Down Memory Lane

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Washing Clothes

By Joyce Caughron Rhodes

Behold, another trail down my Memory Lane that led to this tale. So many things we take for granted now-days, like washing clothes. I remember when Harry Lee and I first married, we lived with his parents for about nine months, saving to buy our furniture. After several part-time jobs, Bill Roberts offered him a job in his grocery store in Tiptonville. We could now buy our furniture, so we moved to an apartment over Mr. Finch’s garage. We had all kind of conveniences. I mean we had electricity, running water, good heat. Well, the heat was good, the house just wasn’t insulated very good, so we did get pretty cold.
When Harry Lee had a day off, we went to Wynnburg to spend the day with his parents.
He went to Prentiss Wynn’s Grocery Store, while I sat on the porch swing at his parent’s home. He loved going to various grocery stores to check out how they had their stock arranged. His cousin, Mary Evelyn Manion was working as a clerk for Mr. Prentiss and while they were chit chatting, Harry
Lee was rearranging some of the items on the shelves, pulling them forward, giving the appearance
of full shelves. Teddy Algee came into the store later and said, “Prentiss, the store looks really good. Did you buy a lot of stock?” Prentiss realized it did look good. He asked Mary Evelyn, “Who fixed the
stock?” and Mary Evelyn told him, “Harry Lee fixed it while we were talking.” That night he called Harry Lee and asked if he would come work for him and also offered him a larger salary. Well, we did not own a car then, so that meant moving to Wynnburg. The only house to rent in Wynnburg was what everyone
called a “Penny House.” These were little three room houses with no running water or bathrooms.
That suited me. I knew I could “make do,” as they used to say. Harry Lee’s Daddy and I really fixed that house up. We worked long hours, putting up sheetrock, painting and getting up what looked like boulders out of the yard.
My experience with washing clothes, in this house, was really new to me. First, I had to take a container of water to the pump and prime it. Now to prime it, I had to pour water into the pump and start pumping as fast as I could and I was thrilled to see the water flowing out. I filled several buckets of water and
carried them into the house and heated them on the stove until they were real hot. In the meantime, I filled several more buckets, a lot more, until there was enough to fill my washing machine with the added hot water.
More water had to be pumped so I could rinse the clothes. Then, I picked up the clothes from the rinse water and hand fed them through the wringer and when this was done, back to the pump. More water was needed to make my starch. This was a powder mix added to water.
The best shirts and blouses were dipped into the starch and this required more running through the wringer. I carried a wet rag to the clothesline, wiped it off really good and hung my clothes up with newly purchased clothespins. Then I propped the clothesline up with a long pole. The clothes billowed out with the breeze, like sails on a ship. Now after the clothes dried, I had to take the starched ones and sprinkle them, sort of damp. Then I folded them over and roll into a ball and put them in the refrigerator.
This would be for my ironing the next day. Believe it or not, I was very pleased that I was able to do this all by myself.

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