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Wash Day

Kenny Stallard

     Whether by coincidence or by design, it seemed that I would be at my grandparents home on washday.  I donít remember for sure, but most people had washday on Monday, if the weather cooperated, no rain.  In the late 1940ís everyone hung the wash out to dry.  No one had an electric dryer.

     The clotheslines were a steel wire, braided or solid, strung between two wooden crosses along a large width, usually at the rear of the back yard.  No plastic coated wire during this time.

     Mamawís washing machine was a Maytagš similar to the one shown below.  Mamawís washroom was on the screened back porch by the window over the kitchen sink.  She would attach a short piece hose to the kitchen faucet, run the hose through the window and fill the washing machine and rinse tubs.

      It was fascinating to a young boy to see the back-and-forth action of the agitator and pull wet wash from the tub to be run through the wringers.

 

 

     The wash would drop from the wringers into a double tub arrangement for rinsing.  The wringers from the washing machine would swing around for positioning for wringing out the wash from the first rinse tub to the second rinse tub and then into a basket to be carried outside for hanging on the line.

     To start the process, after the washing machine was filled with water, Mamaw would start the agitator and it would then be my job to cut a bar of Octagon soap into shavings.  Mamaw didnít like to use boxed washing powders, Ivory, Oxadol, Rinso.  No Tide, ERA, Purex, etc. during these days.

 

 

Octagon soap was a rectangular brown bar of a fairly hard waxy consistency.

     After the soap was cut into shavings and given time to dissolve, the clothing or linen to be washed was added.  Whites were washed first, followed by colored clothing and lastly, work clothes.  I donít remember the wash water being changed, just add more soap if necessary.

     The ringers were positioned to feed into the first rinse tub and activated by turning a lever on the side housing which engaged the upper and lower rollers.  The agitator was stopped and the first load was fed through the ringers into the first rinse tub.  When the washing machine was empty, the agitator was started again and the next load was added.

     Rinsing of the wash was done by hand.  You had to untangle the washed material, and rinse by using an up and down motion to remove the residual soap.  Very labor intensive.  After rinsing was completed to Mamawís satisfaction, the wringers were positioned to feed into the second rinse tub.

     If the materials being rinsed were whites, a little bluing was added to the rinse water to off-set the natural yellow tinting and give a whiter appearance.

 

 

     The rinsing process was carried out again and the rinsed clothes were fed into a basket.  Mamaw used a bushel basket of the type used for produce.  The wire handles would cut into your hands when you carried the basket out to the clothes line for hanging.

     Mamaw always wore a bib-apron with large pockets.  She would hang the wet wash across the wire line and secure the wet wash with wooden clothes pins she carried in her apron pockets.  When the lines became heavy with wash, she would prop the lines up with one or more long saplings with a notch cut to secure the line.

     You were ready to start the process over on the next load of laundry.  Most wash days took all day.  Ironing was saved for the next day.

 

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