How Donna Did Laundry
I was born in 1930. When I was a little girl, I would often come home from school and find that my mother had been working all day long on the laundry and was just cleaning up the machine when I walked in. We hated laundry day, because we had to do all the dishes and other chores mama usually did. She had seven children, and we had about two outfits each. I was the youngest, so my clothes were always hand-me-downs, made over to fit me.
Technology advanced a little by the time I was a mom. I didn't have to do laundry in the kitchen—I had a nice laundry room in the basement. I didn't have to heat my water on the stove, because we had a furnace.
Mom and I both did laundry about once a week, but more when we had babies in diapers, because you couldn't let those wait for long.
1. Once we got indoor plumbing, when I was ten, we had a hamper for the whole family in the bathroom. When I got married, we had a laundry chute in the bathroom that went straight to a hamper in the laundry room.
2. Mama would heat water up on the stove and then pour it into the first tub to soak, using Fels Naptha soap. She would wring the clothes out, and they'd fall into the second tub. Then she dumped the water from the first tub, put in new water, rinsed the clothes once or twice, put the clothes through the wringer again, and hung them out to dry.
My process was pretty much the same, except that I didn't have to heat the water. You had to be careful when using the wringer because it would gobble up your arm if you got it caught in the clothes you were wringing out. It did have a safety clasp that sprung if anything too thick (like an arm) tried to go through.
3. Mama always hung the clothes out to dry on the clothesline. The clothesline had a pulley from the porch out to the chicken coop. In the wintertime when temperatures were below freezing most days and hovering near zero sometimes, she would still hang out the clothes on the line. The clothes dried faster if they were frozen first. They would be stiff when we brought them into the house and could stand up on their own. We laid them over some furniture in front of the Motorola heater to continue drying.
I used a clothesline outside in the summer and I had wooden racks in the basement during the winter.
4. Mother always mopped the floor with the rinse water at the end.
About This Mom
Donna Dayton is the mother of five children, grandmother of 20, and great-grandmother of 24. She's a music lover and prolific poet.