From the book about West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle and also Northwestern Maryland

My Memories of Washdays

Submitted by Sharon F. Keefer of Cumberland, Maryland 

Born 1938


        Wash day was usually on Monday.

      The water may have been heated in an oval, shaped copper vessel that was placed over an open flame in the yard. Once hot, the water was emptied into the manual washer until it was at half or three-quarters filled. Then the rinse tubs were filled.

      A manual washer had a dasher that set down inside the washer.

      Now in earlier days, the wringer was operated by hand, however, in my memory, the wringer was hooked to electric. The electric also turned the agitator inside the washer. The rinse tubs set to the back of the washer so the wringer would turn and the clothes could be fed down into the first rinse tub where the clothes were rinsed by hand and fed into the wringer, which turned further, and clothes after their first rinse went down into the second tub. Rinsed a second time and then fed down into the clothesbasket. My Mom had a wash stick (broom handle cut to the right length, kept just for washing,) that she would pull the clothes up out of the water.

      Keep in mind, the clothes being washed in cold weather the washer would go into the kitchen to be washed, however, when warm weather arrived it was usually done on the back porch. Some ladies were fortunate enough to have a washhouse.

      People living in the country never wasted the wash water, especially in warm weather so the porches were scrubbed, and the remaining water went to watering the garden.

 Now the clothes were washed but now they had to be hung out to dry on the outside clothesline and you know there was an art to properly hanging the clothes. The straight clothespins were first and later snap pins.

      The clothes needing to be starched were put into a starch bath and then the wringer. I remember seeing my Mom put the men’s dress shirts into a stiffer starch for the collars and the cuffs. She was very particular about the shirts.

      On a winter day in very cold weather, the steam from the warm clothes could be seen and it was very chilling to the fingers as the clothes were hung out. Mom would blow on her fingers to warm them. Also, the clothes would freeze stiff on the line.

      The clothes had such a fresh smell and a freshly made bed was so heavenly.

      Now when the clothes were taken down from the line, they had to be folded neatly to be ironed on Tuesday.

      Supper on Monday after this washday was usually from Sunday left overs. I remember if it was left over beef or pork, my Mom made “Hunters stew,” comprised of a broth, onions, carrots, and potatoes.

      Tuesday, (no permanent press) the clothes were sprinkled individually with a sprinkle bottle, folded just right, and rolled and placed in the clothesbasket. Covered over when the basket was full with a towel to keep them from drying out. After it set awhile, then standing over the ironing board to iron. I remember the whites were always pressed first.

      I was fascinated by my Mom’s ironing and when I was large enough she would allow me to press the handkerchiefs and the pillowcases because they were flat pieces.

      Can you imagine the time and love it took for Moms caring for a family? Is it any wonder there were more stay at home Moms? Grant you there were some working mothers but how did they handle such a time consuming chore?

      I am sure there had to be more about washday but all of my childhood memories, these are what I remember.

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