A Kitchen Memory


Post by community member:

People have been posting recollections about different things with cooking, mothers, and towns long gone. I thought I’d write today about one of the conveniences my mother missed growing up in the era she did.

One thing that stands out in my mind is her on her wash day.

She had an old wringer Maytag washer. She’d have to push it in from the shed to the middle of kitchen up to the kitchen sink, start it loading with water while she went back to shed to bring in a large stand my dad had made for her to set the two galvanized rinse tubs on. Back to the shed again to get the tubs. Back to the kitchen to check the loading washer.

Once the washer itself was filled with water and shaved Fels Naptha soap was put in, swished around a few times to get some suds worked up, then the addition of clothes by color begun. Then she’d start filling up the rinse tubs. The clothes would have been sorted by color and piled in piles around the kitchen floor.

Lunch and supper also would have to be thought of and perhaps prepared during the procedure of washer running. Once things were going well and I was occupied out of her way, she’d sit down for a few moments and take a short break.

I can remember the strong smells of soap, bleach and ammonia that she’d add to whatever color clothes were washing — bleach for the whites and the ammonia for my dad’s work clothes to get the soot out from his working on the railroad. The hanging outside in good weather, over racks in wet and winter cold weather.

She would have had it so much easier with an automatic washing machine as we ladies do today. They were a sturdy bunch of women back in the early 40’s, wouldn’t you say?

I got tired just reading about her wash day.

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  1. bonita says:

    My mom had a wringer washer well into the 50s. Sometimes she’d have me help by catching the clothes as they came out of the wringer. Still scared me though, I was always afraid I’d get tangled up, the wringers would reverse, and I’d slip through them like Donald Duck in a cartoon!

  2. CindyP says:

    The old washing sure is a kitchen memory and makes me grateful for what I have!

    I, too, have memories of Mom hauling that washing machine around and if she could have gotten it up those steps, it would have been in the kitchen. (Her other houses it had been) We actually had an old house on the property that she used (in THAT kitchen with a hose from the well house).

  3. glenda says:

    This one brought back some good memories.

    Mom had her machine in the smoke house. I loved the hot water, soap and bleach smell. No dryer so all clothes were hung outside even in the winter when they would ‘freeze dry’.

    I am so glad she got to enjoy the modern conveniences for many years.

    Thanks for the memories.

  4. rosemary+++ says:

    I too remember my Mother using a wringer washing machine and also boiling her white clothes and stiring the clothes with a wooden stick. You also brought back to my mind was my Mother drying curtains on a wooden frame with nails?? sticking from it.
    Thanks for the memories. P.S. I have her old boiler and washtubs I use them as flower planters.

  5. kellyb says:

    What memories this brings back. My mom used her wringer washer into the late 60’s. Then she went to the laundry mat. I remember how excited she was when she finally got a “modern” washer. The old wringer washer was in the basement when she passed. I put it on the curb for the trash. Someone came by and asked if they could have it because they had no washer. I wonder if it’s still working?

  6. Mrs.Turkey says:

    Rosemary…..I forgot to mention in the post about the poke stick my mom used to push clothes down into hot water and to lift them out. Thanks for that memory. I have it here in one of my storage areas. It was one my dad had whittled down for her and it had sort of a handle and through the usage of using it…it has bleached out some what. I wish I had kept the galvanized tubs but in moving from the farm I left them behind hoping someone else would get use out of them.

    Mrs. Turkey

  7. Judy says:

    Thanks for the memories. My Grandma did her washing on Mondays on her back porch. I remember in the summer you could always smell the soap,bleach& argo starch when I was outside playing.I lived next door to her. Grandma had a Maytag wringer washer and so did my mom. Mom washed in the kitchen. They both hung clothes outside on the line in summer. In the winter they hung in the house by the wood stove. Now my mom has an automatic washer and dryer. Mom thinks back now and can’t imagine not having all the modern things…. thanks again for reminding me of the past.

  8. Pete says:

    Aaaaaah, the memories. We didn’t have much, but DID always have the latest, greatest washing methods. It may go back to my grandmother taking in laundry to make ends meet without the benefit of even the wringer machine! She had a wringer which was attached to a counter.

    And yes, those dryer frames for stretching linens, curtains and such saved them a LOT of ironing! Remember the pants stretchers?? Even sock stretchers???

  9. marymac says:

    AAAHHHH.. I too remember mom washing our clothes in the wringer washer on our back porch, and I can see her shaving that fells naptha soap like it was yesterday, but I also remember mom doing all our laundry by hand in the tub in our bathroom on and old scrub board. We always had sparkly white and clean clothes to wear.. Poor mom, we got a tv before she got her wringer washer. That was back in the early fifties. I don’t know… were those the good old days?

  10. Euni Moore says:

    Of course those were good old days. Just think of the memories they gave us. I had a wringer washer when we were first married and hung clothes (and diapers lol) on the line in the hot humid Georgia summer. Also, “helped” put clothes through the wringer for Grandmother with the trauma of putting my arm through the wringer! Twice!

  11. BrendaE says:

    Yes I too remember the old wringer washer and the poke stick. Sometimes my mom would let me use the stick to poke the clothes down into the hot water that had been heated on the oil stove and poured into the washer. I used to love that smell of Clorox and soap. I remember how she washed them all and sometimes she would rinse them in the bathtub and sometimes just empty the washer and then refill with rinse water. My job was to catch them coming out of the wringer. I loved those wash days – brings back a lot of memories.

  12. Granma2girls says:

    Yes, you reminded me, also, of laundry Mondays. I loved the smell of the soap and bleach. It was such a great, clean smell. I dont know how my mom did it, with 6 little ones, 6 yrs. old and under.And my brother did manage to get his arm caught in the wringer,too. And I remember, my dad’s long underwear,stiff as wood, brought in from the freezing cold. My mom did her wash in a wringer washer, till 1978 or so,when she got her first job outside the home. Thank you, Mrs.Turkey, for the memories!

  13. hershiesgirl says:

    My mom always had a regular washer and dryer. My grandmother fought getting “those dangerous new electric models” until the late 1960’s.

    I can remember going down in the cellar (and I can still remember that faint musty cellar smell!) with her to wash… at ten years old, I was fascinated with the wringer rollers. I can also remember her reminding me over and over to watch where I put my free hand as I cranked the handle to turn the wringers.

  14. rileysmom says:

    My grandma had a wringer washer that she used after she washed them in a “modern” washer. I think she felt the wringer got more water out. There was a dryer for her but clothes were always hung outside or on a line strung in her basement.

    My mom used the pants stetchers that Pete mentioned. Boy, I sure wouldn’t mind having those now.

  15. jeepdriver says:

    The timing on this post is just too funny. I gave a ride home TODAY to a lady that was telling me about how wonderful it was to have one last time to hang the wash out. Yep, she’s still using her wringer washer. We had one when I was a kid so we shared memories. Proof they are still in use.

  16. Helen says:

    All the Amish (or at least alot of them) have wringer washers and wringer washers are readily available in this area because of it, and I have often thought about getting one*. The Amish use gas powered ones, although maybe electric ones are available as well. The first washing machine I can remember was a wringer washer that my grammy had in the basement, next to the coal-fired furnace, next to the bench where she candled eggs.

    * The wringer gets at least as much water out of the clothes as the spin cycle of a regular washer does.

  17. Helen says:

    p.s You can get wringers from Leyman’s…I have one on the side of my utility sink.

  18. whaledancer says:

    My mom had the wringer washing machine on the back patio. My oldest sister’s job was to turn the crank, and one day she did get her, um, chest caught in the wringer. Ouch! My job was to stay out of the way.

    The wringer washer was a real labor-saver compared to the washboard she’d used before, but she was happy to give it up in favor of an agitator machine when she got the chance!

    Mom also had an electric mangle iron (remember those?), and those pants stretchers Pete mentioned. I wouldn’t mind having some of those pants stretchers myself; they put in a nice crease.

    In the summers when we were at our house in Mexico, it was back to the washboard and tub. Then my job was hauling bucket after bucket of water from the well.

  19. Neener says:

    I have wonderful memories of laundry day when I was young. I still love the smell of fresh laundry. We had a wringer washer on the back porch that had to be dragged into the kitchen during the winter. Clothesline in the summer and hung all over the house in the winter. I remember poking the clothes down into the hot water with the poke stick. My first washer was a wringer and I was so glad to have it. I did have an electric dryer. I actually have a wringer washer now that I use out in the barn now and then to wash leg wraps, horse blankets, etc. I also have some of the pants stretchers too. I really enjoy hanging my laundry out on the clothesline. I have a really nice dryer but I prefer to hang clothes out when I can, especially the sheets.

  20. drucillajoy says:

    As a young child in the early ’60’s, I remember the wringer washing machine well & the old metal rinse tubs too, infact I still have ours waiting to be incorporated somehow into my decor someday.
    A plesant memory of wash day was all the differant piles of clothes waiting to be washed and getting to lay in them on the kitchen floor, thinking back on that though seems a bit yucky now.
    I remember when we got a used automatic washing machine in the late ’60’s and how ‘modern & up-to-date’ I felt…it was about the same time my mother got a wig & I remember her sitting reading with her wig on while the machine did the washing & how I felt like we were finally getting a modern life & I loved it…(got a shiney new pop-up toaster about the same time…we were really livin’)
    I too had a short stint in my life when my kids were little, with a spin-dry washer. It was similar to the old wringer type in that you used the same water for all the loads starting with the lightest colors & least soiled. It was a little oblong thing about the size of a space heater that you had to wheel over to the sink, with one side of it for washing in, then lifting the clothes out & over into the other side where they had the water spun out of them. It was a good little washer, but I was only too happy to move on to a regular automatic washing machine.
    I did only start useing a dryer 5 years ago though, all the years my kids were growing up we hung our clothes outside on the clothesline…year ’round here in the frozen North~East…clothes for school the next day were gathered to bring in in the evening. We could lean the pants against the wall while waiting for them to thaw enough to put over the bars to dry. I had a towel break in half one time in the wind…I sewed it up & we used it for many more years.
    I love any modern conviences I now have, but the memories of simpler & harder times definately are priceless…Thanks!

  21. Jeannie Brazell says:

    Been there, done that, please don’t send a tshirt!!!

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