Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Wash Day

Before the invention of washing machines, they tell me that wash day began early in the morning and was an all day chore for the women in the family. The family wash was done in a black cast iron pot. My mother remembered carrying buckets of water from the pond on wash day.

Soaking clothes in the bath tub overnight and scrubbing the clothes on a wash board was my mother's method of washing clothes when I was a young child. Later when I was about ten years old, going to the laundry mat on a Friday evening or early Saturday morning became a ritual for my younger brother and me. Mama would sort the clothes, bundle the clothes in a sheet. We had a little red wagon we used to carry the clothes. Off to the laundry mat we went with our quarters, detergent, bleach, and pine soil.

We didn't use the dryers because mama would put the laundry on the lines to dry. Taking the laundry was easier than bringing the wet laundry home. We couldn't neatly bundle the laundry the way our mother had done but we did the best we could. One of us would pull the wagon and the other would try to hold on to the clothes to keep them from falling off the wagon. Neighbors sitting on porches would give us advice how to handle the wet laundry. By the time we got home, several pieces would be dirty from falling in the street.

The red wagon was put to rest and we began taking the clothes in laundry baskets and a younger sister made us a trio. Sometimes we made two trips. We didn't own a washer until I was fourteen and the clothes line was our dryer. My mother never owned a dryer.

I hated going to the laundry mat. Maybe because it took up so much of my time. I didn't mind putting the clothes on the line, or bringing the clothes in after drying or folding and putting away the laundry. I was one happy daughter when the family purchased our used automatic washer.

Photograph purchased from Ebay.


  1. i always liked hanging clothes out and bringing them in. I think i should put a clothes line out in the yard. I would not have liked boiling the clothes or washing on a washboard in the tub. the earliest washer i remember was one with a wringer. i think i had grown up and left home before my mother got a dryer. we had clotheslines in the basement. Once i was out on my own i used the laundramat for awhile but got a small washer that i could hook up to the sink in trade for babysitting. i didn't have a basement so the clothes lines were all over the living room on wash day. lots of diapers. once we had a wood burning stove and during the winter the clothes lines were in the kitchen. more diapers. thanks for the trip down washing-clothes-lane.

  2. As a child growing up in the south, I can certainly remember washing clothes on the wash board and hanging them on the outdoors clothes line to dry.
    What a wonderful memory!