Now I'm sure most of you have never used a rub board or flat irons, but you may remember your grandmother having them. Washday was a time of hard labor for women in days gone by, and it had to be done whether the weather was hot or cold. This is how washday was for my mother in the 40's:
First of all, water had to be carried up the hill from the well, and the big black iron wash pot was filled. Daddy built a fire under the pot to heat the water and then went back down the hill to carry more water to fill the galvanized wash tub; it took several trips to fill the tub. Sometimes, while he was at the well, the horses came and drank part of the water; that's when his temper might flare. With his part of the washday work finished, he went off to the field to plow. Mama brought out the white clothes first and put them into the hot water with some slivers of lye soap. She let the clothes stay in the hot water and simmer for a while before she began taking things out, one piece at a time, and rubbing them on the rub board. When the piece looked clean enough to suit her, she dropped it into the tub of clean water and rinsed it. With all the pieces washed, and the water rung out of them, she made up a batch of Faultless starch; dresses and the Sunday shirt were dipped into the starch and then squeezed out. No matter if the wind was blowing cold, or the sun was blazing, she hung each piece of clothing on the clothesline to dry.
The clothing, sheets, towels, etc. were brought inside after they had dried. Mama took the dresses and Sunday shirt and sprinkled water from her fingers over them, rolled them up into a ball, and let them sit a while before she ironed them the next day. The heavy irons were heated on the stove; to test them, to see when they were hot enough, she dampened her finger and quickly tapped the bottom of the iron. A sizzle from the moisture meant the iron was ready to use. She had learned through the years not to use an iron that was too hot; a scorched iron print on a Sunday shirt was not a good thing!
As the years passed, laundromats came into town, and occasionally Daddy would take us there to do the laundry. It was much easier on Mama. All the machines with their rollers for pressing the water out of the clothes were a wonder to me. But I was afraid to put an article through the rollers; maybe my fingers would get caught and pull me through! We always took the clothes home to dry them on the line.
We should never complain about doing the laundry; the water is as close as a faucet on the wall, it's already hot or cold, detergents are in a box and we don't have to touch them to chafe our hands. The dryer is sitting right next to the washing machine; if there's rain we can still wash things, and most fabrics come out of the dryer not needing to be ironed much at all, and if they do, the iron reaches a perfect temperature and shuts down. But, it would be nice if the clothes went to the closet and drawers by themselves.