Thursday, September 20, 2012

Golden Memories -- The Clothesline

[Photo source: Google Internet images]
(20 Sep 2012 – So many golden memories of my maternal grandparents stay with me.  These memories seem just as fresh now in my mind and heart albeit they are from over 50 years ago.  Below are some shared memories of those years.  Moreover, I've also added a poem and rulebook that I found on the Internet about Clotheslines -- that I was delighted with and hope you enjoy!  Submitted by:  Dorothy Hazel Tarr.)


[Photo source: GOOGLE Internet images "wringer washing machine"]

For several years in 1952-1954, I lived with my Maternal Grandparents Laurel Flynn Scott (1896 Oklahoma-1979 Oregon) and "Betty" Mary Elizabeth Bennett Scott (1897 Missouri-1980 Oregon) in Pond Township, California.  The township is located in Central California and is almost just a stop sign where two roads intersect.  My Grandparents were farm managers for several years for two different farms as I recall.  Grandpa grew and harvested cotton, while Gram worked in the house and performed the typical farmer's wife tasks.  Somehow, Gram made everything fun and interesting to me.  Nothing seemed too hard or boring!!!  She had a wonderful way about her!  Grandpa had the same spirit about him, but this is Gram's story.
Gram makes home arts fun
Gram was a great one for cooking, canning, gardening, sewing, cleaning, washing clothes, ironing, quilting, embroidery -- the list goes on and on.  And, oh my word, could she "kill" a chicken for the dinner table menu -- but that is another story.  This story is about how I learned home arts from Gram.
 Washing and Ironing Clothes
There was a whole procedure that needed to be followed in order to do the washing and ironing if you did it the way Gram did.
(1)  The washing was done on the farmhouse back porch using a "wringer" and "gear shift" washer machine.  The soap had to be measured, the water had to be heated and added with a long hose from the faucet of the porch double sink, then the washer gearshift was started and the soap and water mixed for a few minutes.  The pre-sorted clothes were put into the large tub, the gearshift turned on, and the egg timer set for 15 minutes.  Then the gears were turned off and the water was drained out of the washer tub via a hose into the porch double sink drain.  The clothes washer wringer was unlocked-from-its-stationary-position and you had to swing its "arm" out over the porch double sink.  Then the clothes were removed from the washing machine's tub and "run through the wringer", which squeezed out the water from the clothes via the clothes washer wringer double rollers.  The squeezed out water drained out into the porch double sink via a slanted drain tray.  There was an art to hand feeding the clothes into the wringer rollers!!  The pillowcases must have the closed end go in into the wringer rollers first, so that the water and air are not trapped inside the pillowcase!  If you forgot to do this, the pillowcase could burst and the water could splash all over you!  The same cautionary applied to other items such as shirts, dresses, and socks!  For even if the clothing items did not burst, the clothing could be damaged from the pressure of the escaping air and water.  Then too the clothing could get tangled in the rollers.  When this happened, the rollers had to be halted and opened in order to untangle and release the clothing wrapped around the rollers.  You had to be ever watchful and quick to take corrective action!  (chuckles!)  It was a real art to feed clothing into the wringer rollers—and it made for lots of unexpected doings on washday!  (chuckles!)  Then too, you had to be careful and watch what you were doing, for you could easily get hurt with all those moving parts and procedures.  I recall comedian routines where the comedian would get their tie caught in an old wringer washing machine -- which is very possible if you are careless or unlucky!  Well anyway, then new hot or warm water was added to the washer machine tub.  The squeezed clothes were put back by hand manually into the tub and the gears turned on for 5 minutes--this was the rinse "cycle".  Then the clothes were put through the wringer one last time.  Now, the clothes were washed, wringer squeezed, and ready to be hung on the clothesline outside.  Grandpa would put up the "removable" clothesline so I could use an old rag to wrap around the clothesline wire to clean the wire, for it got very dusty and dirty in between washdays.  Then finally, Gram and I would take a basket of clothes and hang then on the clothesline with clothespins.  The clothespins were in a cute bag that Gram made and that hung on the clothesline and could be pushed along as you hung up clothes.  Gram said the clothes had to be "bone dry" before they could be taken down and brought indoors.  I just loved this whole process.  Even though these days, I use a modern washer and dryer, I think of Gram and Grandpa every time I do my laundry!!!
(2)  After the clothes were "bone dry", Gram and I would take down the clothes and take them indoors in large baskets.  Then we would lay each garment on the large dining room table and "sprinkle water" on the clothes using a soda glass bottle with a special sprinkle-top that was put in the opening.  It always seemed funny to me, that the clothes had to be "bone dry" before we wet them!!  However, that's the way Gram did it!  After each item of clothing was sprinkled, it was very important to fold and roll the clothes and put them in a bag for at least an hour.  (It seems like yesterday, that I sprinkled those clothes, the memories are so precious and strong.)  In order to do a proper job of ironing the clothes, the clothes needed to be slightly and evenly damp -- for in that day, the electric irons did not have a steam or spray function.  After some hours, we would set up the ironing board, electric iron, and a rag with a bowl of water nearby.  (The bowl of water and rag were used to dampen the clothes if there were any areas that were still "bone dry".)  Gram would let me iron Grandpa's large handkerchiefs -- this was a real honor for me and Grandpa always said how nice I did them.  In addition, I ironed embroidered pillowcases, embroidered kitchen linen, Gram's large farmer wife apron pennies, and anything else that was mostly flat.  I would take an apron, handkerchief, or pillowcase out of the "sprinkle clothes bag" and proceed to do a masterful job of ironing the item to lots of praise from Gram.  (Even though I use an electric steam iron with a sprayer built in now, I still think of my Gram and Grandpa while I do this household task.)
How to embroider
Gram taught me how to embroider household items such as aprons, doilies, handkerchiefs, pillowcases, kitchen linen, clothing, and whatever.  She kept a whole range of colors of embroidery thread in an embroidery thread keeper that she made herself.  It was just magic the way she kept everything so neat and organized.  She showed me how to iron an embroidery pattern on a kitchen towel and then to select colors for the embroidery design.  She showed me several techniques for embroidery knots, stitchery, and overlays.  My attempts were always given lots of praise.  I was so proud to sit with her while she did her own embroidery and I had my own to do too!!!  Grandpa always seemed to come by and give Gram and me lots of praise.
Making clothes
Gram made all her own clothes.  She would purchase the fabric at JC Pennys or Woolworths.  Clothes patterns were purchased along with thread, pins, needles, and other items.  She would lay the fabric out on the large dining room table and pin the clothing pattern to the fabric.  Then Gram would let me help cut out the easier pieces (those with straight lines) with scissors.  Then she would show me how to "thread" her old peddle (non-electric) SINGER sewing machine.  I just loved the rhythm of my feet on the peddle and the noise "quickity clickity click".  I made lots of pillowcases, kitchen linens, and handkerchiefs (straight lines again).  Gram always "tailored" things to my level of experience so I never felt overwhelmed, inadequate, or incompetent ever!  On the contrary, I felt very proud of my efforts while I was doing the same things Gram did (even though they were smaller in scale or simpler in complexity.)
Cleaning house
Gram also taught me how to do a "proper" job of "dry dusting" the linoleum floors (no carpeting in the farmhouse).  We used a special "dry dust mop" that had a long pole with a bunch of "old rags" that Gram attached to the bottom.  With this magical  tool, I would go around the floor of the farmhouse each morning after breakfast was done.  When the dry mop got too dirty, Gram and I would replace the dry dust mop rags with "clean rags".  Gram would wash the dirty rags so they could be used again.  We did not iron these rags.
Other arts of keeping a home
There was so much to learn –
How to make the greatest pan drippings gravy,
How to cook an egg for Grandpa that was just the way he liked them,
How to dry the dishes just right and put them away,
How to make a bed with clean linen, smooth, "fluffed" pillows, and straightened bedspread,
How to crochet doilies, pillow sheet edges, and linen edges,
How to "kill", dress, and cook a chicken,
How to plant, harvest, and 'put-up" or can bounty from a garden full of vegetables and melons,
How to shop at JC Pennys, Woolworths, and the post office,
How to go to the Church of Christ that Grandpa and another relative started in Delano, California, and
How to LOVE and be LOVED by Gram and Grandpa!!!!!
Although the clothesline is empty now and the clothespins are weathered, my memories remain young and fresh of those few golden years with my Grandpa and Gram.  I LOVE you with all my Heart and MISS you both every day!!


The Clothesline

A clothesline was a news forecast
To neighbors passing by.
There were no secrets you could keep
When clothes were hung to dry.

It also was a friendly link
For neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by
To spend a night or two.

For then you'd see the fancy sheets
and towels on the line;
You'd see the company table clothes
With intricate design.

The line announced a baby's birth
To folks who lived inside
As brand new infant clothes were hung
So carefully with pride.

The ages of the children could
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed
You'd know how much they'd grown.

It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,
Haphazardly were strung.

It said, "Gone on vacation now"
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told, "We're back!" when full lines sagged
With not an inch to spare.

New folks in town were scorned upon
If wash was dingy gray,
As neighbors raised their brows, and looked
Disgustedly away.

But clotheslines now are of the past
For dryers make work less.
Now what goes on inside a home
Is anybody's guess

I really miss that way of life.
It was a friendly sign
When neighbors knew each other best
By what hung on the line!

[~Author unknown]




(If you don’t even know what clotheslines are, better skip this).

1. You had to hang the socks by the toes…..NOT the top.

2. You hung pants by the bottom/cuffs….NOT the waistbands.

3. You had to wash the clothesline before hanging any clothes – walk the entire length of each line with a damp cloth around the line.

4. You had to hang the clothes in a certain order, and always have “whites” with “whites” and hang them first.

5. You never hung a shirt by the shoulders – always by the tail!  What would the neighbors think?

6. Wash day on a Monday!  NEVER hang clothes on the weekend, or on Sunday, for Heaven’s Sake!

7. Hang the sheets and towels on the OUTSIDE lines so you could hide your “unmentionables” in the middle (perverts and busy bodies y’know!)

8. It didn’t matter if it was sub-zero weather….clothes would “freeze-dry”.

9. Always gather the clothespins when taking down dry clothes!  Pins left on the lines were “tacky”.

10. If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothespins, but shared one of the clothespins with the next washed item.

11. Clothes off of the line before dinnertime, neatly folded in the clothesbasket, and ready to be ironed.


[~Author unknown]


[Photo source: GOOGLE Internet image "clothesline"]

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