's and early 1960's when I was lucky enough to be living in a big old farmhouse. I suppose because a basket of dirty clothes awaits my attention later this morning, I got to thinking about how the task of washing and drying clothes has changed since then.
After we moved to the farm, Dad replaced our old wringer washer with a new to us, improved automatic model. This wonder of modern technology sat in our basement. By the time I was about 12 years old, Mother's arthritis had progressed to where the basement stairs were becoming a problem for her and hauling a basket full of wet clothes out to the clothes line in the back yard was impossible. A clothes dryer wasn't within our financial reach. As the oldest child, laundry became my responsibility.
At that time, most folks hung the wash out to dry in the spring, summer and fall. Some continued this practice in the winter, letting clothes freeze-dry on the clothes lines. Our back yard was always drifted full of snow, so lines were strung in the basement. I was always grateful that I didn't have to stand outside in the freezing cold to hang up the wash.
Most clothes dried wrinkled, which meant that ironing was necessary. The steam iron may have been in existence then, but not at our house. Mom's electric iron provided heat only. The steam came from sprinkling the clothes. Does anyone remember what this is?
The soda bottle was filled with water. The sprinkler part was wedged into the top of the bottle, and the salt shaker type holes allowed tiny drops of water to be sprinkled over each piece of clothing, which was then rolled up and placed in a heavy plastic bag. By the next day, the water had made the clothes just damp enough to be able to iron out the wrinkles. But woe be to the person who let the bag of damp clothes sit too long before ironing, for mildew would form inside the bag. Don't ask me how I know this.
There was another invention that made ironing day a bit easier. Anybody ever seen these?
The metal pants stretchers were inserted into the legs of a pair of pants and then were adjusted so the fabric fit tight over them. After the pants dried, the stretchers were removed and it only took a bit of touch-up with the iron to get them looking good enough to meet Mother's exacting requirements. I hated ironing. I loved pants stretchers.
Guess I won't be complaining much about tossing dirty clothes into the washers in my building, or about drying them in the dryers. I have a little cart on wheels to haul laundry up and down the stairs to the laundry room in the basement. I usually don't need to iron anything. I don't have to use sprinkler bottles or pants stretchers. Life is pretty darned good.
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