Thursday, February 8

Mama Kat Thursday: Backwoods Indiana Memories: Laundry Day

Wringer Washing Machine
I remember while growing up in rural Indiana in the 60's and 70's, doing laundry was an all day event.
My clearest memories of  "laundry day," come from summer time, when we were out of school. 
Mother had a certain day of the week she did laundry usually. I liked to sleep in and I recall waking up around 9:30 to the chugging rhythm the wringer washer already at work. 
I'd see all the dirty laundry sorted into piles around the utility room floor: whites, light colors,  medium colors, dark colors and heavy darks, like jeans.
(The photo is one I found online of a Kenmore wringer washer quite similar to the last model I remember Mother having in the 70's.)

You have to understand, wringer washers only do the washing part.
She'd start with whites, then once the washer finished it's wash cycle, it would stop. Then she'd, by hand, pull each item of clothing out of the washer and feed it through the wringer rollers to get the soap out, making sure each piece got put into utility sink beside right beside her, which she'd already filled with clear water for rinsing.
 In fact, I think both sides might've been filled for a double rinse. Then once thoroughly rinsed, she'd feed the clothes, by hand, back through the wringer again and drop them into a laundry basket on the floor.

Example of a
 classic double utility sink
The wringer head was movable and could be rotated back and forth to be either over the washer or over the rinse sinks easily.

She'd start the next load, then either she or us would haul the basket of freshly washed laundry outside to hang on clotheslines.
We had multiple clotheslines strung between trees---between 
5 and 7 lines, I think, and, in summers, they'd all be pretty much filled.
Helping to hang those clothes was one of our summer chores.
I remember taking down the laundry and I loved that smell of fresh, dried-outside clothes and sheets! There's nothing like it!

Believe me, fabric softener and dryer sheets are poor cousins.

Once the laundry was all done, the washer needed draining.  It had a hose with a hooked pipe on it just like any washer does and had a drain cycle, so Mother either had to run it into an empty utility sink or, as she often did in summers, she'd run the dirty water into many buckets, then carry each down to the garden to water her vegetables. When we were older we may have helped haul buckets as well.
(You don't waste precious well water watering gardens or grass.)

Doing laundry with a wringer washer was a big, involved, sloppy mess. The tile floor would be drenched by the end and she'd have to mop it as well.
I suppose it could've been 2, even 3 pm before she was done.

In winter, Mother would hang all the wet laundry on wire hangers to dry in the house. There were 3 narrow galvanized pipes Dad suspended from the ceiling for her in the utility/laundry room area for this purpose. Of course, we were in school then and we'd come home and find all laundry neatly drying on hangers.

Because all our water came from a well, we couldn't have an automatic washer. They just used too much water and would've depleted our well---which was true for everyone where we lived.The beauty of a wringer washer was it only needed to be filled once and you could do everything in that one tub of water!

Fortunately, early in the 80's sometime, modern convenience made into the our Hoosier countryside and a municipal water line was put in allowing our folks to connect to that and give up the well.
 After that, they did get an automatic washer because, Mother said, all the labor involved with using that wringer washer just got to be too much.

Maytag stopped making wringer washers in 1983.
Wringer washers were in use throughout most of the 20th century beginning with hand-operated models, evolving into models with gas powered motors, then, finally, fully electric models by 1930 when electricity was commonly available in nearly all American households.
I recently read wringer washers are actually still quite popular and sought after. People want them because of their water efficiency, since you only need fill them once, and their lower power use. 

Thanks for Visiting!

1 comment:

John Holton said...

My mother-in-law was a fan of the wringer washer. She had an Amana when she died. I don't know how much it got used toward the end of her life, though.

Post a Comment

Thanks for leaving a comment!