Is There Any More Tea In That Pot?

Everyday events in the life of a tea lover.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Washing day in the 1950's

Washing Day 1950's. East Street. 

One of my abiding memories of the small out-kitchen in East Street was wash day. 
I would come home from school to either a line of washing strung outside.......sheets smelling of fresh air...........clothes stretched out and pinned on with the old fashioned dolly pegs. 
Inside, if it was a damp day, or a wet one, the clothes maiden, as we called it, (the old fashioned equivalent of the airer) stood in front of the fireplace, and if there was a cheerful blaze, the clothes which were hung on there to dry, steamed and gave off a soapy fresh smell.  It was the  preparation for the washing which mystified me. First of all mum would have the laundry in the sink, and scrub and rub with soap. This she did, even when, later on, we had an early type of washing machine,which was a top loader and lid, and an integral mangle.  The  whites were soaked in bleach, and rinsed out. There was an old fashioned boiler in the kitchen, rather like a large Burco boiler, into which the clothes placed with wash soap, and the water then heated. When the half lid was lifted the kitchen filled with a steamy cloud. After this process, the rinsing would take place. 
For this there was a "dolly tub" and a "posser". There is a dolly tub in this picture, (which is not of our actual kitchen, likewise the other one) and a posser with several legs. Our posser had a metal end like a bell, which had holes round the sides. As the clothes were rinsed a dolly blue bag was put in with them to aid the whitening process.  They  were used before we had modern laundry detergents with optical brighteners.   A factory-produced block was the "modern" (mid-19th century onwards), commercial version of older recipes for whitening clothes, with names like stone blue, fig blue, or thumb blue. It disguised any hint of yellow and helped the household linen look whiter than white. The posser was employed to help squeeze the water out of the laundry, by pushing it down and mashing it! I used to love doing this! The water all poured out of the holes as you lifted it back up again.  On to the mangle, where the clothes were passed through and the handle turned manually. Sheets needed a lot of muscle! After all of that, they were pegged out to dry. On extremely wet days I can remember the humidity in the living room, as the clothes were drying.
The water from the dolly tub would be poured out in a soapy froth down the yard from the back door, and made it's way in a small bubbly stream down the steep back street. We always had clean bed linen and clothes. But wash day was hard work. And as today we can forget about clothes as they are washed and dried, it's good to remember that it wasn't always so easy. 

It will be 21 years next Sunday since mum died, and she was a mum in a million.