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Drenched in sunshine: Drying clothes before the age of the dryer

Posted Thursday, August 11, 2011, at 10:45 AM

Guest Columnist

Long before the clothes dryer or hanging laundry on basement lines my Grandma and Mother hung the clothes on a clothes line. They wore a clothes pin apron.

Every Monday, they washed the clothes in a wringer washer in the basement. First, it was filled with hot water to wash all the white linens, then the rest of the laundry.

They would put them in the laundry basket, take it outside to the clothesline that Grandpa strung up and one by one, would hang out the bed linens, the tea towels, the bath towels and personal items to hang them in the sunshine to dry.

Now I know all of you have slept on bed linens dried in the sunshine and slept that peaceful sleep.

Tuesday was ironing day. The sun filled laundry was sprinkled down, a towel put over it to keep it damp. It was a basket fuilled with sprinkled down sunshine.

Next you set up the ironing board, plug in the iron. Every peice of clothes your ironed holds a memory.

Your husbands shirts knowing he works hard for the family. Your 6-year-old son's shirt wanting to make sure it is properly pressed for him to go to first grade.

The table cloth you set the table with good food your family likes and is nourished by.

The pillow slips you rest your head on after a busy day that takes you to dreamland.

All these years later I still have my Grandma's clothes pin apron, and yes, I stil hang the laundry out to dry.

And, yes, the bed linens still smell of sunshine and peaceful dreams.

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How modern -"next you set up the ironing board, plug in the iron." Plug in what? where? We built up the fire in the wood burning kitchen stove, got the flat irons from the cabinet, and set them on the stove to get hot. The irons were used alternately in order for the one in use to be hot enough to work. Later we had a "modern", for then, gas iron.

The tank on the iron had to be filled and pressure added with a hand operated pump that also served the same function on a couple of lamps. The iron was turned on and the wick of the burner was lighted with a kitchen, strike anywhere, match.

We did not have 'running water' unless we ran with the bucket as we carried water from the well or cistern to the rinse tubs and iron kettle or wash boiler in the back yard. We also had to split the wood and keep a fire going to heat the water for the ringer washer tub.

The machine was 'modern' Matag machine with a Matag motor. The gas tank had to be filled, the end of the exhaust hose placed outside the back porch door, and the motor started with the foot pedal starter. I first learned to cuss from my mother when the motor would flood and become difficult to start. After stomping the starter many times with the gasoline valve turned off, the motor would usually start and the washing could begin.

-- Posted by former Salinecountian on Fri, Aug 12, 2011, at 7:34 AM

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