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Prime Time/Laundry was a full day's job

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Monday was wash day. The clothes of Mom and Dad and five boys must have been quite a few loads, and washing was no easier than Saturday bath night that I wrote about a few months ago.

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The washer and rinse tub/ringer were down in the basement. There was no clothes chute, so they had to be carried down 15 steps into the basement. Originally the water from the cistern had to be pumped into kettles and heated on the stove in the kitchen. Somewhere along the line we got a hot water heater and water softener in the latter part of the 1940s. The hot water was then carried in buckets down to the washer and soap was added.

The washer had an electric motor, but the wringer did not. When the wash had gone on for 20 minutes, the wringer was backed up to the washer. The wringer had a tub like the washer with clean water in it. The wringer had two metal rollers with rubber covering them. Each piece of clothing had to be lifted out of the washer and run through the wringer. The wash water then drained back into the washer.

Thank goodness the wringer had a release lever. One time I was helping Mom, and my fingers got caught in the rollers and were being drawn into it. Mom's reaction was quick. She hit the release before my fingers were hurt. After the clothes were rinsed, they had to be wrung again, this time into basket made out of thin pieces of wood. There was no such thing as plastic back then. The basket filled with clothes was carried upstairs and outside to the clothesline where they were hung on metal wires which ran between wood posts with a four-foot 2-x-4 T on top. There were four lines on which to hang the clothes.

In the winter, we hung the clothes outside where they froze. Then we brought them into the back porch where they hung some more. Then they were hung in a back room where the final drying took place.

After that they all had to be ironed. There was no such thing as wash-and-wear in those days. The sheets, hankies and the clothes were all ironed, then folded and put away. I remember about 1950 when we bought a mangle, which was a three-foot wide metal tube with cotton and cloth wrapped around it. Mom could put the sheets and clothes through it and probably cut the ironing time in half. We boys also wanted to learn how to mangle. Mom taught us, and I am sure she enjoyed the help.

Washing the clothes was an all-day affair. I remember a nursery rhyme which mentions what each day of the week and the responsibilities for each of the days are. Monday was washing day, and that meant the entire day. Young mothers are able to have jobs outside of the home because the ease of so many duties around the house. I am sure they appreciate the convenience, and maybe this note will help them to appreciate it all the more.

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