Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Laundry Memories, new and old.

As happy as I am with my laundry room re-do, I still sometimes skip outside and let old Mr. Sunshine dry the wash.
The nifty wire clothes rack from IKEA easily holds a full load of laundry, and even works for drying Cal King sized sheets one at a time. Best of all, the whole rack collapses flat and gets leaned up against the wall behind the laundry room curtain, taking up almost no space at all when it is not in use.
When the temperature soars it just seems silly to use electrical power to finish up the laundry task.  Plus it gives me an excuse to wander around the garden as I come out to check to see if the clothes are dry.
With 11% humidity, the clothes dry here almost as fast as they are washed.
I got to musing about laundry as I went about my task.
I remembered growing up three blocks from the beach, and my Mom hanging out laundry year around on a clothes drying device that looked like a squared spider web perched flat on a stick. 
The lines closest to the pole were hung first, while turning the entire web, then each line thereafter, hanging clothes until the finally the outside line was hung.
My Mom always used citrus soap since we had soft water.  Our clothes smelled so fresh and the whites were always so white.
She mentioned to me that those folks with driers and hard water had a hard time keeping their laundry from looking rather dull and gray.
She was right; I could see my classmates clothes become more dingy until they were finally outgrown.
In the summer, Mom would clip up the clothes early in the day (using clothes pins with springs; I never could figure out how clothes pegs work when I saw them later in life). Then she would take care of the usual household tasks while we kids hung out with our friends, waiting for ALL the neighborhood moms to finish up so we could go to the beach.
Usually we were at the beach by one, and stayed there until around four-ish, the time the moms needed to get back home to cook dinner.
Ironing was done in the cool of the evening while we watched TV.
Is it any wonder that in college I thought women who wanted to have a job outside the home were totally nuts?

When I got to college I did my own laundry for the first time.
Since I was going to school in Oregon, using a drier was part of the process.
I never did get the hang of doing laundry regularly; like many of my dorm mates, it was not too unusual to see me clad only in a bikini hauling my stuffed full pink gingham laundry bag down to the basement laundry room, even in the dead of winter. 

When there really is absolutely nothing clean left to wear, well, the bikini is called into service.
(I wasn't the only one thus attired.  College students need strong motivation to give up time and money for laundry needs.)

Laundry room fun with dark haired Jennifer, my future maid of honor, and her room mate/childhood friend Randi.
Isn't that what "set" tubs were for..."setting down" and relaxing while waiting for your laundry to be done?
Their room was just across the hall from my room; Jen was the first person to befriend me on campus.

Jennifer, Randi and Chuck. 
It was a co-ed by room dorm, Chuck and his room mate Lance were across the hall and one room down.
Maybe it was because in college the guys did their own laundry, and proved to me that anyone tall enough to reach the washer dials was quite capable of doing laundry. Both my son and daughter learned to do laundry by the time they were twelve years old.

When I married young, (right out of college!) Bernie and I got an apartment with a laundry room.  Funny, I really don't remember doing laundry at the apartment at all.  I do remember there was a large swimming pool and a sauna...I imagine we must have filled all the machines at once, gone for a swim, switched them to the driers and hit the sauna, which was co-ed and rarely used.
As newly weds, we were probably the sauna's most regular visitors.

The plan to live in the apartment for the first five years of our marriage fell apart after only ten months, when we discovered our first born was on the way.  The apartment complex was adult only; we would have to leave.
We found a very tiny house to rent, probably about 700 square feet, an old uninsulated bungalow with peeling faded paint, and an old carriage house garage out the back.  The garage was dark, and housed all sorts of scary spider and assorted other shudder producing creatures.
Bernie and his dad managed to plumb a spot for a washer; the water drained out onto the struggling lawn.  I know I had a clothes line there, but I also had a old gas operated drier as well.
Bernie re did the bathroom in the house, put up fencing so "the baby" could have a yard to play in some day.
We lived in that house until Laura was 9 months old. Bernie's parents had decided to purchase a new house and rent their old house out to us. 
Bernie had lived in that house since he was four years old; his brother was conceived and born in that house shortly there after.
Another generation was conceived there as well, when Laura was 11 months old, our son was on his way.
Laundry there was done out in the garage as well, but the garage was just two steps out the side door, and was quite handy.
There was an old fashioned clothes line there as well; with the demands of "two under two" the clothes line was mostly used to dry towel after swimming in the pool.
Bernie's sister had seven kids closely spaced; Bernie was still a teen when the oldest was born.  He remembered visiting his sister and being totally grossed out at finding diapers soaking in the toilet bowl whenever he would go over to visit.  It was he who decided that a diaper service would be used for our children, and so I was spared the years of washing diapers that others routinely dealt with with valor.
Jeff was four and Laura was five when we moved into the house where we lived until Jeff finished high school.
The washer/drier was again out in the garage; and to get there required walking down three steps, walking around the back of the house past my weaving studio, treading on old brick that skimmed past Camellia bushes that bloomed vigorously each winter.

(Me in 1985, age 31, toting yet another load of laundry..I can just  make out a pink camillia blooming  behind me.)
The one car garage was stuffed with "stuff" and one car was a tight fit, but there was room for not only the washer and drier but a set tub as well!
The house was built in 1945...just prior to WWII, and originally had but three bedrooms, one bath, a dining area the size of two modestly sized powder rooms and kitchen the same size at most bedroom closets...and I don't mean the walk in kind!
Some where along the way a larger eat in  kitchen had been added along with a very large upstairs bedroom with a tiny full bath.
It all added up to a lovely 1100 square feet.  Small, but not unusually so.  The large patio and garden became our family room and we spent much of our time outside.
There was a clothes line poles at the foot of the upper yard and some one had even made a cement pad beneath the line run.  Why we didn't string up some line I have no idea; instead we stung up a hammock and enjoyed that while our clothes tumbled away in the garage.
There were black widows in the garage I should note.  I kept a can of insect killing spray handy at all times...

Once we left there I gained "modern" laundry "rooms": pass through areas between the garage and the kitchen,  pantry like areas in the kitchen and now I have a full blown entire room designated to laundry.
I must say I really, really, really like my laundry room now.
But....
Sometimes...
Just like it was back in the days...
Occasionally there are still...

Spiders in my laundry room!!!
You know, throughout history women did laundry together, gathering either down by the river or the lake's edge, and with their skirts tied up and sleeves rolled up the women would suds out the clothes while talking and sharing their lives side by side.
Men never seemed to do laundry, even in times of war women would be camp followers and earn a living by doing laundry. 
I think that loss of womanly camaraderie is the only down side to our modern laundry methods.  I imagine that women still do most of the laundry and do the task regularly and totally alone. 
My short times of college laundry being a time of hi jinx with dorm mates was probably the only time that I have ever done laundry with friends, and actually it made doing laundry a lot of fun.

Pretend that you have dropped by with a load of wash; we've hung our laundry out to dry and now are relaxing in the Adirondack chairs, listening to the stream rushing below, watching birds and butterflies flutter over head and enjoying a cold glass of herbed lemonade.

What laundry memories have you recalled after reading about mine?  How was laundry done at your house as a child? As a young bride, a mother, an empty nester?

Do tell...it is a simple way for us to share in doing a bit of laundry together.

7 comments:

rharper said...

I agree. I LOVE hanging out clothes. I always have liked it. But I'm now in this blankity blank HOA and they're like little Nazi's who don't like anything like that. I still do it. I don't care what they say. It is totally ridiculous to use dryers in this state especially in the summer. They use a heck of a lot of energy.

This was a darling post.

ellen b. said...

I don't have great laundry memories from my youth. Once my arm hand and arm got caught in the wringer of one of those old ringer washers. Ouch! And then all those diapers I had to hang because I had 4 younger brothers and sisters. I stood on a chair to reach the lines and I fell once hit the porch and had to get stitches on my forehead. No, I did not like hanging clothes...
Maybe I should try it now to get over the hanging trauma in my youth...
Great old photos BTW....

Vicki said...

I can't remember much about the laundry prior to our move into the more "modern" house when I was 7 years old. Before that, we always lived in very old, rented country homes (following my Dad's assignments) and all I can remember are clothes hanging on the line outdoors, but I can't remember how they got to that point. When my family finally moved into the early '60s ranch house, we acquired a small laundry nook next to the back door, between the kitchen and bathroom. We could only afford a used washer to start, so we hung clothes out on the line all year long. I remember thinking the linens might break when the temps were below freezing! Oh, and using those clothes pegs while wearing mittens was hard! When that used washer went out, Dad came home with a used wringer washer that sat on the back porch (showing my KY roots!). I think we finally got a matching (woo-hoo!) washer and dryer just before I started college. Oh, the laundry room in the dorm was in a poorly lit scary basement room...we never ventured down there alone!

After Doc and I married, we lived in student housing with a small laundry room down the hall. Graduation came, and a month later, our daughter came along, and we moved into an apartment - with a laundry closet but no machines. It only took three weeks of leaving Doc to care for a tiny, colicky, breastfed baby while I drove to a laundromat to wash poopy diapers and the rest of our laundry before he surprised me with a brand new washer and dryer!

In 33 years of marriage, we've lived in 7 apartments, 6 houses, and two hotels - I've experienced all sorts of laundry facilities in that time!

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

I have memories of laundry day when I was a kid...of wringer washers and NO dryer...and clothes hanging frozen on the line...and blueing...and starch...and hours of ironing. Laundry was centre stage in those days. For me...laundry is just background noise these days. I just hardly give it a thought! Love the modern conveniences...but still like to hang things on the line from time to time.

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

I'd be happy go join you down by the stream with our washboards and dirty laundry any day! I suppose these days it would have to be a trip to the laundromat for some social camaraderie among us women. It so happens I met the Musician at the laundromat!

I remember those "spider web" clothes lines too. I know someone in England who still owns one...the English have the right idea...there's nothing quite so fresh as clothes dried out of doors.

Lovella ♥ said...

I so enjoyed reading through this post. You have a bunch of memories around laundry and I noted that the more places you live in life, the more memories will be created.
I first remember my mom using a ringer washer and clearly remember the time she painfully had her fingers rolled through it once. I remember laundry on the line if the weather permitted and also long lines that she somehow strung the length of the kitchen on rainy days.

And. . .you already know my love affair with the clothesline.

Anneliese said...

Wow.. you have quite the laundry memories ...love the first pictures and the memories of dorm life...

Prince William and Kate are visiting Canada at this time ... you should have seen the hat she was wearing today... I thought is was kind of funny!