Breland: Modern life is not living in the past

Published 11:10 am Friday, October 7, 2022

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Today as I was gathering items for the washer, I stopped a minute to be thankful for all the modern conveniences we have today.

I sorted the clothes and thought about how good we women have it in the 21st century. I can’t imagine doing laundry in the same manner as my grandmothers. It only takes us a short while to wash, dry and put away clothes.

I didn’t see either grandmother washing clothes, but I was frequently at my aunt’s house where laundry was done the old-fashioned way. Until electricity reached the country areas, washing was done the hard way, by hand, and I don’t mean just rinsing out your undies.

My cousin and I really liked it when the washing was done because we enjoyed getting in the tubs holding the cleanest left-over rinse water. Even after the clothes were washed and rinsed, there was still a little warmth left in the water.

Our accumulated dirt from outside play washed off easily in the still slightly soapy water. Mine was always soapier because it was her house and she got first choice of tubs. She opted for the last tub that held the least soap residue.

It is hard to imagine doing all laundry by hand, but that’s what most of our grandmothers were used to. Every Monday was washday and it was hoped the weather would be fair so clothes not only could be washed, but also dried on an outside clothesline in the sun. Not so bad during fair and warm weather, but on cold winter days it must have been the absolute pits!

Wood had to be chopped for the fire that was built around the cast iron wash pot, a fixture of the washday area. Water was drawn by hand from the well to fill the pot, plus more water to place in additional tubs to wash and rinse clothes. Stubborn spots were rubbed on a rub board and then placed in the pot of hot water and homemade lye soap to boil.

There was also a long paddle-like piece of wood used to stir the clothes and lift them out of the boiling water. Darker clothes were usually scrubbed on the rub board but not boiled. Heavy work clothes were always boiled to get them clean.

It was an arduous task — rubbing, scrubbing, then wringing out by hand, then rinsing through one water, wringing again by hand, then rinsing through a final rinse water, before wringing out by hand again and finally pinning the clean clothes to the line to dry. It was a blessing in those days that people probably didn’t have too many changes of clothes.

After drying outdoors, the clothes had to be gathered in and sorted, with some folded and put away and others readied for ironing. Following washing on Monday, Tuesday was for ironing. Clothes didn’t come off the line in the same condition as out of our dryers. The heat from the dryers and the softener sheets make ironing either very easy or non-existent.

All clothes had to be ironed to make them wearable. No electric irons, just cast iron flat irons heated on the wood stove. Each homemaker had more than one flat iron, one to be heating, while the other one was being used.

I can only imagine how hard the work was for women trying to keep the clothes clean for the family, not to mention the bedclothes and other household items. I am thankful for electricity and the automatic washer and dryer. For many, ironing is only something they read about.

Although we grumble sometimes, everything is easier for us than it was for our grandmothers. I wonder what they would have thought of our modern conveniences?

As I was putting my clothes from the washer into the dryer, I was so thankful to live in the present, not in the past.

Retired as Associate News Editor, Bob Ann Breland writes a weekly column for The Daily News. You can email her at