Waiting and washing
A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties
WaitingI spotted the old dentist equipment in the picture above in a London museum, it brought back the waiting room agony I suffered as a child. The walls were thin in the dentist’s surgery and the loud noise of the drill created a dread of expectation. We were taken to the dentist every six months and with poor teeth, there was often a filling to be done. Mr White, the dentist would cheerily approach and ask “Now who is going to go first?” He had so many gold fillings, his mouth almost glowed. I don’t ever remember volunteering to be that child but I’m sure there was more agony in the waiting than the actual treatment. The needles used to numb the mouth were huge. Do you remember them?
Waiting for an injection at the doctor’s surgery was just as bad. Crying children emerging and a distressed mother reassuring me that it wouldn’t hurt. The doctor did offer a jelly bean after an inoculation to pacify the criers.
In the old farmhouse, there was a chip heater at the end of the bath that was used to heat water on bath nights, Wednesdays and Saturdays. We collected kindling for the fire from the wood heap, and once the water was warm the eldest girls got to bath first. The chip heater got very hot on the outside so care was taken to keep well away from it. Water was scarce and on the other days of the week, we washed with a flannel – a face washer. In the new house (1958) the bathroom had hot water taps and the electric water heater was on the veranda directly outside the bathroom. A shower was later installed in one corner of the laundry.
Separate from the old house, the laundry contained a copper tub for heating water, two large concrete troughs and a green tub wringer machine. There were also washboards for scrubbing and a large tin wash basket. Once the water was boiling in the copper, it was ladled with a dipper into the washing machine or into one of the tubs so that the really dirty clothes could be soaked.
At the end of the wash, sheets and garments were passed through the wringer. They were then rinsed and had to be passed through the wringer again. One had to be careful to avoid getting fingers caught as clothes were fed into the wringer. The weight of sodden wet sheets meant that this was heavy work. This old laundry had a tin roof and the temperature in there both during the heat of summer and the depths of winter made washing days some of the hardest work a woman had to do.
The new house incorporated a laundry at the end of the back veranda, but the water was still saved from the wash in one tub, clothes rinsed in the other tub then the wash water returned to the machine for the next load.
Laundry was not finished until all was dry, ironed, folded and put away. We first learnt to iron handkerchiefs, tea towels and pillow cases. Mum even ironed all the men’s work clothes. I remember Monday as always being the washing day. I guess by having such a routine she could plan to get through the week’s chores.
When I look back I realise how easy these tasks are now. As children, we took for granted the hard work our parents undertook in their daily lives.
Be sure to read W for Wringer Washer where Carolyn details the day-long task of doing the washing.