I viewed a picture of an old washing machine the other day and it reminded me of my mom's long ago washday. I would like to tell you about her washday, hopefully it will cause us to be more thankful for our simple everyday daily blessings.
Washday was an all day event for my mom and it was usually on a Monday, depending on the weather. If it rained she couldn’t wash. When my brother and I were babies she washed a lot of diapers and always prayed that it didn’t rain on washday.
My mom washed clothes in a large black cast iron wash pot and three large galvanized washtubs that were set up in the back yard. The wash pot and washtubs were filled with water drawn up in a wooden bucket from a deep well that was next to our back porch (no indoor plumbing). It took many trips to and from the well to fill the wash pot and tubs for her wash day.
The wash pot had four legs on it that elevated it so a small fire could be built underneath. Even though the pot had legs my mom raised it a little higher by putting a brick under each leg for better fire circulation. She had to add small pieces of wood to the fire from time to time to keep it burning and she did this slowly so as not to make sparks that could fly up and burn holes in the clothes.
After the water began to boil in the wash pot, Mom would put the dirty clothes into the boiling water and stir them with a stir-stick while they soaked and boiled to her satisfaction. The clothes would then be transferred to the washtub that had the washboard in it. She had to use the stir-stick to transfer the clothes from the wash pot because they were too hot to handle by hand.
The washtubs were set up on a low wooden table. The first tub was for scrubbing the clothes on a washboard. The hot clothes would soon make the scrub water hot. My mom would use a bar of lye soap (which she purchased, some people made their own lye soap but Mom bought hers) and she would rub the soap over the clothes and rub them up and down on the ridged surface of the washboard until they were clean to her satisfaction. Sometimes she would scrub extra hard to get out any difficult stains that had been ground into them and this often resulted in skinning her knuckles and making them bleed. After scrubbing the clothes she would transfer them to the first rinse tub, wring them out by hand and then put them into rinse tub number two. Sometimes she would have a pan of starch water to dip some items in if she thought they would iron up nicer if starched and sometimes she had a bluing pan (the bleach of the day) mixed up if she wanted her whites to look extra white. Mom would wring the water out of the clothes by hand as best she could (she did not own a wringer) and hang them on the clothesline to dry using wooden clothes pins to secure them and hope the day would remain sunny long enough to dry them before nightfall.
The clothes line was a wire line that was strung between two poles that were secured in the ground. A center pole with a forked or notched top was propped under the center of the wire line to keep the line from sagging to the ground when the heavy wet clothes were hung on it. The clothes pins were kept in a cloth bag that had a wire hook attached to it for hanging it on the clothes line. The clothes pins were always brought inside after the clothes were dry to prevent them from mildewing. Mildew could leave black marks on the freshly washed clothes.
I was too small to assist in this washday chore (thank goodness) but I do remember the loving care and hard work she put into her washday. Eventually things improved in my mom’s life and a move from Arkansas to Texas provided her with a washing machine for wash day, but still no dryer (that came, much later in life).
Hooray for modern day washing machines and clothes dryers.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my mom’s washday and I hope you are thankful for washing machines and dryers, I am!