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Commentary: When doing laundry was an all-day chore

Regular life
MVG stock Joyce-Hoey-mug
Joyce Hoey is a longtime Mountain View Albertan columnist. File photo/MVP Staff

I usually have weekends off. My time is my own, to relax or organize myself. I prefer to do laundry throughout the week; as soon as I have enough items to make a load, I wash, dry and put it all away. On Saturday I may have sheets and towels but rarely more than that awaits me.

My mom had a large wringer washer on the farm. Her washday required far more effort than mine. We hauled many buckets of water to fill the reservoir and two copper boilers. Those crowded on the black cooktop of the wood-burning stove: McClary is the name that comes to mind.

On washday we also had to keep the woodbox filled. Mom needed a good steady heat emanating from the firebox to heat all the water needed. I never understood why Monday was the unspoken washday. If we kids were off from school we were required to help.

Mom filled the washer with hot soapy water; I recall that she always used Oxydol. When the soap dissolved, she added the whites and washed the load for a while. She always used two large square galvanized tubs, very heavy even when they were empty. One she used to hold the wet laundry as she ran it through the wringer to squeeze out the excess soapy water. That laundry then was placed in the other tub in the rinse water.

Mom agitated it with a large wooden spoon and her hands to rinse out more of the soap, then ran it all through the wringer again. That tub of laundry was hauled outside to hang on the clothesline. On a good day it dried quickly, flapping and snapping in a country breeze. During the winter it went outside for a while and returned freeze-dried. She had a clothes horse, a rack to hold smaller pieces of clothing, and other items had to be hung by hangers from doorways and over the furniture.

Of course, much of the dried items still needed to be ironed. Mom was an expert in that department. She taught each of us to iron using dad’s handkerchiefs, no tissues being available at that time. We eventually graduated to aprons, skirts and only to dad’s Sunday shirts when she deemed us proficient.

During my adolescent years mom began driving into town to the laundromat. I was fascinated with the line of electric machines, the ease of the process. Of course, mom had to haul the kids along; we helped carry in the soiled clothes, helped fold and tote the clean back out to the car. Occasionally we received a Fudgsicle for our labours.

I wonder at mom’s ability to work her way through mounds of family laundry. It was an all-day chore. Sometimes the weather dictated the day; often having assistance made the decision. I don’t recall her being a complainer. She had a task to do; she did it with all her heart.

Joyce Hoey is a longtime Mountain View Albertan columnist.