Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Bath time didn't require rubber duckies

A bright first-grader once gave me a long, rolled-up scroll he'd made in school about water. He explained that there's a certain amount of water in the world and that the Earth, rocks, sun, wind, etc., purify it so we can keep using that same water over and over. I still recall that science lesson.

Farmers are often hard-pressed to get the water they need for crops, animals, dairy equipment and home needs. Our forefathers learned to collect water in big, wide holes in the ground called cisterns. They were lined with stones or bricks and sometimes with a smooth coating of cement for purity.

Pure water? It came from the housetops by way of wooden gutters -- and that doesn't sound like purity. When Dad bought more cows, built a larger barn and bought milking machines, he had a well drilled hundreds of feet deep; a pump brought endless pure water up a pipe from several hundred feet in the ground. Still, we did not waste water.

If you're really old like me, you might have had a once-a-week bath in a big galvanized wash tub that hung on a spike nail on the back porch except on Monday, which was wash day, and family bath day, which was Saturday.

In the summer, my baths were taken in the front yard far from neighbors or passers-by; my other early baths were taken in our long kitchen, where the Majestic Range wood stove heated the room and provided lots of hot water in its reservoir.

Mom pumped cold water at the "dry sink" in the kitchen and added hot water. The final test was to dip in her bare elbow, the same way mothers do today. I'd unlace my high-top shoes and get out of my clothes while Mom got the water just right.

I was glad to get out of those "longies" I'd worn for several days and to get into that water. Mother made lye soap for laundry but bought bar soap for our baths; it stung my eyes if soapy water got in. Her rough wash rag tickled the bottoms of my feet, but I didn't let her forget the "little piggy" routine as she washed or dried between my toes.

The only part of this bath routine I really dreaded was having my hair washed with bath water each time. She'd squeeze out the wash rag for me to hold over my eyes to keep the soapy water out. She scrubbed and scratched and poured bath water over my head for a long time. Then came a final rinse with cooler water; that cool water signaled that I could soon open my eyes and breathe naturally.

Oh, the joy of that big warm towel! Mom called my brother in and dipped more hot water out of the stove's reservoir and added that to my bath water because he was bigger. She'd bathe Jim while I struggled to get into fresh, clean longies and a warm flannel gown. He bathed in the same tub of water except for the addition of some more hot water.

Bath toys? Bathing was to get clean, and there weren't toys or "drain monsters." The water went to the chickens and pigs by means of the kitchen dry sink and by pipes to animals in the backyard.

My most vivid early memory is that each bath was followed by my favorite supper: soft-boiled eggs with store-bought soda crackers crumbled up in them! Ambrosia! I wonder why I never fixed that for my own two children?

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