KANSAS COLLECTION ARTICLES
Contributed by MERLE (BUS) CORNELIUS and produced by SUSAN STAFFORD.



Washing Day, About 1920, by Bus Cornelius


     Unless I write this down, it will pass in time and be forgotten, now it seems in our part of the country and our family, Monday was always wash day. Why I really do not know, but it could be, kids are in school, Dadís at work and everybody else is washing.

     I will write what I remember in our little town, Lane Kansas. Washing was a very diflicult chore. In about 1925. I remember grocery stores did not have all the washing soap we have today, and most families could not afford them. I do remember Oxidol and Maw Perkins on radio selling it. During the winter almost every one would butcher a fat pig they had raised for the meat. A ham home cured with Mortonís salt, sewed inside of a cloth bag and paint it with flour and water paste. Fresh pork tenderloins, pickled pigs feet? Never did like those. The fat and skin was thrown into a big black iron kettle about three feet across and eighteen inches deep. This was heated on an outside fire until the fat was rendered out and the skin had become crackling which we strained off and fed back to the pigs. I think the only thing that we added was some lye and let this cool and it became a brown soap. Some people would add some things to try to make it smell a little better. But it was still old home made brown soap, it would clean most any thing including take the skin off of your hands. For a lot of people this was the only soap they had.

     Then you would cut it into chunks. Get out the double boiler and heat some water, start rubbing that home made soap, the long underwear up and down the wash board. Not many suds, back breaking. Then you had a tub with regular water which you added bluing, turned the water a light blue and you would rinse the cloths in this. In early times you would twist one end of the underwear one way and the other end the other way. In time they came up with the hand ringer. We used the same tub for a bath on Saturday night that we used for the bluing rinse. Most of this water was carried from the well, one woman did not have a well and at times she would carry it from the Pottawatomie Creek. After you had washed every thing we would take the wash water around to the front porch and wash it down with the old soapy water.

     Now some people did not have the room in their house, some had wash house or sheds and some people even in winter did all this out side. In our small town I can remember one washer women did this almost every day for other people who could afford it. Such as the bankers wife. The ironing it was done by a flat iron which was heated on the old wood stove, this was OK in the winter time, but in the summer you did not need that wood stove going in your hot house to heat the irons.

     We had a large back porch, we heated the brass double boiler ( I say brass I do not know where that came from they were all copper) full of water. In 1926 we purchased a Maytag Washing Machine, every one in town came to see it and my aunt would wash her clothes at her house and then bring them to our house to run them through the ringer. The double boiler would be heated over our coal oil stove, I remember my mother getting up very early to start the fires under the double boiler so she could have hot water.

     In the winter time they would hang the long underwear on the clothes-line and it would freeze that long underwear in the shape of a man. I can remember my mother carrying them inside the house and stacking them in a corner and when you first look over there you thought dad was standing over there in his long johns. In the spring what a glorious day it was when you could take that long underwear off.

     The out side clothes-line was usually several wires between poles or trees and about six feet in the air. Naturally the middle sagged and they would place a temporary pole in the center to hold the clothes up off the ground. Now some times at night some one would run through the yard and the temporary pole was not in place and run into the clothes-line under their chin, what a rude awaking! This happened to many kids as we were playing games and one drunk which is a different story.


blue to silver 3D divider

Contents