23 June 2010

Attitude of Gratitude # 10

I'm truly grateful for one of the 'modern' inventions that most women today take totally for granted. The automatic washing machine!


Well do I remember the days of washing in that big old round tub with a central agitator that 'ate' socks and sometimes even whole dresses. (See, you thought I was going to talk about washing in an enamel tub with water drawn from a well! I am, but not quite yet.)

We'd fill the tub with (lots of) hot water (nobody washed in cold water) and (lots of) washing powder that took ages to dissolve.  Our family pushed the tub washer into the middle of the bathroom so it could be connected to the big tap in the bath.  The bath was also a handy receptacle for the washing that had been passed through the huge set of wringers that dangled above the tub.  They squeezed the water (and the life) out of the washing! Everybody had a good stash of replacement buttons and we all learnt how to sew them on so they would 'rock' through the wringers. Which worked only sometimes.

Twice through the wringers and the soapy water was back in the tub and ready for the next round. When all the washing was done, we'd empty the tub and put the washing back in for its first rinse.  The cycle was repeated twice before the washing was hung out to dry.  No fabric softener!  So when nylon clothing first made its appearance we found our clothes clung to us unless we used lots of cream on our bodies.  We also got lots of static shocks!

White washing was always done separately as it had to be bleached.  No grey washing every made its way to our washing lines.  My grandmother used 'blue' which was as messy as sin to use, but it sure kept the whites glowing. We also had the obligatory scrubbing board at hand in case a stubborn stain needed removing.  Talk about cracked knuckles and bleeding fingers! Winter was the worst!

Next time you moan about the mountain of washing in your laundry basket, I'd like you to remember the 'olden days' when doing the weekly wash was back breaking work. It wasn't a pleasant task for us, but this is where I get to tell you about how it was before the washing machine.

My grandmothers used to tell us stories about having to fetch water at the well, heat it in huge cauldrons set over fires they'd made themselves (with wood they'd fetched and then chopped) and then having to 'agitate' the washing with huge wooden poles.  They used soap they'd made themselves too!

They wore such huge and voluminous clothes, so many layers and such huge bloomers! No wonder they were 'guilty' of not washing too frequently by today's standards.

I am so grateful I didn't live then! I wash absolutely everything in my automatic machine.  If it can't be washed in the 'wool' cycle then I simply don't buy it.  Life is far too short to be spent standing in front of a washing tub. As for making our own soap... 

April Blackbird

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