Monday, March 16, 2009


In 1959 one of the wonders of our newly built house was a laundry chute from the bathroom down to the basement where the washer lived. It was amazing enough to have two floors to our house now—ground floor and basement. But it was luxurious to have that slot to transport laundry and not have to pile it up in a basket to carry down, load after load. A family of 5 had a fair amount of laundry. Mom divided the clothes into piles according to colors – whites – reds – blues – blacks/browns before washing on Mondays.

I remember that old washer. It was a round, white tub with a black agitator in it and a wringer attached above. The wringer was made of two tan rollers. We’d stick clothes through to wring the excess water out into the tub before hanging the clothes out to dry. The washed ribbons of cloth came out mostly dry. Just seeing the extremely squeezed clothes underlined the verbal warnings not to risk our fingers near them.

The clothes lines stretched between two T-shaped metal poles in the backyard. I wasn’t tall enough to reach the lines so I didn’t have to help with that. By the time I was tall enough we had a drier – well received by Mom after hanging out clothes for years for our big brood.

Ironing, well, I was tall enough for that. First I’d mist the clothes with water to help the cotton fibers smooth more easily under the heat of the iron. I learned to move methodically and still follow the same order when ironing a blouse or shirt – the collar, inside then outside; one cuff and that sleeve on front & back; the other cuff and sleeve; the back yoke, then the rest of the back; then the front. Luckily, we didn’t have time in our large family to iron such things as underwear and sheets.

--by Terra Rafael

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