An old camp song is called, “Today Is Monday, Monday’s Wash Day.” And so it
was. Women proved their worth by being the first to have the entire washing
hanging on the line each Monday morning. Tuesday was the day to iron.
Sunshine and gentle breezes made a great day to change the bedsheets and hand
them out in the fresh air. They smelled so sweet when you crawled in between
“solar dried” sheets.
Rural electrification came to Boone County in 1937, and many women bought the
newfangled electric machines. When everyone washed on Monday, the demand for
electricity went sky-high.
Consequently, the late Joe Martin, then manager of the local REA Co-Op, asked
women to join the IWWOM club.
IWWOM means “I won’t wash on Monday.” Many women were so happy to be
liberated from the washboard that they did as Joe suggested, moved washday to
some other day of the week.
Toss a load of laundry into the machine and come back to read about washday,
all over the country, about the turn of the century -- the way it was before
At the turn of the century you could buy a standard, family size, Red Star
washboard -- with extra heavy solid zinc of fancy crimp on one side and plain
crimp on the other for 33 cents. What a bargain! What did you pay for your new
The board was made of hard maple legs and steel rod bracing and would probably
last forever. You might wear out -- but not Red Star. If you wanted the
smaller size, to be used in a “pail,” it was only 12 cents.
Of course you’d need other equipment besides the washboard -- a tub, for
instance. The woman who had a cedar washtub was “right up there.” Pine tubs
cost 85 cents, but the heavy cedar tub, slightly smaller and holding only 27
gallons of water cost 10 cents more, almost a whole dollar!
The Sears and Roebuck ad said, “Those who are familiar with the lasting
qualities of cedar shingles and fence posts will appreciate the value of this
material when used in tubs and pails.” Maybe you’d just as soon have pine and
save a dime?
The clincher was the “No wood known to man will resist decay equal to
Virginia White cedar ... they’re guaranteed never to fall down.” Honestly, is
your automatic guaranteed against falling down?
And how about your dryer? You could have had a “boughten” clothesline on a
reel for next to nothing. Why the reel? That allowed you to take the
clothesline rope in out of the weather to keep it clean. Who wants the
clothesline to stay out in the weather and rot, anyway? Also there is the
matter of birds.
Five gross of clothespins (called pegs by some) cost 53 cents. That’s quite a
sum for only 720 clothespins. In fact, if you have four or five kids, you
might need five gross of clothespins just to hang up the white socks.
Clothespins cost almost as much as a folding drying rack made of basswood and
requiring no pins at all, but it won’t accommodate all those white socks.
Now, quit reading and go take the clean clothes out of the washer and stick
them in the dryer and push the button.
Grandma never had it so good!
A REALLY NEAT IDEA
We were in a youth hostel in France when Paula, one of my college students,
said, “Ms. G., there’s a thing in the laundry room that says, ‘Dry Your
Bathing Suits Here,’ but we can’t make it work.” I went to help.
I started her wet suit between the two rubber rollers and said, “Now turn the
crank.” the suit went right through. Paula said, “Gee that’s neat! Why
didn’t somebody think of that a long time ago?”