Wednesday, June 19, 2013


My goodness, we have it easy these days.  The shops are full of ready-made clothes, our food is packaged, our appliances are automatic – does anyone remember the old agitator washing machines? We didn't need a degree to operate them and believe it or not you could, and people did, boil the raw Christmas ham in them. 
We did everything by hand, from scratch. We made our own clothes, sewed and knitted for the children, grew vegetables, walked everywhere. Cars, for those lucky enough to own one, still had starting handles in case of emergency. We put up fences and laid concrete paths. We cut up adult clothes to make children’s clothes.  We darned socks. Old bath towels were made into hand towels and then face cloths. We made jam and bottled peaches. We glowed with achievement.

I remember one Saturday morning when AJ got up and mowed the lawn (with a hand mower) while I saw to the children and the laundry. This was done in an agitator washing machine, load by load in the same water – whites first, then coloureds, then the heavier items – and could take an hour or more, depending on how long you let the machine chug away. Neighbourhoods throbbed to the sound.

(Digression: The machines weren’t automatic, you manually changed the progress. You filled the machine from the tap, piled in the whites, set it to agitate.  When you judged it had done enough you started the wringer attached to the top of the machine and fed the clothes into the rinsing sink while the machine attended to the next batch of laundry. After rinsing – by hand – you fed the clothes back through the wringer and hung them on the line to dry.)

Back to that Saturday morning. AJ finished mowing the lawn in time to put his sweaty shirt into the washing machine with the coloured things. It was hung on the line in the brisk wind, and as it flapped I saw that it was getting a bit shabby and would do to make the toddler a pair of shorts. As soon as it was dry I cut the shirt up and ran up a pair of shorts – poof, just like that – and put them on the toddler, who scampered off to play. It wasn’t long before he got them filthy, so I popped them into the washing machine, still agitating patiently. That shirt was on the line as a pair of baby shorts within an hour of AJ taking it off.

Those were the days! Would I have them back? Not bleeping likely. A boiling ham makes a helluva mess of a washing machine.


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