Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
As surely as Tuesday follows Monday on the calendar, ironing day followed wash day on Mom’s housekeeping chart.
Prior to the advent of the steam iron, ironing was a bit more complicated. I don’t go far enough back in time to remember having to heat the old flat iron on a wood-burning stove, but I do remember we had to dampen the clothes, roll them into tight rolls and dampen all the way through before the festivities could begin.
Mom sprinkled by dipping her hand in a bowl of water and shaking it over the clothes. If shaker bottles existed then, Mom preferred doing it by hand. My job was to keep the bowl of water full.
Lifting out the heavy old wooden ironing board was a chore Dad performed — if he was home to do it. A folded sheet served as a cover for the board and served the dual purpose of ironing the sheet while Mom was at it.
I finally got old enough that Mom would let me handle the easy stuff — like handkerchiefs and pillow cases. Dad’s shirts, which involved starch in the collars and cuffs, were Mom’s job. She insisted in dressing me in ruffles and she ironed those, too.
Except in the summer when most of the clothes had to be ironed, Tuesdays went fairly quickly. This, of course, was some time before a genius devised “miracle” fabrics which blended cotton and linen with “polyester” or “orlon” which, allegedly, didn’t need to be “touched up” with the iron. I doubt that these new fabrics could have survived Mom’s electric iron which had only two settings: off or on.
Oddly enough, I never did get over an enthusiasm for ironing. I tend to iron everything in sight. It usually needs a touch because I often forget to unload the dryer until the following day. Ironing is satisfying unless I get to goofing off and the basket gets full to overflowing. It’s so much easier these days with a steam iron, which dampens as you go.
I once asked Mom why, if clothes had to be damp, she didn’t just take them off the clothesline before they were completely dry. You could do it all in the same day, I reasoned.
“Because, Elizabeth Ann” (she called me that when she was approaching the point of having heard enough dumb questions for one day), “after being up to my elbows in hot water for most of a day, I am too pooped to take on the ironing.”
Liz Ciancone is a retired
Tribune-Star reporter. Send email to email@example.com.