Sunday, January 16, 2011

16 January 1957 “Q & A Sunday: The Laundry”

I thought we could talk about laundry on this Q & A Sunday. We have come a long way from the days of our great grandmothers.
1900swasingbasin This copper set in a stone or brick fire heated stove was once part of the Monday Wash day. Water was put in the copper and a fire set under it until the water was boiling hot. The clothes were put in and you used your own power to get the clothes clean. oldlaundryHere is a similar set up with a washing sink and a place for ‘spot cleaning’.
As oil and gasoline was once a new fangled item and not everyone had cars, the stuff was often used in odd ways. This information is from my book “Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis’s cook book” which was published in 1908. You can purchase a copy HERE if you are interested.
gasarticle1gasarticle2 This section in the Laundry tells you how to clean with Gasoline. It advises such cleaning to be performed out of doors. A good idea, when one considers the flammability of the stuff.wringer1 By the 1920’s and 30’s this would have been a normal scene. The wringer be a wonderful aid, but good old elbow grease is still a main feature. washingmachinewringer2 This lady may have the advantage of a powered washer, though it has to be hand filled and wrung out by hand.
There were also gas powered machines, which though noisy, must have increased productivity immensely.

This Maytag, most likely from the late 1930’s into the 1940’s, shows the move towards electricity. This machine must have seemed a wonder after Granny’s old Gas Powered machine, which worked on the same principal, but was louder and not quite as effective. None the less, it was better than hand churning in great boiling pots or fire heated wash basins. I love how you can adjust the amount of pressure on the wringer wheels for either a heavier piece or a more delicate like mother’s negligee or fathers embroidered pocket handkerchiefs.
Yet, even here in 1957, they are still making and selling the washer/separate ringer models, such as this one.
    I wonder if an older homemaker would just be used to this system from their childhood on, so the idea of getting a new machine that felt familiar was prevalent enough to have these type of washers continue to be produced here into the late 1950’s.
An interesting point, from water use, is that a  typical modern washing machine uses 40 gallons for wash and 40 for rinse. So, when the wringer was used, you saved 40 gallons by simply not needing it to rinse out the clothes.
Ritad Here in 1957 they have thought of every contingency to entice sales of new washers. This ad for RIT dye shows how it works even better in a special dye reservoir in this model of washing machine. fridgidairewasherad The decadent 1950’s in me makes me lust after a set like this. The color (which I am willing to bet probably also came in my favorite blue) is wonderful and the sleek yet appealing design makes me covetous. I love the little foot step on the bottom of the dryer to open the door. Why does this not exist on my dryer!
Yet, the part of me that has been growing over these past year’s in the 1950’s has been away from consumerism and materialism. And, in a way, I think there is a precedent here in the 1950s. Especially for a woman of my age. I would have been a War bride. I would have worried after hubby and others while away at war. I most likely would have had a war job and been a part of growing more, canning, doing without. This was a time when we had to rest on our laurels, “make do and mend” , Victory Garden, and just come together to make it all work out. This was pretty much tossed out the window in the increasing consumerism of the 1950s.
I honestly think there would be moments when I, such a War bride, would be in my clean packed Super market, driven in my own new second car, buying prepared foods and all the little plastic novelties that I would stop, remember and think, “Is this why we did it all?” “Is this the freedom we fought for, to buy cheap things made in Japan (that’s where they were made then and Taiwan) and buy and want?” “What of the freedom we made for ourselves when we used less, made more of our own, and had to work together to make do?” There had to be those moments then.
As I begin my adventure into the latter part of that Golden Age of the 1950’s, I am finding myself wondering more and more about my own current time. The more I learn to cook and can and sew and garden and make do with what we have, the more I look about at our mass consumption and almost feel sick. It almost feels like a blight or a mass hysteria of sorts. Perhaps it is just par for the course with my own growing disconnect from the modern world BECAUSE of my project. I mean I am disconnected from the world more, yet I continually find myself happier and better equipped to live the MORE I disconnect and the more I depend on myself.
Therefore, in some way, I do feel genuine in my late 50’s homemaker status that such feelings would surface. I wouldn’t wonder if it all would last, it was all to new to even consider then, but I would wonder if we were making a mistake. If all the effort to fight a war for freedom only to give up our personal freedom of creativity and ingenuity to simple want, greed, and avarice. This would continue to be apparent were I to have an older life child, as I would here in 1957. I would see that child growing up in the early 60’s with so many toys and so much plastic, soda, cereals, candy want want need. This would be compared to my own 1920’s and Depression childhood. The contrasts would be great.
I understand now why those older housewives of the time would wring out their paper towels and let them dry in the sink. They couldn’t do it, they couldn’t use it once and toss it away. They HAD to use it until it was unusable. IT was unthinkable of them to waste. I am beginning to be that person more and more.
I find it so interesting to me that someone of my generation who chose to travel to the time when all the consumerism and desire really began somehow now finds herself wanting, nay desiring more and more to do more myself with less. It is an odd combination, perhaps the two negatives have cancelled one another out and made the positive. And in many ways, I feel it IS a positive, how I have become. Who knows, if there ever is a lessening of oil and we HAVE to return to an older way of life, I will already be half way there. I live most of my days without setting foot in a car. I make most things from scratch and sew my own clothes. I suppose I could just as easily learn to use an old treadle sewing machine with no electricity since I learned to use the electric 1950’s model I now use.
Maybe one day I will find myself using this type of washing machine.offgridwasher Though, I would probably have purchased an unloved old machine with a ringer like this anyway, but the same principal.oldwashingmachine oldwashingmachine
No matter where our future takes us, we certainly can see how quickly washing changed in a matter of generations for the homemaker of the 20th century.
Happy Laundry Day and Happy Homemaking.
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