News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

July 3, 2012

LIZ CIANCONE: Wash day sent many folks through the wringer

TERRE HAUTE — It’s always nice to find that someone reads the stuff I write. But, I had no idea that so many friends and acquaintances had experienced Monday as wash day until I began to get feedback on my laundry column.

One contemporary informed me that we must have been rich (HA!) because his mom did not fill her wash boiler from the tap as my mom did. He was sent out into the yard, rain or shine, to pump the water to fill the wash boiler. Maybe it was an early form of aerobic exercise? More probably it was the difference between living in town or on the outskirts. After we moved nine miles south of Yorkville, we did the pump thing, too.

Another reader, obviously a lot younger than me, shared my memories of hot water drawn from the tap. What luxury! She asked if my mom had one of those long sticks used to dip clean clothes out of the washing machine when the water was still too hot to permit plunging your hands into the tub to pull out the clean clothes and begin the cycle of wringer to hot rinse and wringer to cold rinse and wringer to clothes basket.

Yes, Mom had one of those long sticks, too. I remember it was wedged at the end and was bleached from many years of service. Mom may have inherited it from my grandma. It was certainly bleached white from long years of service. Mom used that stick until the end of her days.

The more I think about it and the schedule of the average housewife’s work week, the less I wonder why there were so few working mothers. My grandma was highly unusual in that she managed the post office after my grandpa had to delegate his duties as postmaster when he was elected sheriff of Ford County. The mail must go through, even the time he had to chase a horse thief to Alaska.

Of course, Grandma had “help.” She probably needed it with three boys (heaven knows I needed it with only two). Grandma couldn’t vote, but she certainly could delegate.

I think I prefer the labor-saving machines to managing “help.” I could toss in some laundry and head for work. Then, in the late afternoon, head for home and toss the clean clothes into the dryer.

What a way to live!

Liz Ciancone is a retired

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