Friday, January 16, 2015

Monday Was Wash Day by Roseanne Dowell

      Dedicated to my mom who taught me more than how to do laundry. This was my second published work, published in Good Old Days Magazine in May 2004. 

      Bright and early every Monday, Mom and I went to the basement. As I stood by her side she taught me the proper way to sort clothes- whites, towels, colors, work pants and jeans. We pulled the old wringer washer from the corner  to the stationary tubs. She filled it with scalding hot water and turned the machine on to start it agitating. After she added whatever soap was on sale at the time, she always added a bar of Fels Naphtha that she
let me grate on an old grater. The long curls of soap slid off the grater into the water. I loved
watching the scorching water swallow them up as it agitated into suds.

Once the soap dissolved, we put the white clothes in first. Mom pushed them into the water with her wash stick, an old broom handle, being careful not to splash herself with the steaming hot water. She closed the lid. While the clothes washed, we strung the clothes line in the basement on cold or rainy days and outside in the warm sunny weather, which was limited in Ohio.
 Back in the fifties, we didn't have a dryer so everything had to be hung. Besides, Mom said there was nothing like the smell of fresh laundered clothes straight off the line in the warm weather. She climbed on a stool made especially for her and pulled that line so tight someone could walk across it and then gave it another yank before securing it with a knot.
Back into the basement, we scrubbed the two stationary tubs, and filled them with water.
Mom added bleach to the first tub and the other held plain rinse water. After the clothes washed for about 15 minutes, Mom used the wash stick and pulled them out of the washer, the water still being too hot to touch. She put them carefully through the wringer. My job was to make sure they didn't wrap around the rollers, which sometimes happened anyway causing it to pop, separating the rollers. We untangled the clothes and she re-tightened the knob. It was always very frustrating when that happened and took valuable time away from a busy day.
We let the clothes soak for a few minutes in the bleach pushing them around with the stick, so we wouldn't slop the bleach water on ourselves. After we rinsed them, we drained the bleach water and added fresh water and rinsed the clothes again, changing the rinse water after every load. We rinsed the clothes thoroughly by lifting them in and out of the water up and down repeatedly. It looked like fun until she let me do it.  I found out how hard it was and how heavy wet clothes were. It was backbreaking work. After the last rinse, Mom sent the clothes through the wringer and I guided them into a basket that sat on a bench next to the washer. The next load to go in was the towels, as most of them were light colors or white. While they were washing, we hung the first load.
I helped by handing my mom clothespins and the clothes, saving her from bending over. She
always tried to make a game of it, singing and teasing to help make it fun. About halfway through she sent me to the garage for the wooden clothes props which we hooked under the line and raised it up, so the clothes didn't hit the ground. No matter how tight Mom pulled that line, the wet clothes made it sag. The clothes props had a groove in them to hold the line so it couldn't fall out as it flapped back and forth in the breeze.
She hung the work pants with pant stretchers in the legs, to keep them taut and made the
crease. As soon as the clothes were dry, we removed them to make room for new ones.  Most days the last load of laundry was on the line by noon. It usually didn't take them long to dry. We snapped them hard when we removed them to get rid of excess wrinkles and folded them immediately, then Mom sorted them onto piles for each of us kids to put away. The clothes that needed ironed were sometimes taken off the line damp or sprinkled with water, rolled into a ball, and stored in a plastic bag. Tuesday was ironing day.

 You can find Roseanne's books at   Books We Love or Amazon