Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Clothesline Memories

Thank you to the following friends and relatives who responded about their memories of clotheslines, washing, and ironing when growing up:

Irene Ashe, Melanie Eppard, Anne Hollingsworth, Linda Kohler, Fran Moore, Ken Robbins, Madlyn Simkulet, and Linda Robbins

Irene Ashe, Baytown, Texas

About clotheslines, the things I remember are "pants stretchers". Do you remember those? They surely made ironing khakis easer. And the little bag that hung on the clotheslines for keeping clothespins in. Some of them were shaped like a child's dress. Sometimes, we were allowed to pin the top of a sheet to one clothesline and the bottom of the sheet to the next line and play underneath like a tent.

Melanie Eppard, Rhome, Texas

LOL, well this sure brings back memories!

I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania in a duplex. There were ten duplexes, all the same, lined up next to each other with little alleys in between on our side of the street. Across the street were row homes. There was no such thing as "privacy fences" so, on wash day, everyone's clothes, etc. were all hung on the lines in the backyards all the way up the street. We also had an alley behind the yards.

We lived on the corner, and there was a lady who lived all the way up on the other end. She would be outside hanging her clothes in her bra and slip in the summertime.

I also remember our wash line being used as a "dog run" and, on occasion, "kid run" when my brother or I were unruly.

To this day, my mother does not own a dryer and hangs her clothes out to dry. Nor does she have a dishwasher. She refuses, even though my brother and I offered to buy her one She thinks they're "unsanitary".

Anne Hollingsworth, Glendora, California

You and we are dating ourselves! I can remember hanging the clothes out because we didn't have a dryer (That name went to both me and my brother.). We were also known as the dishwasher! This was when I was growing up in Riverside, California around 1953-1957. Then we moved to Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, and eventually to San Diego, California.

We made a game out of both. We would toss a baseball to each other to see who would hang the clothes or who would take them down. The same for the dishwasher--who washed and who dried.

I can still remember the smell of the sheets on a really windy day and they'd make that "flapping" noise. As a baby boomer, I can even remember the old wooden clothespins (both kinds). When I was younger, we had a regular clothesline that was straight between two metal poles with arms Then my mother went modern and we got one of those clotheslines that was on one pole in the middle which would collapse like an opening flower and there were more lines to use. She also kept the clothespins in a cloth bag which hung on one of the lines and she could move it along while she hung the clothes.

My sister had to do the ironing of the sheets and I got to play the sprinkler! We didn't have a steam iron and it was fun listening to the iron sizzle the wet part of the sheet.

Since I'm the youngest of four kids, laundry day was fun for me because I could play with both my brothers and sister. My mother made sure all of us were busy on that day!

Linda Kohler, Surprise, Arizona

I also grew up in the 50's, 60's and it was a great time in my life. Since I grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, we would have to make sure it was windy and not freezing outside. I also remember the cloth bag and both kinds of clothes pins. I did not like the "new and improved" plastic pins because they always broke.

We were also lucky enough to have a mangler, at least that is what my mother called it. You would put the sheets folded in and it was sort of like a wringer washer that would move the cloths along the hot iron rollers. I never got to do the good things, only the pillow cases, hankies, and some of the cotton dish cloths for drying the dishes.

I did not like the metal line because it would be hard to hang things on, but the rope line was not much better because it would sag after a large load of clothes were hanging on it. So you had to position the cloths just right so it would all "hang good".

Anyone remember the pant stretchers?? I always thought they were so funny especially when the pants dried and you took them off. They looked like they could just walk away.

This brought back some nice memories that I have not thought about in a long time. Guess I am getting old!

Fran Moore, Powderly, Texas

I still use my clothesline! Especially now that we are on Social Security!

Ken Robbins, Rhome, Texas

When I was growing up on Grant Avenue in Islip, New York, we had a clothesline that ran from the back porch by the kitchen to a post across the back yard. It was first class. There was a clothesline pulley at each end. The clothesline went around both pulleys.

I could stand on the back porch, hang up the clothes on the bottom line, and extend it out until the clothes hit the post that stopped it. I believe my dad invented the clothesline for us based on the ones that ran across streets and alleys in New York City. When the clothes were dry, I pulled them back in and took them off the line. Sheets could freeze if it was cold enough in the winter.

There was a special place on the line to adjust the tension of the cotton rope. Sometimes there was a heavy sheet on the line and the tension would have to be increased so the sheet would not drag on the ground. At other times there would be too much tension on the line due to dry sunny weather. The cotton line would be too tight and would have to be loosened.

Most of the clothespins we had were the one piece wooden ones with round tops and two legs. They did not have a clip on them that you could squeeze.

Linda Robbins, Rhome, Texas

We hung (That is correct English for this application.) out the clothes on the clothes line until I was in the 5th grade (1952) when our family lived in Galveston at the parsonage on N 1/2 Street. We had a gas dryer there for the first time. As I recall, it was in the garage.

Even then, probably on some days we still hung out the clothes on the clothes line. That was a job that my mom gave to me and my sister Llew. All of our clothes lines had T-poles at each end. Sheets were the hardest. They had to be folded in half so they wouldn't drag the ground and for a short person, that was a chore.

Also, have you ever dropped a clothespin when your other hand is in the air holding the item on the line? What a wasted effort. You have to start over again. I remember continuing to do that job when we moved to Duncan, Oklahoma in high school (1958-1960) in the first parsonage in the back yard. One day the sky "turned green" and either the clothes were or were not dry yet, but we had to get them off the line quickly, because a big storm was coming.

As an adult I hung out clothes at my first mother-in-law’s home in Tulsa, Oklahoma and later at my second mother-in-law’s home on Amuxen Court in Islip, New York. I recall that the first job was to take a wet cloth and run it over the wire clothesline to get it clean. Next shake out the clothes and arrange them in the basket, which had a sewn in plastic liner or was a bushel basket like fruits comes in. This was in the day before plastic laundry baskets.

Many people probably hung up their clothes haphazardly, but I remember organizing them so that the sheets, towels, and larger items were either on the outside lines or at an end where they covered the more private clothes, like underwear and unmentionables.

Madlyn Simkulet, Baytown, Texas

Here is what you can learn about a community from their clotheslines:

1. You can tell how many people live in the house including their sexes and approximate ages

2. You can tell when there is a new baby in the house. This was back when we still used cloth diapers.

3. You have a hint of what type work the father does. If there are lots of white shirts, he might do office work or if there are lots of work pants on the line, he might be a laborer.

Go to the following link for stories, comments, and other information about clotheslines:

Carolyn Mandeville, Louisiana

Hanging the clothes out on the line was my job when I was small. It was a challenge to get the sheets stretched without dropping them. There was absolutely nothing more delicious than taking the clothespins off and folding the stiff, sweet-smelling sheets. When I was older, I got to iron the sheets on the mangle out on our screened side porch. While I ironed, I listened to Our Gal Sunday and Stella Dallas. They were radio soap operas.

Go to the following link to learn more about the mangle “mangler” mentioned in Linda Kohler’s writing:

Ironrite Mangle Ironer 78

One of the appliances pictured in the 1946 article is an IronRite ironer... known generally to the population as a "Mangle". (You can see why the Iron-Rite corporation is so emphatic about calling it an Ironer.)

So, here is an up close look at a small piece of the American Dream
The IronRite Ironer
The Attractive cabinet