Out On The Mudline

Old ‘Washing Machine’ Not Really Missed

By W. P. Sissell

The Cycle

Manufacturers must work together so that a set of home machines wear out together.  Only a few months ago it became necessary for us to replace our dishwasher.  

The alternative was that I become the major dishwasher here—at that time I was the sometimes dish towel user—if I thought about it or was reminded. I, in no way, desired a full time dish washing job. Leave me in the outside world. We replaced the dishwasher. Neither Nannette nor I have finished reading the instruction book on that new machine (we are true Americans—only read instruction books as a last resort). It, like your automobile, along with most machines today is computer controlled.

My young grandson, who is enrolled in the John Deere mechanic program at Northwest, tells me that the latest combines require many computers to control the machine. A diagnostician attaches the machine to computers and locates the/a problem after which mechanics correct the problem.

When we started use of our new dishwasher (got it from Sears Roebuck—where else?) the thing buzzed and hummed for a few seconds and a little light started winking. After a few minutes of this (Nannette was availing herself of the instruction book information) a lighted seventy-five showed in the spot where the winking light had been and washing started. Now Nannette told me that the seventy-five meant that it would take the washer that many minutes to remove all the soil from the dishes we had placed in its innards (my mind attempted to calculate the cost of those seventy-five minutes—water bill and electric bill), maybe it would be best to go back to the old dish pan and wash rag. We stayed with the new dishwasher.

Continuation of the Cycle

 As you know the other two parts of the household equipment are a clothes washer and a drier. Both these machines belonging to us were aged, although they were still in operation, some cycles no longer worked on each and we decided to go the replacement route for this time there is no equivocation—we hope we never have to go back to the old wash days.  When we first moved to the Dry Bayou place where most pump water is loaded with minerals we pumped a barrel—fifty-five gallons—and let it stand overnight after adding lye to it (we slacked it) to remove the minerals that would stain the clothes.

Washday always began with a sorting of the clothing and arrangement of the pot and tubs. The tubs must always be set so that the smoke from the fire under the pot did not get in your eyes.  After the water was hot, usually a full bar of soap was shaved into the hot water and the clothes added to the boiling water.

Pure Water and the Boiling (Biling) Pot

Sometimes people used water from a spring ditch. Unless you had a pure water spring stream near the house this, in many cases, called for moving the washing some distance from the house. The washing called for a large cast iron pot for heating water. This was for boiling the clothes. You can find such a pot in my lawn mower shed—an emblem of antiquity. My friend, Hugh Hunt, who grew up in the Oakland area says that they went down to a flowing stream near the house on wash day. Hugh finally gave in to making the old pot a flower pot (calls for a drainage hole in the bottom).

The  Washing

The first tub held hot soapy water and a corrugated board (the rub board). This was used to get the dirtiest spots clean.  Our old rub board hangs on the wall of our deck—hopefully retired forever in favor of computerized washing machines.

After the scrubbing all the clothes went into the pot of boiling water. From the boiling pot all clothes came back to the rubbing tub. After some further rubbing all the clothes went to the rinsing tub for the removal of the soap. Bluing added to the rinse water restored the brightness of the colors and especially the white cloth. After this, all clothes were hung out to dry, preferably in the bright sunshine.

The Finish

At the close of the washing I know Nannette’s mother usually gave their dogs a bath with the warm and cool water from the tubs.  Some people might scrub the porches with the hot soapy water,  then turn the tubs and pot upside down (be sure to put a rock or brick under one side of that pot—makes it easier to turn up right again.).

The last thing to do is go put on a clean dress, smooth ones hair, brew a cup of tea, go set and rock a spell and count your blessings.

Now I never did a washday by myself but I helped Momma with many and I checked with Nannette who referred me to Tishie Cubell Morgan who has done many washings in her ninety years.  We do love our new washer and drier. If you think this is a dreary story just think of all the people who did this at least 52  times a year.  Gertrude Kerr, Ed’s wife washed for many folks—Cubell told me that Gertrude was really a good, fast washer.  I wonder how many times I saw Gertrude walking home after washing for someone in town at five o’clock in the morning (she had walked to town earlier).  When she got home she would cook for her family and carry dinner to them, down in the bottom where O’tuckalofa runs into Yocona. After this she would pick three hundred pounds of cotton.  We never built them a cotton pen—only a tarp stretched on the ground—they picked a bale every other day.

Thanks for your many accolades—they are appreciated.  Our wish for you is a great week.   You can reach me at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606 or 662-563-9879.

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