Sunday, May 13, 2007

Housework in a Sod House

Rubbing dirty clothes on the washboard took out the soil. Wringer washer see the wringer on top, that is were the clothes were fed threw to get rid of the water.

Wash tubs for rinsing clothes.

Sprinkler has little holes in the top, the cork goes in a pop bottle

Drying rack for clothes, socks hung together on top dowels

It seems we complain in 2007 about getting the laundry done even though we wash and dry our items in machines which we just turn on. They run, without us watching, and signal when finished. I don't know where the Opseth's dug their well but we can guess they carried water from the well to the house. The water was heated on the stove in the winter and outside in the summer. Remember, Julia was a baby and diapers . She would have been changed frequently and had the diapers had to be washed frequently. In our paper diaper society of today, we skip the step of washing diapers!

Most likely the diapers were boiled and the water stirred to get them clean. Of course they had to make the soap first! Did they really drip water over ashes mixed with pork fat to make it? Grandma talked about lye soap and it was strong enough to clean anything as well as get rid of head lice and poison ivy.

I am thinking about how sensitive a child's skin is. I am trying to imagine what the baby's bottom looked like if all that strong cleaner wasn't thoroughly rinsed out. How many more rinsing would it take?

Did the Opseth's have poles strung with rope to hang the diapers outside in the breeze or did they lay them on top of bushes to dry? Did clothes hang from the pole rafters in the winter?
It is safe to say that bedding and clothes beyond diapers were worn or used multiple times between washings. Unless the roof was leaking and everything got muddy!
Let's make a comparison:

Hannah Opseth made soap and washed items on a boiler on the stove. The water was carried in buckets to the house. Children helped by carrying the water. The used RINSE water was dumped on the garden or flowers.
Julia Opseth Ranum made soap and took water from the cistern, (A water holding tank under the house, the water was soft, as it was 'rain' water). She heated her water on the stove like her mother and tossed the rinse water on her hollyhocks outside the door. She hung the clothes to dry on clothes lines made of lumber and strung with rope. She used clothes pins to keep them on the lines. In the winter, she hung everything outside to freeze dry. After they were stiff from twenty below zero weather, the laundry was brought in and hung on clothes racks to finish drying. It made the house smell wonderfully fresh!
The first I remember of washing as a child was a wringer washing machine. That was in 1948 or so. There was a faucet in the wall with a hose attached and mother would fill the machine with hot water and soap AND bleach. The first load was always the white clothes and the stench of bleach still makes me cough. The machine would run for a very long time to insure the clothes were clean. The clothes were then run through the wringer, look at the picture again if you must. Her machine had an electric wringer, although by now my grandmother had gotten a wringer machine with a manual wringer that you turned. The clothes went through this wringing process to get all the water out. Buttons were subject to breaking! The next process was to put the clothes into any container of water. These stood on stands. After they were rinsed in the first tub, they were run through the wringer again and placed in the third tub and then rinsed again. The clothes were then shook to get the wringer wrinkles out and put in a basket to be taken out doors to be hung on the clothes lines which were metal T poles with six wire lines. The lines were cleaned with a wet rag first to be sure they were clean. The clothes were hung in a specific fashion. The wrens liked to build nests in Daddy's pants pockets, therefore the pockets must be pushed out before hanging.

The bleach water was drained via a hose into a drain in the middle of the floor. New water was added and that would be the only time. Clothes were washed in order of soil, with rugs being last after heavily soiled work clothes. Sheets were done on Fridays; our beds were changed weekly.

When all the clothes were dry, mother would take them off the line and then dampen them with a clothes sprinkler. I always asked why she let them dry only to get them wet. She always answered "so I can iron them". That didn't make any sense to me. After she sprinkled them, she would roll them up tight and put them in a basket lined with oil cloth, which is a fabric that didn't breathe. On Tuesday morning, right after breakfast, she would start to iron. She would iron until almost supper time, the last thing being Daddy's Khaki pants. As you may have guessed, we changed clothes every day in the summer. On Friday, she started up the wringer again and washed sheets. After they hung on the line, she would bring them in and press them with a mangler which was a electric machine with a rotating padded cylinder surface. In the position on stop, one smoothed the sheet on to the cylinder. When you pressed go, a long, hot metal arm would press against the sheet and the cylinder would rotate moving the sheet through it. It was fun to iron pillow cases because they fit, I never got the hang of folding the sheets the right way.
My best story about Mother's method was much later. We had an automatic washer and dryer much like are available today. Mother still liked everything to hang outside in the fresh air. She had been sick and at a rest hospital for several months. She came home just before summer and I was to do the house work and washing. All the ironing would be brought to town and finished at the laundry. The first Monday I was to wash, I did the white first. All the clothes had been separated and were in piles on the kitchen floor. Although the water in an automatic is only used once, there was still a pecking order on how clothes were washed. I brought the basket of clothes outside to hang them on the clothes lines; washing the lines first. I took items out of the basket in random order and hung what I had in my hand. I was almost finished when Mother stuck her head out the door and told me to hang those personal items on the inside lines and hang like with like. We lived in the county, who would see Daddy's boxer shorts? But, I moved them and hung all of his underwear together and all of Mother's underwear together, and all of my underwear together. I was just about to come back inside when the door opened again. She wanted all the crotches of the underwear to face the same direction. Rehung. After that, I asked her just how she wanted it done BEFORE I went outside.
What did I use when I was first married? Laundromat. Wash for 15 cents and dry for 10 cents.
What does my daughter do? Wash and dry with machines in her own home.
Is laundry an issue with her daughter?
What do you remember about wash day at your house? Did you help? When were you responsible to do your laundry?

1 comment:

Rachel Thomae said...

We usually do two loads of laundry a week, one on Sunday night so that all of Jaeme's dress uniforms are clean for Monday and one on Wednesday night so that her casual uniforms are clean for the rest of the week. The clothes always get washed, but they don't always get put away in closets. Often, we set the uniform items on the rail in the upstairs hallway. We couldn't decided what to call that rail, so we started calling it the railb, I'm not quite sure why. Interestingly enough, Jaeme's dad now owns four dry cleaning stores, and it would be really nice to have all of her uniforms washed and pressed for free each week. But then I don't know how we'd decorate the railb, and alas, that would be a travesty!