Kawartha Lakes Public Library - Digital Collections
Looking Back: Wash day
, p. 30

Hooper, John, Author
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Item Type:
Written: 14 August 1994
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Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.35012 Longitude: -78.73286
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Protected by copyright: Uses other than research or private study require the permission of the rightsholder(s). Responsibility for obtaining permissions and for any use rests exclusively with the user.
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Full Text

Wash day was usually every Monday and how lucky we "young ' uns" are to-day compared to what our mothers went through when there was no fancy washing machines that went through one cycle after another and left little to do but to put the spun dry clothes into a fancy dryer.

Remember the copper boilers that were placed on the kitchen wood-burning stove? Remember when practically all homes had a big wooden barrel placed under the eve trough down pipe to catch the rainfall which would be used for washing the clothes?

I vividly recall my mother sending me out to the back yard with a pail to scoop the water out of the rain barrel and filling the big copper boiler on the stove waiting to be brought to a scalding heat then dumped into the old washing machine which went "splish splash" but did a great job of cleaning.

What did Mom use for soap? Well not the Tide or Cheer of to-day but soap like Fels Naptha, P. & G., Sunlight and the likes. Remember when the ladies would save the fat and grease from cooking and, as a rule, turn it over to the church where the ladies' auxiliary would add lye and whatever else was necessary and turn out good strong laundry soap!

Ever make up a batch of laundry starch and apply it to shirt collars and cuffs? That wasn't an easy task either. Jeeps, just think - no drip-dry nor iron-free clothes such as we have to-day.

What is a washboard? Any of you young'uns volunteer an answer? Well your grandmothers used these to scrub out heavy dirt from around shirt collars and other clothing that might have gathered grit and grime and they rubbed and scrubbed by hand preparing them for the washing machine. They would rub on some lye soap and then it was rubbed up and down on the old washboard until they were satisfied that it was ready for the machine.

So okay, we now have the clothes ready for drying but since we have no automatic dryer what do we do next? Simple, just take them out to the clothesline, which you wipe clean with a damp cloth, and start reaching into your apron pocket for the wooden clothes pins and pin the clothes on the line. Of course it may be freezing cold weather but not to worry, leave them out overnight and when you gather in the washing in the morning it'll smell so fresh and clean that only those who have gone through that era can appreciate. Many a time I have chuckled seeing a pair of men's underwear that were frozen so stiff that when brought into the house, looked like a mannequin being carried under one's arm.

Oh yes - another terrific use for that rain water. Try heating it and using it when you want to really do a great job of washing your hair.

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Looking Back: Wash day