Memories of our county – Wash Day Memories

Nannie Maude Reynolds shares memories and thoughts about Winston County’s past.

I run my washer nearly every day. It is so little trouble to put on a load of wash and then dry them. It takes around an hour and a half to wash and dry a load of clothes in our modern top loading washer and front loading drier. While they are washing, we can cook, clean, watch T.V., talk on our modern phones or sleep.  A person can wash comforters, quilts, and loads of clothes with no problems. But it was not so with us as we were growing up.  Wash day was on Monday every week. If it was raining on Monday, you washed on Tuesday and if it was still raining on Wednesday you washed out a few things and dried them inside the house behind the wood burning stove. Then you waited for a day with sunshine. Wash day started early at our house. A fire was built around the big black wash pots out in the yard. The pots were filled with water drawn from the well.  For this reason, the wash pots were always near the well.  We also filled three tin tubs with water which were on a bench near the well. In the first tub we added some hot water from the pots. We used lye soap which was made right there in our back yard. In the first tub was a scrub board. It was made from wood with a tin insertion in the center and along the top was a section that held our soap bars. The tin was corrugated and we scrubbed the clothes on the ridges to remove the grime and dirt. The scrub board was hung on the back porch from one week to the next. In later years I saw a few scrub boards with glass corrugated inserts. However, glass ones were for the rich folks, I guess, because we never had one.  We first washed the white clothes. This consisted of sheets, pillow cases and other delicate things. The sheets were soaped and scrubbed a little, then put into the hot water in the pots. While they were boiling, we soaped the colored clothes and towels. We kept the clothes punched down with a strong, smooth, seasoned stick. The clothes were lifted from the boiling water with the same stick. The colored clothes were added to the hot water after a few minutes and after we had taken the sheets out of the boiling water and put them into the rinse water. The rinse water was cold and clear and Mama sometimes added bluing to the water to whiten the sheets.  We had only a few bought sheets and those were saved for company. We used sheets and pillow cases made from fertilizer sacks. These sheets lasted for years and years. After the sheets were rinsed we wrung them like a rope in our arms and hung them on the clothes lines to dry. When I say clothes lines, I am doing some wishful thinking. Most of the time, we had to hang our clothes on the pasture fence on barbed wire to dry. We were not among the fortunate ones who had clothes lines and clothes pins. Some folks hung them on bushes. That was common if you washed at a spring in the pasture. We did that too. The spring was where we got our drinking water and also where we washed our clothes before we lived at a place where we had a well. The overalls and heavy work clothes were the last to go into the hot pots. The washing took all morning and if the weather cooperated we could bring our clothes in before dark.  Once I had a beautiful green circular skirt once. It was made from Indianhead material. It was very fashionable. I had a very small waist and the skirt was the pride of my young life.  I wore it with a white organdy blouse. I hung it on the fence to dry after washing and lo and behold a cow ate the whole thing! I guess she was hungry for something green and my skirt made her think of green grass. Anyway. I lost my skirt. The clothes we wore in our youth were handmade, washable, very useful, and had the need to be cleansed often. Much like  Christians today, we also have the need to be cleansed often, maybe even be put into some hot water now and then,  we are necessary and useful in God’s work, handmade by God, and hopefully, loved and admired by our maker.

Nannie Maude Dewease Reynolds