Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Clothes Lines

How many people know what real clothes lines are and can become? Everyone has hung clothes up at some time in a bathroom or when camping out, but how many have really hung clothes on lines after lines to help dry the weekly laundry? The Otterlanding blog has reminded of this wonder from the past.

My family lived in my Auntie Mary's apartment building which had ten rental flats, and everyone had their laundry day. The washing machines were in the basement which had to be filled up with water through a hose from the large, thick, metal soaking sinks. After agitating the clothes in the soapy water, the clothes were sent through two rollers to wring the clothes out to be tossed into the rinse washer that was also filled the same way. You had to use a very thick piece of rounded wood to feed the clothes through the rollers, so hands/fingers would not get crushed. Rollers rolled again before the clothes were thrown into a basket to make their way out to the backyard clothes lines or just hung on the basement lines. The dirty wash water then was drained through the hose down to the floor drain. The washers had to be filled up again with clean water for each new load of washing! New appreciation of our washing machines of today??

Auntie Mary (the same auntie as in the Diamonds Are Forever blog) washed clothes for 8 family members--her laundry with her daughter Sharon's, my family of 4, my uncle's and my grandmother's. Many times it was my job to help Auntie Mary hang all of these clothes. There were the lines in the basement during the cold winter months, and there must have been 10 lines at least outside in the backyard! I didn't mind helping her in the backyard, maybe because I knew what could come later after the clothes came down.

The four tall, grey, thick, metal posts that held the clothes lines outside were goal posts to play games of running, tagging, or just holding onto, spinning around until you got dizzy and fell! Other times, large, multi-colored blankets, which we called "Indian blankets," were fastened with clothes pins to the clothes lines with one fastened for the roof, and then they were all clothes-pinned together at the sides--one huge tent now stood waiting only for our imaginations.

These were our good times as children, and every day items became our toys--our best toys.


  1. Tam,

    YES! I love how a clothesline is like a time portal in this piece. A simple, once everyday object, has meaning and grace in your hands as an author.

    While traveling in Ukraine some 13 years ago I became quite familiar with the clothes line, as well as the art of hand-washing clothing. Boy am I glad we have machines for this. I remember hanging our clothes to dry in sub-zero temperatures and being shocked to discover they actually dried.

    Thanks for sharing slices into your life, present and past.

    PS - thanks for the feedback on my own slices.

  2. Awesome! I haven't thought about clotheslines for a long time! I remember helping my mother hang laundry in our yard-I thought those wooden clothespins were the best. I hated the plastic ones we got later--they pinched!
    And the posts. Funniest experience there was running smack into one while playing flashlight tag well after dark with my cousins. Ouch!

  3. I remember hanging cloth diapers on a clothesline. You could smell the sunshine in each of those diapers. However, only the first child had sunshine diapers. Life became more complicated after one. :)

  4. I loved this slice!

  5. Your slice took me back to my gramdma's basement and helping her wash clothes with the wringer washer. She had a clothes line with metal poles too. Your line that describes all the different ways the clothes line posts were used sticks with me so much. Your post just gave me an idea for a slice about how my siblings and I used to play covered wagon with the bunkbeds. Really enjoyed your post. :)

  6. I love the way you captured the nostalgia of those days - sure, it was hard work and exhausting, but those last exuberant images were just joyous!

  7. then there are the frozen sheets you scamper around like a maze.