I have been in a funk this week, bogged down in the wash/rinse/repeat of life. Every post I started for today came out sounding whiny. So my sister/editor who has had my back for the past 65 years, again stepped up and offered to provide a guest post. I don’t have any memory of the wringer washer, but I do remember the excitement of the arrival of an automatic washer and dryer at our little house on Fail Road many, many years ago. Happy Sunday and enjoy the post!
…it’s 11ish, morning…I’m scanning the Times newspaper when the buzzer goes off signaling the chore of pulling wet clean garments from the washer and plopping them into the yawning dryer. I sigh… like it’s a call back to the mines. Suddenly I am awash with old memories…of my mother and me rolling that heavy awkward old round wringer washer machine from our covered back porch into the kitchen to start the weekly laundry drudgery. She would pull out the two hoses stored inside and manipulate the washer around the floor to hook up the hoses to the kitchen faucet. As the tub slowly filled with hot water Mom would grab her faithful big orange box of industrial strength Tide detergent. She swore it was the best and got even the grimy boys pants clean. ( She even made us kids bathe in it.) (I don’t recommend it.)
The load of whites always went in first, the agitator working away, back and forth, sometimes adding a splash of bleach to encourage brightness. After a bit of time (only Mom knew how much) it was time to put the clothes through the scary wringer. All seven of us kids were warned with stories of fingers and hands being crushed in a wringer. We knew to pass on the admonitions to our younger siblings.
Carefully each garment was eased into the rollers and then down into a second nearby galvanized tub filled with clean water to rinse out the soap. We would splash them around, up and down, then back through the wringer and into a basket to be lugged to the back yard and hung on clotheslines…spring summer fall and the dead of freezing winter, hung with wooden clothes pins until they dried, not always an easy feat in wintertime. In polar temperatures diapers would freeze into perfect rectangles and needed to be brought inside to thaw before they could be folded.
After the whites came the pastels, same arduous routine and finally the darks of dad and brothers’ shirts and pants which were also the dirtiest. If the water became too murky, we would empty the washer thru a hose into a bucket and haul that heavy load to the sink to empty and refill. I hated emptying the washer and hauling the dirty water out, in the summer to the yard…must not waste water and the soap kept insects at bay, so mom said. Occasionally we would run out of hot water and mom would fill large pots and heat water on the stove.
And this was my memory at 11 am in 2021, as my dryer buzzer called me. I sat with those Indiana days for some moments realizing how my mother never complained but just got on with the task at hand. She was raised a farm girl. That’s what you do. As I headed down the stairs to transfer the laundry my thankful heart went out to the inventors and moms who today make my laundry day so simple and me feel a bit guilty. May they all rest in peace.