Quilting, Farming, Variety

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Do You Remember These?

A repost:

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.


  1. My mom had a washing machine with the wringer(rollers) my sisters and I would help and I got my fingers caught in the rollers once - I don't really remember it all that much but have a crooked finger to remember it by :) We always hung the clothes out to dry as we had no dryer and this was when we lived in Wisconsin, the clothes froze in the winter and then mom would eventually bring them in the house and thaw them out on wooden racks - sometimes if it was way too cold they were hung in the house for the whole process -- the good old days - right LOL

  2. I'm sure we wore a dress more than once before washing it don't you think? Noel said they used to shell beans on the old wringer washing machines.

  3. We have it so much easier now . I remember Mom dampening the clothes with a pop bottle filled with water with the sprinkler thingie in the end of it. Those sad irons are so heavy! I bet the women had good arm muscles back then from using them.

  4. Your memories are so akin to mine. Mom had a rub board and also a ringer type washer. We had big old metal washing tub too and was handy for washing clothes or us kids before we had indoor plumbing.
    I remember sitting on a pallet while Mom spent scrubbed and washing our clothes and hung them on the line. And then she'd bring them in and iron and iron and iron them. Fortunately she had an electric iron. You mention the winter time and honestly I'm in awe and admiration of My Mom & our fore-mothers and how much hard work they had to do to keep us all in clean clothes even in the bitter winter. God bless them all.
    I don't think our modern appliances has ever been able to match the wonderful smell of clothes dried in the sun.
    Great post of great memories, thanks for sharing. :)

  5. Oh yes...When I would visit my grandmother she used a washboard.
    Do not remember mother using one.
    I can remember helping my grandmother and having blisters on my fingers.
    Can remember when I first married having the machine with a roller and I would hang outside in the winter, clothes and diapers would freeze - seems my hands were always chapped...
    The flat irons - I have a pair and for years used as bookends for cookbooks on kitchen counter. Now I use them as door stops and painted them bright blue. They are really heavy :)
    I love a clothes line and one of my favorte things in the Spring is to begin to hang outside. Find it very calming....
    Thank you for the memories...

  6. I remember using the wash boards a few times. Washing was a lot of hard work in the old days. I did three loads today and didn't even work up a sweat.

  7. Laundry is my favorite household chore, but I doubt that would have been the case 200 years ago (or 70 years ago, I guess).

  8. I did actually use a rub board once - lots of work. Faultless starch - I hid behind the chair eating starch when mama would go outside to hang the clothes out.

  9. I love old pieces like these! Loved this post. blessings,Kathleen

  10. I never had to use these but I do have them for collectables. I feel for the women who had to use them and I appreciate the fact I did not have to but I have them if the occasion ever occurs (hope not)!

  11. I can remember Mama washing clothes in the creek. Our house was on a hill, so rather than carry enough water up that hill, the iron pot stayed down by the creek. After she boiled them in the pot, she rinsed them in the creek--the water never got dirty! I remember this because we loved wash days in the summer; we got to play in the creek most of the day.