“Monday is washday so have your dirty clothes ready for me.” Mom taught my siblings and me to sort our own laundry by color and fabric as a help for the weekly laundry task. In the summer, during school vacation, I was drafted to help mom with the chore because I was the oldest child.
The Maytag wringer type washing machine had to be filled with warm or hot water with a hose from the basement faucet. While the water ran into the machine, we loaded one of the piles of pre-sorted clothing. Then mom measured a cup full of “Cheer”, or “Tide” and poured the powder into the washing machine. Mom then let me pull out the agitator control knob on the front of the machine to begin the wash.
After ten or twenty minutes, mom stopped the agitator and began feeding the wet clothes through the wringer. They landed in one of the laundry sinks that were filled with clear water. While I swished the laundry in the sink, mom placed another dirty load into the washing machine. (She used the same water for two loads. Whites or light colors first, then darker colors for the second load.)
After the second batch was started, mom swung the wringer in position between the two sinks and fed the clothes from the first rinse sink into the wringer. They landed in the second sink that was filled with fresh water and “Sta-Puf” liquid fabric softener. I worked the clothes through the second rinse while the washing machine continued agitating. Mom then ran the freshly rinsed clothes through the wringer again and they landed in a large basket.
After the second load was washed and placed in the rinse sink, I helped mom push the washing machine to the basement floor drain, then she unhooked the end of the hose and allowed the dirty wash water to empty out. (When I grew older, I did the entire job of pushing and emptying.) After the machine was drained, the end of the hose was reattached to the retaining slot, and the empty machine went back to the sink area.
The lengthy process was repeated until all the family’s laundry was washed.
While each subsequent loads of clothes were washing, I carried a basketload of freshly rinsed and wrung clothing upstairs, then outdoors to the back yard where mom and I hung them out to dry. If Monday was rainy or during the winter, a substitute set of clothes lines were used in the basement–mom hated to use them, though. After the clothing had dried, it was taken down and loosely folded and placed into baskets awaiting ironing day–Tuesday.
By the way, mom’s laundry baskets were actual bushel baskets used to ship apples to the supermarket. They were constructed from thin wooden slats which were held together with large staples or braided wire. The baskets were fitted with liners made specifically for laundry use.
This drawn-out routine finally came to an end in 1967 when the old Maytag washing machine was replaced with a Kenmore automatic washer and dryer pair. When the weather was pleasant, we still brought the clothes outdoors to dry.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes writer Anthony Liccione. “Sometimes I wonder, that one missing sock after doing laundry, is the smart one. After being unhappy for so long, it finally walks away from a frayed, worn-out relationship.”