Washing or hanging out; what will it be next?

“During times I’ve felt like throwing in the towel, I keep going when I realize that means one more piece of laundry to deal with.” —Frankie Glover, Mount Pleasant, Texas. I know it’s true, he put it on Facebook.

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Laundry. Who really enjoys the sorting, washing, drying, folding, and hanging up? Makes me tired just thinking about it.

Reminiscing the history of wash day blues crossed my mind last week while helping a friend shop for a new washing machine. And wow, was it an eye-opener.

As my friend, Oscar used to say referring to anyone who appeared to be confused, “He doesn’t know if he’s washing or hanging out.” That’s the way I felt seeing how washing machines have changed since I bought my last one.

Washing and hanging out chores for my grandmother were rooted in methods of more than a century ago. She was born in 1905 and died in 1993, never having owned a washing machine of any kind. I can only imagine what she would think.

As per the custom in her day, wash day was Monday. Unless it rained. Then it was moved to the next sunny day unless that fell on that one day washing was taboo. I don’t remember what day that was, but my “faithful member of the Pittsburg First Methodist Church until her death” grandmother was superstitious. So, according to her, it was bad luck to wash on that day of the week.

I’m not superstitious, but I do have one day that I consider lousy luck for laundry. That’s any day I have to do it.

My grandparents lived just three blocks from downtown. Yet their backyard would have been common sight half a day’s drive down a dirt road. My grandfather’s large hen house hinted of the half dozen chickens roaming the yard at any time. Between that hen house and the tool shed was a grape arbor that produced the best tasting green grapes ever to grace a kid’s summertime palate.

The arbor shaded a long homemade wooden bench serviced by a single water faucet rising straight out of the ground about mid-way. And hanging on the side of a tool shed just steps away under a massive pecan tree were two number-2 galvanized washtubs. Completing the picture was a half-a-block long clothesline and an iron pot to heat wash day water.

A fire under that washpot by the time breakfast was over at 7 a.m. every Monday and Granny headed out the kitchen door with her scrub board and soap bar signaled, “laundry day  was a go.”

Her diligent routine took all morning. Hauling hot water from the iron pot, manually rubbing each piece on the scrub board in one tub and rinsing in the other before hand wringing and hanging. It never varied. Finally, with laundry on the line and washtubs on the tool shed wall, it was time to cook lunch.

My mother, who once said doing the laundry made her feel like people were living in her house she had not met, had one of the tubs on wheels when I was a kid. The kind with a wringer attached. A clothesline did the drying, and the machine sat in the kitchen corner when not in use.

Memory doesn’t serve me well for her first “automatic” washer, but Mom also had dedicated days for laundry. Hers had nothing to do with superstition. It did dictate my after school schedule, however. In grade school, ironing was one of my household chores if I expected to collect a 25¢ allowance on Saturday.

Mom’s first “laundry room” was after moving to Mount Pleasant in 1959. But it wasn’t in the house. It was in a closet out in the garage. After the move to Delafield Street, the laundry room was in the kitchen. Or should I say the kitchen was the laundry room? At least she didn’t have to wait until after breakfast to do laundry. She could multitask and do both at the same time.

But what if my parents or grandparents had access to today’s devices? The selection of “mechanized wash tubs” sends my mind into spin cycle.

Up to 12 cycles. Mine has three: white, color, and permanent press. So, what other kinds of clothes do they make that I don’t know about? And programmable actions with WIFI connectivity? I am already connected to the point that when Center’s “less-than -reliable” internet goes down, I’m out of not only computer service but also useless is my television, telephones, music, climate control system, and home security. And now I’m supposed to risk losing control of laundry, as well? What will it be next?

So here I am, way ahead of Granny’s scrub board and somewhere between mom’s wringer washing machine and wireless laundry devices. However, I’ve decided that it would not matter in which generation’s devices I chose to do laundry. My system would be the same as it has always been.

Thirty minutes to wash, an hour to dry, and seven to ten business days to fold and put away.

—Leon Aldridge

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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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