Sunday, May 11, 2014


Good Morning, Class of '64
Wash Day - Unknown
Dirty Socks!
Dirty Socks!
I do not like these Dirty socks
I find them here
I find them there
I find them lying everywhere
I find them sitting
On the stairs
I find them hanging
From the chairs
I do not like these dirty socks
I do not like them in a box
I do not like them here or there
I do not like them anywhere
Wash Day - Thaw Malin

Sundays with Larry

Wash Day - Unknown

Most people dislike doing laundry. It’s usually a half-day to a day’s job for a large family. But it was, in summer, a two-day job on the farm. In winter, it was an every day job.

Wash Day - Unknown
Mom’s “washing machine” was two wash tubs and a wash board. Her laundry detergent was her home made lye soap. Her “dryer” was a clothesline, the wind, and the sun.


Galvanized Tub
Water was the biggest problem. On a hill-top farm, water is always scarce. Our well provided only enough for cooking, drinking, and bathing. We caught rain water from the roof, when it didn’t freeze, and when it rained. The rest we carried from the spring. In winter, Mom often melted ice and snow for laundry water. The water had to be heated in the galvanized wash tub on the wood-fired cooking stove. It took 8 to 10 gallons.

Woman at Wash Tubs - Emma Conley Grover
 She set up two wash tubs side by side on the wash bench. One had the hot, soapy water and the other the clear rinse water. The lye soap was shaved into thin flakes which dissolved. The clothes were soaked a few minutes and then scrubbed on the wash board. The wash board was about 4 times as large as the painted ones you now see at craft shows.

She got the clothes clean, but it took a lot of scrubbing. Remember, there are no clean jobs on a farm - the clothes were really dirty. She washed the white ones first. After scrubbing them, she swished them around in the rinse water, and then wrung them out by hand.

She used a few drops of Bluing, an intense blue dye, in the rinse water. That made the white clothes appear whiter. I, much later, discovered that a minute amount of dark, bright blue paint mixed in white has the same effect - it makes the white more intense.


After washing, the clothes were hung on the line to dry. The nearly constant breeze on top of the ridge dried them quickly. 


After the clothes were dry, Mom took them down from the line and sprinkled them with water. The damp clothes were then rolled up and let set until the next day. Weather permitting, washing was usually done on Monday with the ironing on Tuesday.

Sprinkling the clothes caused the hot, dry irons to create steam much like an electric steam iron does. Mom ironed almost everything - sheets, pillow cases, towels, etc. She used flat irons heated on the cooking stove. She had one handle with three interchangeable irons. The ironing board was set up close to the stove. In summer, it was a hot job.
In winter, drying the clothes was a major undertaking. She hung clothes any place that wasn’t already occupied. She often hung them on the porch where they promptly froze. Then she would bring a few at a time in to dry in the house.

I still enjoy drying clothes on the line. It’s economical, I like the smell of sun-dried clothes, and most of all, it takes me back to my roots. The difference is that I do not have to. In rainy weather or in winter, the dryer works fine.

Taking in the Laundry - Grandma Moses

One Load, Two Load
Dark Load, White Load
This one has a little wear, 
This one needs some extra care
My, all this laundry seems unfair!
Lots of towels, bedding too
Dirty shirts, more than a few
Heaps in a pile, it’ll take awhile
My, all this laundry cramps my style!
Wash Day - Wendy Hill
Irish Washer Woman
A traditional Irish jig. 
 It repeats its refrain several times, 
sometimes by gradually increasing tempo until 
being played very fast then coming to a sudden stop.

The Dubliners with
John Sheahan & Andre Rieu
Irish Washer Woman lyrics 
When I was at home I was merry and frisky, 
My dad kept a pig and my mother sold whisky, 
My uncle was rich, but never would by aisey 
Till I was enlisted by Corporal Casey. 
Och! rub a dub, row de dow, Corporal Casey, 
My dear little Shelah, I thought would run crazy, 
When I trudged away with tough Corporal Casey. 

I marched from Kilkenny, and, as I was thinking 
On Shelah, my heart in my bosom was sinking, 
But soon I was forced to look fresh as a daisy, 
For fear of a drubbing from Corporal Casey. 
Och! rub a dub, row de dow, Corporal Casey! 
The devil go with him, I ne'er could be lazy, 
He struck my shirts so, ould Corporal Casey. 

We went into battle, I took the blows fairly 
That fell on my pate, but they bothered me rarely, 
And who should the first be that dropped, why, and please ye, 
It was my good friend, honest Corporal Casey. 
Och! rub a dub, row de dow, Corporal Casey! 
Thinks I you are quiet, and I shall be aisey, 
So eight years I fought without Corporal Casey. 
Scottish Highlands - Washing Day in the Highlands

1 comment:

  1. My mom would hang clothes out in the freezing weather!!!