Laundry – it stinks if left undone, piles up and never ends. Kind of like genealogy! I had to use the machines in my local laundromat recently due to home renovations. Check out the picture above – it costs $5.00 to wash ONE LOAD. Of course I didn’t have as many quarters as I needed and the change machine in the facility jipped me which made me even more determined to get our laundry room back in order quickly.
I have several memories of laundry from my childhood which is funny when you think of how mundane doing laundry is. My earliest memory is of my mom running among the rain drops to retrieve nearly dry sheets hanging outside on the line when I was about 3 years old. She told me it was God’s final rinse and it smelled delightful. I imagined heaven as scented with a summer rain. We had a washer and dryer but my mom loved to hang out clothes which my father never understood. She never adapted to using dryer sheets.
My maternal grandmother was the same way; grandpa had to make her special laundry stakes – a slit on the end of a long pole – to raise up the wet clothes on the line so it wouldn’t drag across the ground. She was barely 5 feet tall and used a step stool to reach the line, dragging it across the backyard grass from space to open space. On windy days, I would run between the hanging clothes trying to not get slapped by the wetness. If I made it through untouched I got a point. Usually the laundry won.
Doing laundry could be scary, too. My grandparents had an old wringer Maytag washing machine in the basement and occasionally, my mom would drag it across the basement floor to the double cement laundry tub which she would use to “catch” the clothes going through the wringer. I thought it was fascinating to see the water squeeze out until mom leaned too close to the wringer and her headscarf went along for the ride. Immediately, she reached for the wringer arm mechanism and placed it in reverse so she could be free. That was fast thinking and probably saved her life. Mom told me that she knew a woman who had died from a broken neck because she hadn’t been able to reach the lever in time. I’ve never seen that in an obit but I imagine death by laundry wouldn’t be memorialized as the way to go.
Hubby’s dad lost a piece of his thumb as a young man helping his mom do laundry. As he tried to adjust the bulky, heavy clothes going through the wringer his thumb slid forward and caught in the machine. He lived to tell of his dangerous encounter taming wet sheets.
Now when it comes to laundromats, until recently, I had more pleasant memories. My Aunt Betty, for a short time, owned and operated a laundromat. My cousins and I would sometimes accompany her to the business and play around by “driving” the carts, climbing on the tables to be tall and checking out the laundry product machines and the pay phone to see if there was change left. I can’t ever recall a customer while we were there which could explain why she sold the business and moved on to owning a beauty shop (now that was really fun for a young girl!). I suppose the broken machines were another reason for the sale; we thought it was hilarious when suds billowed out of the top and down the sides but Aunt Betty never looked pleased.
My last childhood memory of laundromats is related to this time of year. In late winter or early spring, mom would take our heavy winter garments to the then new concept of Norge Village – an upscale laundromat that housed huge machines from a child’s perspective that not only washed and dried clothes but also dry cleaned. A modern woman in the 1960’s sure had come a long way, baby! Mom would save money by doing her own dry cleaning of the winter coats; I was always glad to see them folded and stored in the attic in plastic tubs with moth balls. Give me hot weather anytime.
And give me my own machines! In our laundry room, we have hanging an old glass National washboard that my husband purchased at his first auction for $10.00 years ago. It serves as a reminder of how far a simple household task has evolved and I’m thankful for that.