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Thursday, Apr. 17, 2014

When the clock is striking nine

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I grew up hearing the phrase, "When the clock is striking nine, have your washing on the line!" I think the only time I ever achieved that goal was when I was in Columbia, finishing my college degree while Lester was still in the army. We had gotten married, but I had one more summer session to finish before I could go with him to Fort Riley, Kan.

I was renting a bedroom in a house with three families, sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities with all of them. There was one clothes washer in a back room and the single mother who was renting another bedroom with her 7 year old son asked me if I would like to share the washer with her so we could do our laundry together. I was very ready for the help and companionship as we began our washing as soon as she got off work at 5. I am talking 5 p.m. of course. We finally got all our duds on the line just as the clock in the tower chimed nine. I don't think that was the meaning of the ditty, but we had our washing hung up. And nothing got stolen during the night!

Various places we have lived in our married life had clotheslines already established. Other places required impromptu stringing of rope from one tree to another when we first moved in.

The last few parsonages we lived in before we retired were in neighborhoods that did not allow clotheslines. That was when I began using the clothes dryer.

I realize that keeps me from some of the romance of seeing our sheets and towels gaily swinging in the wind. But it also frees me from bringing in work pants that froze solid on the line and had to be carried in like a split board.

In warmer weather the process was somewhat easier, but it seemed that the number of clothespins never equaled the number of socks, underwear, towels and shirts I needed to hang up. The clothespin bag that hung on the line often got raided by someone needing a clamp to secure two wires, or a sack of screws. The earlier pins did not have the spring inside the two "legs" but were one piece with a "head" above the two "legs." These made such good dolls that they also often disappeared from the bag.

I used to bemoan the fact that once the clothes got dried and brought inside, we had to immediately get out the RC cola bottle with the perforated stopper in the top and sprinkle half of the clothes with water. After they were moistened we rolled them in tight balls and put them together in the laundry basket. That action insured our task for the next day -- ironing.

Today with our automatic washer and dryer, and perma press clothes that need little or no ironing, Monday and Tuesday are just ordinary days.

When Lester was an extension agent, the staff never set a meeting on Monday or Tuesday if they wanted any women to attend. They were all at home taking care of the laundry for the week. The men could also expect to have beans for supper since there wouldn't be time to cook any meat. Of course there were no microwaves then either.

Now when the clock is striking nine, I am rushing to get my words online. I don't hang my columns out to dry, but sometimes they might benefit from a little fresh air.

Carolyn Gray Thornton
Middle Age Plus
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