Washing Clothes – by Orpha Briggs


Sister Frankie Jones wanted me to speak on washing clothes one time. This is what I read to the church girls:

Now, I?m not a pro at this. Everyone has his own way to wash. And I?m not telling you how to do yours. I?m here because I was asked to do this.

I want to make a comparison first. I want to tell a little bit about how it was when I first learned to wash. Ruth and I were about 9 & 10. We were 16 months apart, so what one done the other did it too. So we missed school one day a week to help with the laundry. It was a dreaded time for us. Ruth would be in a bad mood when she got out of bed and realized it was wash day. She would kick everything that got in her way. I tried to keep my distance, but the poor dog, and buckets we carried water in would catch it!
We always got out of bed at 4 o?clock in the morning and did all our chores which I won?t go into detail now. But it was really a day?s work before we started. Then we would go to the nearest creek and carry enough water to fill the old black kettle. Then go to the woods and carry enough wood to heat the water and keep it hot most of the day.

One time I won?t ever forget, Ruth went on ahead of me, and cut the ice on the creek to get our water. She drew out a bucket full to pour over the ice to make it good and slick, so we could play a little before we started. When I got there she said, ?I?ve got it all ready so let?s skate a little???. I said, ?You go first and try it out???. Well, needless to say she fell and hit her head on the ice. I think it about knocked her out and caused her to have headaches for some time. So I didn?t try it, as well as I liked to skate. We usually tried to have a little fun along with our work.

When the water was hot we filled one tub about half full, put some lye in it and cut up some lye soap and put white things to soak for a little while, then start rubbing on the old rub board. We would sort the clothes in order (the whites, and almost everything around the house was white), all sheets, pillowcases, towels, wash cloths, dish towels, underwear and socks. (Then light prints, dark prints, dark shirts, and dark pants). But then we boiled the white things in this old kettle for about an hour in lye water with homemade soap in it. It would take us till 3 or 4 o?clock in the evening to finish. When we finished with the laundry, we couldn?t afford to waste all those good suds so we would clear out one room at a time and scrub those old wooden floors till they were white.

Our day ended about 10 o?clock at night because supper had to be cooked on a wood stove and about 14 to 20 cows had to be milked and the milk separated from the cream. So by the time we washed up the dishes we were ready for a few hours sleep (and we didn?t have to be rocked!)

Now I?ll tell you an easier way. Most of us have washers and dryers. But there is more to washing than cramming them in. First check the clothes for extra soiled things. And sort the white things like white shirts. I don?t put anything but them in. Sometimes the collars are pretty dirty, so I usually give them a little boost with the old lye soap, or some other good detergent, or even Comet is good. Then I usually wash white towels and white underwear together, and light prints and light solid color prints together.

I use lots of bleach on all whites and everything that is fast color. I guess spots on things is my pet peeve. Children?s socks and panties have to have help. I almost always have to spot the solid color things before I put them in the washer. I never put dark things with light things unless I get something by accident.

So you see, it is much easier these days. But if I don?t watch what I do, I sure wouldn?t have a pretty wash, like the old time way of washing. By the way, I still make the old lye soap. I don?t wash with it but do use it once in a while to get spots off.

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