Rushville Republican

May 21, 2013

Ward: Hanging out the laundry

Bill Ward
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — I remember my mother, grandmother and even up to my wife hanging the wash out on the line. The Amish still do and I now as then wonder just how things managed to get dry during the winter or rain storms? Every home in town in my youth had a clothes line in the back yard. There were no gas or electric dryers so one had to make do with whatever worked. The clothes line would be rope or wire and strung between two usually metal T’s. If the line was long enough they had to have a pole to put in the middle to keep the line up and the clothes from hitting the ground and getting dirty.

One of the obstacles we learned of while playing slips through others back yards was to watch out for the clothes line, they could be dangerous. I managed to miss the clothes lines but got snagged by a guy wire once. One would also have a basket to put the wet clothes in as well as a bag of clothes pins. The clothes would be hung over the wire or rope and then pinned on by a clothes pin. They were either one piece of wood or two pieces with a metal spring to keep them shut. If my family was anything like anyone else clothes pins were a good business to get into.

If it rained you dried the clothes inside on a contraption made of wood that had several poles on it to and folded up when not in use. This particular aspect was a pain in the rear but at times the only way to go. During the winter if it was dry generally the clothes would be still outside to dry, and get rather stiff while doing so. It was well after the war before mom managed to get a dryer in the house and to a 9-year-old it was a marvel of modern technology.

The old wringer washers were slowly being replaced by Bendix or other automatic washing machines and they in turn brought on dryers as a natural progression to being modern. Bendix Corporation at one time had a washer/dryer combination. One would put the wash in, set the buttons and stand back. The machine would wash the clothes and then dry them all by itself. Interesting idea but not particularly practical. This was a short-lived idea because of the time and additional machinery required to dry after the wash. By having two items washer and a dryer one could do two loads at once rather than one over a longer period of time.

I also remember the Bendix washer was what is today called a front loader and had a small glass window in the door so one could continually check on the progress of the wash. My parents at this time made the joke that they could sit in front of the Bendix and watch the clothes tumble inside and be as entertained as watching that newfangled thing called television. At times the Bendix had much more activity than the television because of the infancy of the television industry. Dad had a Bendix only because Philco did not at this time make a washer. If nothing else dad was brand loyal, especially if he sold it.

I remember in 1967 when I got married Patty would still hang certain things out on a rather ingenious contraption to dry. This drying line was a metal umbrella shaped thing with several lines on it to hang wet clothes on. It would fold down to a center pole and then when needed pop up to something that would hold a load or two of clothes. It was made to fit into a larger pipe one would place in the ground so when not in use it could be folded up and taken out of the ground and stored out of the way until next time. Frankly, I always felt that was a waste of time with us having a dryer and all but as is the usual case the wife won out.

As I reflect back on my youth and compare it with today it is amazing just how far we seem to have progressed. The televisions were huge wooden cabinets that were tall and deep and the picture small. Today they have 60-inch screens and hang the things on the wall. We had not automatic washers we had to do most of it ourselves, no automatic dryers, very little television programming if one had a television. One thing I remember about television was Channel 6 televised the Indy 500 for a couple of years right after television came into the spot light. I guess the Speedway decided that televising the race hit the ticket sales so they put a halt to that particular race being televised. I sure enjoyed it while it lasted, as did my family.

When I was young there were even outhouses still in use in Rushville. If one had a radio they were rich. Rushville had a bustling downtown area and several stores to shop in. After World War II the town had a building boom like no one had ever seen.

Things were indeed much more on the slower side and to me much more fun and interesting.