November 26, 2021

WHEN DAILY CHORES WERE A BIG DEAL

This picture shows Della (left) and Harriett (right) busy doing the family laundry!  Those dresses and sunbonnets alone are remarkable.  They are outdoors with two large black iron kettles of water atop a wood fire to heat the water.  They added homemade soap and used a stick to make sure the dirty clothes were thoroughly washed.  There were also washboards for a more thorough scrubbing of each item.  Then there would be the rinsing process to remove the soap—and eventually the clothes would be hung on clotheslines to dry.  It sounds like a backbreaking job—and all the better when the labor was shared by the sisters. Monday was their traditional washing day—and probably took up the greater part of the day.  I imagine they gossiped and laughed together as they worked.  

By the time I was born, Harriett had a Maytag washing machine.  It was more convenient of course but quite a terror for the children.  It was out in our smokehouse and the plug was in the ceiling. It had a wringer attachment and seeing those rollers turning was such a temptation for little hands.  Tootsie left it unattended a couple of times and first Jerry and another time Joe tapped the wringer rollers.  Jerry broke his arm that way, and Joe was pulled into the washtub and had his arm dislocated before he kicked the plug out to stop the wringer action. 

Della never owned a washing machine!  In Atlanta, she often did the laundry (including sheets!) in their bathtub and hung clothes on racks on the back porch to dry or on a clothesline outside.  She may have gone to a laundromat occasionally although I doubt it was often.

This photo is even more stark—Harriett bringing in the cows for milking!  Another daily chore that probably was shared by most family members. As farmers, her family kept cows , pigs and chickens and grew their own vegetables.  They drank the unpasteurized milk and churned to make their butter. Her father had a divided basket in which he carried fresh butter and eggs into town to sell. They canned fruits and vegetables and made preserves and jellies to use during the winter.  Certainly a full and busy life for everyone in the family—and no shortage of hard work!

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