Monday, February 24, 2014

Remembering Clothes Lines

Julie Lochner Riber recently sent around a delightful email: ‘Remembering Mom’s Clothesline’. Some of the 'Basic Rules for Clotheslines' were (with Aunt CB’s thoughts on each):

1. Hang the socks by the toes, not the top. Yup.

2. Hang pants by the bottom/cuffs…..not the waistbands. Only time I hung pants by bottom was when I lined them up to be pressed with creases. Otherwise, I hung by waist and all shorts were.

3. Wash the clotheslines before hanging any clothes by walking the entire length of each line with a damp cloth. Yes—first time I used lines each year I wiped each line.

4. Always hang a shirt by the tail never by the shoulders. What would the neighbors think?  No—used to really bother me that Grandma Kinsella used to hang baby shirts and knit tops by bottoms and they dried all stretched out! I hung them by shoulders!

5. If the weather is sub-zero….clothes would “freeze dry”. Frozen were taken in and laid over bars near the stove.

6. For efficiency, line the clothes up so that two items can share a middle clothespin rather than using two clothespins for each item. Definitely—with eight children and towels and washcloths, we did not have enough clothespins!

Mom ends with: Clothes Poles were a necessity—before hanging, lines had to be tightened and then poles used.

Her nephew Chuck forgot this rule, but you can read about that further down this story!

WILL we be the last generation that remembers what a clothes line is? I hope not. But here are some thoughts from various cousins on the subject:

From Julie in Colorado--Since I do still hang my clothes outside, this really hits the spot!  My mother had two old tree branches with a split in the end she would push up to clothes line so sheets wouldn’t hang on the ground.  I avoided that by using stiff, stiff wire instead of rope which tends to sag.  Our next door neighbors hang clothes out too.  I love that about our town.

My brother Tim in Syracuse sent this missive-- 'Men's Weekend and the Dangers of the Clothes line':
In the early days of Men's Weekend we had our annual hockey game in the front yard at the old cottage.  That was before the screen porch was built and before we moved the game to the new cottage (probably in the late 70's). 

We'd finish our 12 hours of scrubbing the cottage floors and if we still had time before heading off to church in town we'd get everyone together and play a game of hockey.  In those primitive days the "skaters" used a tennis ball and hockey sticks but the goalie often used a fishing net and canoe paddle for equipment.  The southern goal was on the far side of the clothes line area where Mom had hung several strings of clotheslines between the trees.  

We never bothered to take the clotheslines down; it was part of the game that you had to keep your head down when heading toward that goal.  More than once a new Men's Weekend participant would forget and look up just as he came in to shoot on goal.  Inevitably he was then "clotheslined" and went down in a heap with a nasty bruise on his neck. 

We all felt it was part of the survival of the fittest and if you weren't smart enough to keep your head down while running around the clothesline you got what you deserved. 

From Chuck Lochner also in Syracuse, New York--I bought my house in about 1978 and was so proud as it was my first house.  I was thrilled to have made such a major purchase on my own.  I wanted to savor all aspects of home owning.  There were a couple of clothes line posts and 3 lines in the back of the house.  I had fond memories of my mother working the wringer washer and hanging clothes in the back yard, chatting with the neighbors and sharing the gossip at supper.  I was busy working professionally and going to school at night, so it was fall before I ever got a chance to experience the "wash day thing".

Chuck's House

One Saturday I decided to go for it.  I went to the Laundromat and washed laundry and bed sheets.  Surprising how heavy wet clothes are.  I dragged them home with the vision of hanging them out back to dry.  Not being too smart at the time, I dragged everything out back to hang them, but discovered I didn't have clothes pins.  Back to the car to go out to buy clothes pins.  It took 3 stores and an hour and a half to find them.  Then, back to the backyard.  The first shirt went on fine along with the bed sheets.  The pants were next.  They were heavy.  The line broke.  Everything went in the dirt.  Everything was wet so dirt turned into mud.  OK, I'm a tough guy, I can deal with it.  I shook them out and tried one of the other lines.  They all broke; they were all rotted.

Back to the store to buy new clothes line.  An hour later, I spent another hour stringing the lines.  Started to hang the clothes again, but the wooded clothes pins would occasionally split ... I ran out of clothes pins.  Out to the store again.  By the time I got back, the weight of the wet clothes had stretched out the new clothes line and everything was dragging on the dirt again.  Then, I remembered the poles mom used to prop up the lines.  I used my new step ladder to hold up at least one of the lines and put the short stuff on the other lines.  Almost 9 hours to do a load of laundry.

Before bed I went out to get my bed sheets.  They were still wet and it was getting chilly.  Slept on the couch that night ... lumpy.  Got up for church the next morning and discovered I had no underwear.  Went out back to get them and found everything was frozen.

God and I had a little chat that morning.

From my sister Beth in Japan:
Everyone dries their clothes outside here. We do, too, of course, but I have to keep the clothes inside for months during hay fever season because the pollen would get all over the clothes, otherwise. (Learned that the hard way.)

Japanese don't use a clothesline, they use metal poles. We had so much snow a few days ago that when it melted enough that I could pull the pole out of the mountain of snow on the veranda, I saw to my shock that it had snapped in half!

Most people have two poles (parallel to each other) and all verandas are set up to 'hold' them in place. People put things on hangers and hang them from the poles, and use a sort of handy dandy contraption that has about two dozen pegs hanging from it and you pin your smaller things (the small towels Japanese use for the bath, underwear, socks) to those pegs (keeping the underwear to the 'inside' pegs, hidden by the towels on the 'outside pegs'!), and hang the whole thing outside on the pole. 

The futons, too, are not what Americans use, but are lightweight so people can hang them over the side of the veranda to air them out on sunny days.

Some foreigners living here complain about the inconvenience of hanging the clothes outside, but I don't mind, and I love the fresh scent of things when you pull them in. (We also don't have dishwashers, so you can see, I live a 'slower' life ;-).

I don’t know if it is a slower life, but life with a clothesline out back does bring back memories of our mothers and grandmothers, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing—we are all the richer for it. And, the richer for each of these memories shared. Thank you!


Sue Kinsella said...

I had meant to send Pat one of my clothesline memories but didn't get to it in time, so I will write it here. I am thinking of when I was (9?) years old and we lived at 155 Fielding Road in Greece, NY.

One of my favorite games with my best friend Kathy Rogers was playing Double Dare. Over at her house, she had double dared me to hang by my heels from the top of the swing set and I was proud that, after many tries, I had succeeded. Yes, I succeeded!

So I came home and called my brother Danny over to watch me demonstrate my new-found gymnastic ability on our own swing set. This time, though, I slipped (how could heels hang onto the top fat bar anyway?!?) and smashed my mouth on the metal swing on the way down before I hit the ground.

This story's connection to clotheslines is that Mom was on the other side of the yard hanging clothes on the line and talking over the fence to our next door neighbor. When I staggered over with blood gushing from my mouth, Mom politely excused herself from the neighborly conversation, left the wet clothes in the basket, and helped me into the house to determine what to do.

Meanwhile, Dan and Tim (7 and 4) showed their sympathy for me by diligently searching beneath the swings for any pieces of my teeth they could find so that I would be able to qualify for a visit from the Tooth Fairy.

The rest of the saga was a long and sorry slog so I will leave you instead with the cheery view of clothes drying on the clothesline.

Mom/Aunt CB said...

Tes, Sue, it was a long and hard struggle from there! I did wonder where sge kept her I Q that day!
However, I have another closthline story! Well I remember the day when MOm [ Ethel Baker] Had just finished the wash, emptied the washer and used the last of the water to mop the kitchen floor. I was helping her to push the washer out onto the back porch where it usually lived. Then we glanced out the back door to see the wash line had broken and clothes were strewn all along the line in the dirt! That is when I learned that my Mom knew a word that I had heard but knew we were NEVER to speak! Yep, we pushed washer back in kitchen and redid the load!
However, I am still chuckling over Chuck and his advevtures and crowing over the Men's weekend story1 You can see why I had to check the lines every first time of use up in Canada and wipe them clean!!

Evelyn Taylor said...

Didn't get mine in on time either. I, too, love hanging clothes outdors, but my landlord does not provide me with one here.
In Australia they have a pole, with an umbrella-like set-up of horizontal lines ( 3 tiers of them). When clothes are hung, you crank up the pole so nothing drags. Then the wind catches the clothes and the whole outfit spins around like a carrousel

Every yard has one of these, and they have a dual purpose. There are canvas awnings that drape over the form and this provides shade for sitting outdoors.
The sun is intense in Perth--always clear blue skies. I always wore sunglasses to hang out my clothes.

Sue Kinsella said...

Every time I look at the photo at the top of the blog with the wave crashing on the beach (I know it will be replaced with something else soon), I keep trying to figure out if it is "real" or photo-shopped. How could the sand be so pristine and not already covered with some water? I find it fascinating - and frustrating to figure out!

Mom/CB said...

Isn't it amazing how each ones mind works? When I look at that picture I jump to Japan and their tsunami!