Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Thoughts at 3:45 AM

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.


  1. Boy that brought back a lot of memories. I was tasked with ironing all that was not major important. Pillow cases, t-shirts, dish towels and my mother's bras! To this day I hate to iron and avoid it with a passion.

    Thank goodness for clothes that do not wrinkle into a knotted cluster.

  2. JMD...I think there are probably lots of us who dislike ironing for that very reason! I never could understand why dish towels needed to be ironed, but in our house, they did. In my opinion, "perma-pressed" fabric was the single best invention of all time.

  3. Believe it or not, I've used both of them!

  4. Gorges...Both had their place and both worked well, although I'm grateful that laundry day isn't as much hard work as it once was. Mother always told me that hard work built character, and she was probably right. I'm always surprised at the things that are still rolling around in my memory!

  5. I remember the water bottle with the sprinkler on it.

  6. Harry...I think that sprinkler bottle was pretty common to most households. I remember that if I ever dared complain about ironing, I was reminded that at least I didn't have to heat a flat iron on a wood stove like Grandma did.

  7. Oh my goodness, Vicki, you did take me back in time!! I definitely remember both of those! We had a wringer washer until I was in high school, then one day, Mother was wringing my Dad's overalls and the wringer flew open and hit my mother in the face, breaking her jaw. Sears brought out an automatic washer the next week!! I remember hanging clothes on the winter, too. Iowa winters were probably just a shade less severe than Mn's!! Ah, the 'good ole days'!! I did all the sprinkling and ironing as soon as I was old enough. I did, and still do, like to iron...just do VERY little of it now.

    Thanks for the memories..blessings

  8. CottonLady.....I've had heavy clothes get stuck in the wringer on a washing machine, but I never saw one fly open like that. How painful that must have been for your poor Mom.
    I sometimes wonder just what it is that triggers the memories of days gone by, especially when now and then I have a hard time remembering what I had for supper a couple of nights ago! I do find that the older I get, the more I tend to think about the past. Perhaps because even though those days required me to work harder, that world seemed so much less stressful than now.
    My kids and some of my grandkids seem to like to read my posts, and I know they get a kick out of reading about what life was like "way back then!" So it is doubly fun for me to write about it.