Sunday, November 01, 2009

My mother's story, part 3

(This story is in my mother's own words; what you are reading so far happened long before I was born.)

People had a pattern for the usual everyday chores. Everyone washed the dirty clothes on Monday. It took about all day, as there was no water in the house. We began by bringing in our old copper boiler, putting it on the wood-burning kitchen stove, pumping water with the old hand pump, and carrying it in by buckets-full to fill the boiler. We transferred the hot water into our big old galvanized #2 or #3 wash tub; then, with a scrub board and lye soap, each piece was scrubbed by hand. The white clothes were boiled in clean lye soap water with Ball Bluing (a whitening agent) in the water. The clean laundry was then hung outside on lines across the yard, winter and summer. In winter the clothes froze stiff and fingers did too, hanging them out; and they would freeze onto the lines and you could hardly get them off the line. That took all day Monday.
Tuesday was ironing day. We put the flat irons on the cook stove to get hot. The irons had a detachable handle so you'd iron with one till it cooled off, then carry it to the stove and get a hotter one. Everything we had was cotton, the going material for clothes; and every item had to be ironed. The material in the teens and twenties was cheap, but there wasn't much money. We ordered about all our dress material from Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogues. For a long while our printed percale for dresses was 7 or 8 cents a yard... 36" material.
We had no conveniences, so our work kept us healthy. Usually by Tuesday night, the clothes were all ironed and put away except for the stack that needed mending. We patched everything; socks and overalls lots of times would be patch upon patch.
Wednesday was good neighbor and mending day. The mending was gathered together and either Mom went to a neighbor's or a neighbor lady came there; and they visited and mended all afternoon while the kids played. We kids all looked forward to mending day. If we went to Aunt May's, they had five kids, and we'd play outside until we'd smell home-baked bread. Here we came to sample a big loaf of hot bread, which was soon devoured by ten kids. I can't ever remember Aunt May or Mom either one ever complaining. Both were good mothers. And don't forget the half-pound of home-churned butter we melted into those hot slices of bread. Yum yum! Each day of the week there were regular jobs to do: Friday was house-cleaning day and Saturday was baking day.
Well, I must tell about our spring housecleaning ordeal. The woven carpets were made by an old lady who had a carpet-weaving machine; she used old worn-out clothes for weaving. They were torn in 1 1/2" or 2" strips sewn together, wrapped into balls for the lady to make rugs or carpets. Well, the carpet strips were sewn together by hand and made carpets to cover the floors; they were tacked all around the wall. In spring the tacks were all carefully removed and saved, the rug taken out and hung on the clothesline. That's where the kids came in: everyone had a carpet-beater, so the kids took turns all day beating the dust out of that carpet. It was fun at first, but by night we all had blistered hands. While the kids were beating, Mom got big old gunny sacks, or burlap bags, and took up the old straw that had been under the carpet for a year and stuffed it in those bags and carried it out to the hen house, as it was good for the hens (and the rooster) to scratch in. We kids liked to get an ear of corn and shell it and throw it in the straw just to watch the chickens scratch in the straw for the corn. Young folks today have missed so much. I'm so thankful I lived in the early part of the twentieth century. After the old, worn-out straw was carried out from the living room, you'd never imagine the dust that had gone through the carpet and straw for a year. There were no vacuum sweepers in those days. Mom would get all the dust cleaned up and she'd scrub the old pine floor with lye water and lye soap with a broom and rag mop until it was clean enough to eat off of. Then came Dad's job, as he'd go to the straw pile and bring back new straw in the wagon with our old mules, John and Kate, pulling the wagon. We could all help to spread the straw on the clean floor, then bring in the freshly aired and beaten carpet. Then came the job of getting it stretched and tacked down all around the edges. We kids loved the stretching of the carpet as Mom and Dad tacked it down all around the room. What a treat that night to walk on that puffy carpet. I remember my brothers would lay down and roll when it was first done. Then when the living room was finished, many times with new paper on the walls and a coat of paint on the woodwork, we were ready for the bedrooms.
Only rich folks had mattresses, and I didn't know any rich folks. Everyone in our country neighborhood had straw beds, with feather beds on top of that. Well, the straw in the big old straw ticks (or beds) had to be taken out once a year and dumped, either in the hen house or in the barn where the cows slept. The straw ticks were washed and dried in the sun, then taken on a big hay rack to the straw pile that had been blown there by the threshing machines when they threshed the oats; and we'd cram straw into those clean straw ticks to last us another year. You almost needed a ladder to climb into those beds, they were so fully stuffed; but within a few nights, they were flattened out again. Our feather beds were home-made too, as Mom raised the three or four geese... and a full-grown goose could be plucked of her fluffy feathers three or four times a year. Mom saved the feathers until there was enough for a pillow or featherbed. The feather beds were put on top of the straw beds and helped to keep us warm on cold winter nights. The old wood stove would burn out of wood in the night, and our house would get very cold before morning. Everyone made lots of home-made quilts in those early days to keep the family warm.

(to be continued)

15 comments:

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I love the idea of mending day. A day spent with others is always good and I imagine it was a boost to those hard working women. I'm thinking I like this woman very much.

madcobug said...

Another very interesting read. Helen

Tango said...

Isn't it sad how the more advanced we get, the less we seem to need each other for everyday living.

Ora said...

Life was good back then...we were friends and family...doing things for the best of all of us...I think your Mom would have made a very good friend indeed...and I think you are alot like your Mom!!! God Bless...hugs...Ora

Leann said...

It was a good life but difficult as well. I miss the concept of 'it takes a whole village'. Sometimes technology is a bad thing.

Loved the read and am looking forward to the rest.

Anonymous said...

We take so much for granted. What a great story

Midlife Mom said...

I am enjoying your mothers writings. Things sure were different back then, so many of the things I remember except the straw mattresses. Do remember also Mom coming in from the clothes line and standing a pair of Dad's frozen pants in the corner for us kids to get a giggle! Her hands would be raw and red. We finally got a wringer washer but Mom didn't get a dryer until all of us kids were up and out on our own. I hated butcher day and seeing the pig hanging there. Loved the bacon though!

m.v. said...

We boiled the whites and hanged them outside too, except it was in the 70's and 80's. I remember frozen clothes as well.And we still have a couple feather-pillows we made out of the big one we brought over with us.

Debbie said...

I'm enjoying this so much. Some of the things your Mom has written I remember from my own childhood. I always loved sleeping in my Grandma's feather bed.

Ora said...

Wonderful memories...and we had a pump like that...and yes we had to haul water on washday...but Mom had a machine...and a scrubboard which wasn't used much!! and our soap came from Krogers...guess I came along a bit later in time??? life was good then...well it is good now...but gooder (a word??) I think back then!!! God Bless...hugs from Ora

Paula said...

Enjoying every word. I remember my Mama boiling white clothes in the big black pot and scrubbing the clothes on a wash board. My mother-in-law still clung to that tradition of Monday being wash day no matter what happened that day even after she had an automatic washer.

Sheila said...

I love reading about your Mother's life and how things were done. I also enjoy reading books from that time period. Thanks for sharing, Sheila

LYN said...

EVEN MY MUM HAD HER REGULAR DAYS..AND THE MEALS WERE THE SAME ON MOST DAYS TOOO..THANKS FOR THE TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE THIS MORNING...

Lori said...

I really love this story. It reminds me of my mom. And in a previous when she wrote of beans and potatoes -- I was raised on beans and potatoes too. There was freshly killed meat on some days and always bacon and eggs for breakfast. Usually a chicken or two were killed for Sunday dinner, and Mom always had home baked pies or cake for dessert. If there wasn't, then there'd be biscuits and jelly or jam, or at the very least home made cookies.

Adirondackcountrygal said...

I bet your Grandma did not enjoy having to catch and pluck those geese! :)