My grandmother would have begun her married life as a soon-to-be prodigious washer of clothes with a large copper boiler like the one I use decoratively in the garden. Water would first have had to be hauled by the boys from the pump and then heated on top of of the wood stove with lye soap. Once added to the boiling water, the clothes would have been stirred with a stick and sometimes scrubbed against a washboard, before being rinsed with clean water - cue more hauling and more heating. The toughest work, though, must have been the hand-wringing and I am sure that the advent of wringer washers would have been a blessing; I hope that she had one in her last years.
My mother’s clothes-washing days would have begun with just such a washer in our basement on Kingsway. I can vaguely remember the machine, probably because the sight of it was always accompanied by dire warnings to keep my fingers and hair away from the rollers. I loved to feed clothes into it even though I was properly terrified of finding a large flat hand coming through on the other side. Mom hovered a lot. For that and many other reasons it was a happy day for her when she got her first (and only) automatic washer - an Eaton's Viking. It was still working when she moved into a seniors’ home fifty years later. The concept of “planned obsolescence” hadn’t been invented yet.
An automatic dryer accompanied Mom’s new washer even though the backyard boasted a modern new square clothes line set-up which obediently whirled when I twisted it. Frankly, I preferred the old-fashioned long line which could be hauled in and out but I suspect my mother was still getting over the early days of hanging diapers on the line in 50 below weather and needed no reminders of that time in her life. She said that the wash, which had solidified, stiffened and sublimated in the cold, was a challenge to fold. She may have mentioned raw red hands too but I'm suspect I wasn't half as sympathetic as I should have been. If memory serves, the dryer got constant use in cold weather; when it came to laundry, Mom was no martyr.
Even so, she still hung the clothes outside in the summer. Do you remember the wonderful smell of line-dried clean clothing? I still love it, but a Southern Ontario summer quickly put paid to that little pleasure. I grew up in dry prairie air which dried everything quickly and efficiently. Imagine my surprise the first time I went to bring in the clothes here and found them limp instead of crisp almost a day later. It baffled me, who had no concept of humidity beyond its scientific description. Using a curling iron on my straight hair in this wet air had much the same result. I finally gave in, bowing to the necessity of ponytail clips and a clothes dryer.
So I hope you will forgive the hypocrisy of my painting a clothesline blowing smartly in the wind. Put it down to genetic memory (which is receiving a lot of press this year). Someone else might channel vestiges of ancestral abilities. I get laundry.