History of Campbell County, Tennessee

Time Line


By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. 
I found the following to be a quite humorous but true story relating to another day.....It reflects upon the quite laborious life concerning one of the everyday chores of the folks of the past, "wash day." (The writer is anonymous.)

     Eugene, you took me back in time to when I was a little girl growing up on a farm in West TN...Washday started very early at our house, as there was a lot to do...The boys had drug up limbs out of the woods the day before, and set the legs of the old black kittle up on tin cans so they could build a fire under it...We knew to be careful around that fire, 'cause Mama's aunt Margaret Bell 's long dress caught on fire when she was washing, and she burnt to death .

     We drawed up water till the kittle was filled nearly to the top and built the fire under it, set up the tubs and filled them part way with buckets of water....Mama mixed up the blueing, and a pan of starch...then she carefully toted buckets of hot water from the steaming wash kittle and mixed it with the cold water in the wash and rinse tubs till it was
hot enough to jist barely keep your hand in....Clothes were sorted into piles ...Delicate white clothes on down to the work overalls....and then the mop rags, etc...

     Lye soap made back after we killed hogs in the Fall was rubbed onto the ridges of the scrub board, and the backbreaking job of scrubbing clothes for 10 people began...Whites were boiled in the kittle, put through the wash tub if necessary then in the bluing to make them sparkling white...{This part of boiling the clothes is a little unclear after all these years .} Bleach mixed with water was used in there, too. When he was about 5, brother Jerry got a jar of this bleach water down off a shelf in the well house so little sister Reba could drink it.....As I remember, he had trouble sitting down for quite awhile...Sis seemed none the worse for wear, but has trouble with her throat all these many years later...and we wonder...
After hours of scrubbing, wringing, rinsing ,wringing, bluing, wringing etc., the clothes were hung on lines that went around 3 sides of the back yard....They looked so pretty blowing in the breeze, and one knew how fresh and clean the beds would smell that night... After all the folding and bed making was over, of course! We tried not to think of ironing all those clothes...Yes, just about everything had to be ironed, as there was no Permanent Press back then....Remember the pan of starch? Dresses, shirts, dresser scarves, etc. went in first, then the things you didn't want heavily starched...When they came in off the lines they were sprinkled with water, [A special thing culd be bought to fit on a bottle.] rolled up and set aside to be ironed the next day...With heavy flatirons heated on the cook stove....You used one till it got cold then traded it for another .....I was about 10 when we got our first washing machine...

     We had just done an unusually big wash when we saw a strange pickup truck coming slowly down our lane...It turned out to be a distant cousin and friends, and they had a truckload of used washing machines to sell....This wasn't long after electricity had been put in that area, so they must have gone to a big town and bought up a load of washers....Well, Mama bargained for the best looking one, and we just couldn't wait till wash day came around again....Why, it was SO easy now! All we had to do was drag up the limbs to heat the water we had drawed up from the well, etc., etc., etc *grin*

     Think of this the next time you casually load your washer, add soap from a box and fabric softener...Push a button and go on your way.....After the machine has worked it's miracle the clothes are tossed in the dryer...push a button, come back later and your clothes are ready to fold or hang....Friend Kathy's washer quit right in the middle of a load of clothes awhile back and she had to wring them out ...hurting her wrist....I'm afraid I wasn't properly sympathetic as I listened to her tale of woe, remembering all the times we washed, wrung out, rinsed , wrung out, etc. etc. clothes for 10 people! {Y'all 'scuse me while I go put in another load of clothes ?) Posies for all those hardy souls who ever bent over a washtub with a cake of lye soap in their hand !

     Eugene wrote : I can remember when Dad brought Mom the first washing machine. Mom looked upon that contraption with some doubt, and with her hands on her hips said: "Maybe, but will it get the clothes clean ?"

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