Monday Wash Day Back Then

Back in the nineteen forties, Monday was the traditional wash day. Each week, an average family of four like ours created quite a pile of clothing, bath towels, dish towels, cleaning rags, throw rugs and window curtains.

Why was there so much dirty laundry week after week? In winter, we heated with coal so the ashes needed to be removed from the stove and coal loaded into the furnace. In summer, the family had a big garden to keep. Dad worked in a factory. We kids played outside in the dirt. There was no home air conditioning so we perspired a lot.

There was also the issue of how different fabrics were back then; they were simple cottons and wools that seemed to attract and hold dirt. Modern fabrics are fiber blends created to repel dirt and resist wrinkles.

How did my mother do the wash? (I say mother because laundry was what women did then.)

First, she filled both sides of the stationary tub with water. The dirty clothes and scrub board went into one side. With lye soap in her hand, she scrubbed each item and then placed into the rinse water half of the tub. Once rinsed, each item was removed and hand- cranked through a ringer. Still heavy and wet, they went into a bushel basket to be hung on the clothesline (outside on most days but in the basement on bad weather days). After drying they were taken down, sprinkled with a little water and ironed. Almost every item from shirts to bed sheets needed to be ironed because no wrinkle-free fabrics had yet been created. 

I can still “see” my mother doing the wash that way and understand why she called Monday wash DAY.  I was six years old and the year was 1948.

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