Monday, December 21, 2015

Remembering the Farm - Monday Morning Washday Blues

In the grand scheme of things, certain domestic chores were assigned to certain days of the week.  Some of it made sense.  Saturday morning was housecleaning and Saturday night was bath night because Sunday was church and likely visitors.  We kids and Mom wished for company so we could play and visit.  Dad wished for no company so he could sleep.

But Monday was washday, Tuesday was ironing, Wednesday was bread baking. Why in that order, I have no idea but there must have been logic. Obviously ironing followed washing but why not bake on Monday?

Before we had electricity in 1953, and likely for a few years after that, Mom had a washing machine powered by a 1/4 horse gasoline motor.  It had a long metal hose attached to the muffler to run the fumes outside but it was not quiet.  The washing machine engine was quite popular with older boys who were handy with tools and such.  They made great go-carts.  By the time I was of age, that little engine had gone the way of the horse and buggy.

Exactly when mom got an electric washing machine, I cannot recall.  Nor the make, but it looked more or less like this picture. The tub had an agitator in it and a lever at the side turned on a pump to empty the tub.

The wringer removed water from the clothes as there was no spin cycle.  There was a knob to set pressure on the two rollers, which could turn in either direction. Mom's was a safety wringer.  If something jammed, or you gave it a quick push, it would "explode" and the rollers would jump open. Power wringers without the safety were deadly and could crush fingers or grab pieces of clothing and pull you in.  "Don't get your tit in a wringer" was not just an idle expression.

The washing machine would be set up in the middle of the kitchen and two washtubs for rinse water would be set up behind it on a folding wooden stand.  Water would be heated on the kitchen stove in the washtubs and a wash boiler.  The cleanest clothes would be washed first (same rule on bath night - cleanest kid bathed first).  Water, especially hot soft water, was a scarce commodity so it had to stretch. After the clothes were agitated, the wringer, which swiveled, was set to dispense them into the first rinse tub and run the water back into the washing machine.  Clothes would be fed in to the wringer by hand, one piece at a time.

Mom would put another load in the machine, then rinse the clothes by hand in the first tub, wringer them into the second tub, rinse by hand again and then wringer them into a clothes basket to hang outside on the line. Mom eventually got a dryer which was a God-send in winter.

When Mom and Dad moved into the "new" house in the late 60's she got an automatic washer and dryer but the water from the well was so bad it destroyed anything metal it came in contact with and left the clothes stained yellow so all the rest of her life she took the clothes into the laundromat.

Today, with all the automated appliances we can do whatever, any or every day. Except mending and ironing.  That is still always done tomorrow.

Today, I changed the bed linen and put two sheets, a pillow case and a bath sheet into the machine.  An LG Direct Drive front load with lots of buttons and such.  I never used it in almost nine years.  Tanya does the wash, I hang up the clothes.  So she showed me how to use the machine for when she was gone.  Put in clothes, put in small container of gel soap. Push this button, turn this knob to here, push this button and wait 100 minutes until the bell rings.  I knew about the bell and should have known the whole process was simple.  Tanya is technology challenged. Her instructions to buy her a microwave were "Two buttons:  Make Hot; Open Door".

Just before the final spin cycle it stopped and the warning code UE flashed.  Panic.  If there is a manual it is in Russian. What did we do without Google?  Found the LG site.  Went to washing machines, manuals, download.  Of course on the UK site (English) it would not recognize our model but I went through the pictures until I found one that looked like ours.  Bingo.  UE is unbalanced load.

Fitted sheets are not only impossible to fold, they have a habit of enveloping everything in the wash load, like a protozoa wrapping itself around a bacteria. So I untied the knot of wet soggy stuff and put it back in teh machine.  The instruction book also told me where the Spin setting was. All's well that ends.



14 comments:

  1. I'm embarrassed to say..I have got my tit caught in a wringer..and let me tell you..it smarts..

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    1. The original mammogram? Now you wear a "36 long"?

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  2. When I retired from the military in 1980 my wife and I attended college. In one history class we taped local people, then - my age now, for the oral history archives. In the native village where we taught school the college in Fairbanks was always compiling history from elders of the village. It is a shame memories such as those you have mentioned will be lost in a few decades.
    My grandmother was born in Mississippi soon after the Civil War - I don't know why I never questioned her or talked to her about her childhood. Young people are to self adsorbed to be interested in old people's memories; and that is a shame.
    I remember the ringer washers and also ice boxes and telephones with operators.
    I am so sorry I did not pay more attention to history when the people that lived it were still alive.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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    1. One of the things I miss about my folks is the fact they were the repository for memories of our community. There is only one person left now in his 90's that might remember. I never pumped my grandparents when I had them. My cousin did with my dad's father and has a great deal of knowledge of Grandpa's childhood in Ireland. WE get too soon old and too late smart.

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  3. Monday is a fairly common washday in the Western world. I don't know why. I usually do it on weekends.

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    1. Tanya and I same. Saturday. But she will run a load any time if necessary.

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  4. I still have a scar on my right arm thanks to an old ringer washer when I was a kid.

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    1. I'd love to hear some of the stories about wringer accidents and how they happened. We were warned constantly about that wringer. I don't think Mom ever let us even help with the laundry.

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  5. I wasn't going to school yet so it is one of my earliest memories, guess I was about four or five and the washer was out in the yard, don't recall if washing was being done that day or not but I was screwing around with it and it grabbed my hand and went about halfway up my forearm and then just set there spinning until someone came along and unplugged it and released me. The scar is about two inches long and 3/4 of an inch wide.

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    1. You were lucky someone got there before you lost the arm. Farmers lost arms the same way in round balers. I don't even want to think about it.

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  6. I did laundry for years on the kind of wringer washer you describe. Even our washtubs were just like your photo. It was an all-day chore by the time everything went through the washer, the wringer, the hot rinse, back through the wringer (ours was a 'deluxe' model where the wringer was on a swivel so we didn't have to move the washtubs), then out to the line, then back from the line to be ironed and folded... for each load.

    I never had an accident with the wringer, but a woman from our area was killed when her long hair got pulled into the wringer and broke her neck.

    I've had an automatic washer and dryer for decades now, but I still marvel at the convenience every time I throw a load in and walk away and come back to clean clothes!

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    1. You sound so old, instead of 20 years younger than I am. Yes, the automatic washer and dryer freed so many women from hard labour. Men can even be taught to use them.

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    2. Our part of Manitoba was about 20 years behind the times! (And I'm not sure *all* men can be taught to use an automatic washer - it hasn't worked on Hubby yet.) ;-)

      When I was a kid our house didn't have running water, so when Dad put the plumbing in and moved the wringer washer into the basement it was a big step up. We weren't exactly poor, but my parents didn't believe in spending money unnecessarily. The old wringer washer still worked so it didn't need to be replaced, and as the oldest daughter the laundry chore assignment frequently fell to me. They did buy an electric clothes dryer, though - that was pretty luxurious. It sure beat hanging out clothes in the middle of winter.

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  7. My friend John Jackson writes:
    Mom also had such washing machine, as you discussed recently. My younger brother was holding a hose to fill one of the rinse tubs and stuck it in the wringer. Roger would not let go of the hose and was sucked in, up to his elbow, hose and all. Mom, in her panic, did not think of the release but hit reverse and wrung him back out, hose and all. Not the best method. He lived and we did not bring suit against the company. Happy New Year!

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