About gDonna
The photo is my son and myself. Now days you can get a photo made to look old like this one. This photo was taken when this was the new look.

Harry S Truman was president when I was born and world war II had ended. I grew up in a time when lunch was put in a brown paper bag and a sandwich was wrapped with wax paper. There was no such thing as pantyhose, we wore stockings that attached to the rubbery clippy things that attached to the girdle. Convenience stores were not common and when we took a trip we packed a picnic basket because many places did not have fast food. Highways had places to pull over and stop, some with picnic tables. Read more ....
 

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Comments On Article: Pw Tuesday 1940 The Unspoken Way

1,672 posts (admin)
Tue Jul 02, 24 12:39 PM CST

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T
48 posts
Tue Jul 02, 24 1:45 PM CST

That's interesting, but would never work here because of the near-constant dampness.  Does anyone know what people in cold damp climates did about laundry back then?  Because nothing dries overnight in my house, except maybe during the coldest part of winter, when the woodstove is fired up 24/7 and any outdoor air that gets in is too cold to hold much moisture.  

We usually get a day dry enough for hanging laundry outdoors about every two to three weeks, and since I don't have an electric dryer, I need at least enough underwear to last that long.

I'm just glad I do have a modern washer that spins things out pretty well, because the summer I tried to do without it, my hand washed clothes kept molding on the line before they got dry - it was very discouraging :(

D
26 posts
Tue Jul 02, 24 3:24 PM CST

I remember in one house we had a floor furnace and the drying rack sat over it. Circa 195

K
79 posts
Tue Jul 02, 24 3:27 PM CST

Another very interesting article.

About clothing. My mother used to say you need 3 items of top clothing. 1 on your body, 1 in the wash and 1 in the wardrobe. She did have 2 outfits that were only worn for " best" such as church or a social function.I had 2 school uniforms so there was a change every Wednesday.   Mum had a clothing rack suspended from the ceiling on a pulley above the fireplace (open fire with a hearth not the modern in box types) and the washing in Winter was dried on that. Today my daughter has the same.   

I really noticed how from the 1970s though my mother's wardrobe became quite full and I that was after we got TV 

I had a "shock "watching a DVD of the Andy Griffith Show and there in his house was the exact wallpaper and wall decorations we had in our house......in New Zealand!

G
307 posts (admin)
Tue Jul 02, 24 3:40 PM CST

Grandma Donna Wrote, Tea S, from what I can find in research is to wrap your item in a Turkish towel to get our more moisture. Wring out the Turkish towel and continue and repeat.  I am guessing good luck with drying the Turkish Towel. :) Also, the old way of drying in humid climates is ironing the item and then putting it back on a line to finish drying. I have quick dried items by ironing.   I would think that for those in high humidity, and we have our share of that here too but it is not every day,  the fabric of the clothing items that we wear matters so it will dry faster. 

Living in the southeast United States, and drying clothing on a clothesline, I need to get my laundry out on the line at daybreak to get the full day of drying. I have a friend that lives in Utah and she can dry laundry very quickly and even put it out in the afternoons and it is dry in no time. 

K
79 posts
Tue Jul 02, 24 3:47 PM CST
Grandma Donna wrote:

Grandma Donna Wrote, Tea S, from what I can find in research is to wrap your item in a Turkish towel to get our more moisture. Wring out the Turkish towel and continue and repeat.  I am guessing good luck with drying the Turkish Towel. :) Also, the old way of drying in humid climates is ironing the item and then putting it back on a line to finish drying. I have quick dried items by ironing.   I would think that for those in high humidity, and we have our share of that here too but it is not every day,  the fabric of the clothing items that we wear matters so it will dry faster. 

Living in the southeast United States, and drying clothing on a clothesline, I need to get my laundry out on the line at daybreak to get the full day of drying. I have a friend that lives in Utah and she can dry laundry very quickly and even put it out in the afternoons and it is dry in no time. 

Same here Donna. I've finished off drying a small item usually panties if I need them and they haven't completely dried outside by ironing them.

In the Summer here no problem getting washing dried outdoors even if it's pegged out after lunch however now we're in Winter it has to be pegged out first thing as the clothes line doesn't get all day sun at this time if the year. When my husband gets the heavy washing g in such as towels he will pop them in the drier for a 13 minute cycle to make sure they are dry .

I'm desperate to get a drying rack like my daughter's for above our fireplace.


.

T
48 posts
Tue Jul 02, 24 4:13 PM CST

Oh, that's interesting, I've never thought about ironing something to help dry it, but I do get the impression (from old shows and such) that people used to do a lot more ironing.  So maybe they expected clothes to come off the line/rack damp, and were okay with that.  

T
14 posts
Tue Jul 02, 24 6:10 PM CST

I'm so excited reading all the new posting and comments. When someone mentioned the radio broadcasts that were done in the 1940s for housewives, it reminded me of the book by Fanny Flagg named Standing in the Rainbow. I listen to the book on CD in my car and have done so a few times. One of the main characters is Neighbor Dorathy who broadcasts from her home to housewives in the area. It is set in the 1940s. Her mother in law lives with them and plays the introduction melody on their home organ "On the Sunny side of the street" :) It is a lovely book and I recommend listening to it because the author is who reads it. Throughout the book you get to know what it was like in those days and how people lived. 

I live in the USA but grew up in South Africa. Things are very expensive there and even though we had a dryer in the house (most people did not) our laundry was dried on the line. The dryer was only used when it rained a lot and we couldn't get the laundry to dry. Here where we live now, we still have a clothes line in the yard. Our house was built in the 1940s so I imagine it's been in use since then. I have finally convinced my husband to hang the clothes on the line when he does it. (men doing the laundry is not very 1940s I know, but he likes to do it most of the time) Anyway, I like that we are now hanging it up. We also live in the South East though, so we have to get it out early in the morning because of the high humidity. I've also taught him the trick of ironing the clothes dry, but I have to do it. He has never ironed a thing in his life! :) 

My grandmother was in high school in 1940 and as most girls did then, took home economics class. I have her school recipe book. I took it out the other night and she has hand written recipes and house hold tips as well as news paper clippings of the same in it. I'll be using it from now on for this study. I also went to a friend's house the other day and she graciously let me watch her make jam and showed me what to do! Next we are going to do pressure canning. 

So these are a few of my thoughts on the posts and comments so far. :) I am looking forward to learn from everyone here.

M
9 posts
Tue Jul 02, 24 6:10 PM CST

These posts really make me think about how much domestic life and consumerism has changed in such a short time. 

My mother was born in 1949, and her family lived in the bush near Moree in New South Wales, Australia. They had no running water or electricity and bathing and washing was done in the backyard in a copper, heated by a wood fire. My grandmother made most of their clothes. 

Fast forward to 1974 when I was born. I remember that school uniforms and underwear and socks were always washed of an evening by families as uniforms were expensive and we could only afford one each. I remember buying myself some new shoes for school with my birthday money as we usually only had second hand. Most clothes were hand me downs. My mother hasn't owned a washing machine for 30 years and still washes most items by hand. 

It's just so, so different today. 


Edited Tue Jul 02, 24 6:15 PM by Michelle K
T
14 posts
Tue Jul 02, 24 6:21 PM CST

Michelle K, I loved your post! We also wear school uniforms in South Africa and they are very expensive. High School starts in the 8th grade and goes to the 12th grade. I had the same one navy blue skirt, 2 white shirts, 1 pair of black shoes, a navy sweater (jersey) for winter and one tie  all that time. I didn't grow that much from beginning to end, but just enough that I had a mini skirt by the time my senior year of high school arrived :) It had to last that long because as I said they were expensive and getting new ones wasn't an option. I polished my shoes once a week, and hand washed my skirt once a week. The shirts went into the machine so they could stay white. (I went to high school in the 1980s and I think we still did a lot of things the old fashioned way.) I think we took better care of things too back then. We knew that things had to last because our parents weren't going to replace them or buy new things all the time. Anyway, thanks for the reminder about school uniforms! :)


M
9 posts
Tue Jul 02, 24 6:43 PM CST

Tandi S. Even though we are from different countries it sounds as though our uniforms were the same. Our skirts had to be worn to the knee in high school. We would never trim any length off of the hem, we would just fold it up and hem it so as we grew taller we could let it down. It would be funny though because you could always see where a hem had been let down as it was less faded, but nobody cared. Everyone was in the same boat. :) 

G
307 posts (admin)
Tue Jul 02, 24 8:23 PM CST

Grandma Donna wrote,  To all, another great day of conversations going on here exchanging memories and getting to read what others are remembering in their past.  It is fascinating to be reading from across the waters and it shows that we have similar experiences and memories no matter where we live in this big world.  Charles and I have been busy this afternoon reducing our clothing and organizing our closet and drawers.  We cannot do it all at once but at least we are making progress.  My mend and sew stack is getting bigger. 

A
16 posts
Tue Jul 02, 24 10:05 PM CST

I had the dubious pleasure of handwashing laundry when I was a new mother.  No money for the laundry-mat and diapers could not wait.  The key is to pre-soak.  I rinsed diapers and then put them into a diaper pail with borax to soak.  Washing was done in a round galvanized wash tub set on the kitchen floor with me on my knees.  Since I could not lift the tub to empty it, I would ring out the washed diapers and then rinse in the kitchen sink.  We did not have a bathtub just a shower, so the same tub served as son's bathtub.  The diapers were either hung outside on the clothesline or on a rack in the living room next to the wall furnace.  After washing by hand, the best gift my late dh ever gave me was a used Maytag wringer washer from an auction in 1962.  I think it cost $20.  

When I had foster babies, often two at a time, people could not understand why I used cloth diapers.  With an automatic washer and a dryer, it seemed a no-brainer to me.  The cost of disposables for two was more than we could afford.  I also believe disposable diapers are a major source of pollution in both the manufacturing and waste to the landfill.

It was 1954 before my mother had a washer or dryer.  My paternal grandmother (born 1895) used a wringer washer until she moved into an apartment in 1971.  My maternal grandmother (born 1890) bought a washer and dryer when my grandfather died in 1970.  She never knew they had money in the bank and when she found out, she got herself a washer and dryer.  I imagine that both grandmothers used a scrub board for their early married years before getting a wringer washer.

S
17 posts
Wed Jul 03, 24 2:03 AM CST

Before I start I should state that there is only me!  I only have to do the laundry for one person!


The property I rent is so small that there is no room for a washing machine; I wash everything by hand.  Thankfully there is room for a spin drier - I'd be lost without it.  Clothes get put on the line (inside out so fading is reduced), during the summer months and on days when there's no rain during the winter .  Otherwise I have a folding drying rack that sits in my living area.   I live on the SW coast of England so there's usually a stiff breeze.


I soak everything for at least 12 hours in a teaspoon of hm laundry powder and warm water in a bucket.  Then I agitate well to remove the dirt, using laundry soap  and a good scrub for any stubborn stains.  Rinsing is done with cold water, the final rinse having approx 20ml of vinegar (to remove any final traces of soap).  I pop the washed clothes in the spin drier and then hang them to dry.  I don't use fabric conditioner and never have an issue with hard, scratchy cardboard towels etc. 


It's a frugal and eco friendly way of doing the laundry and I've found that my clothes last for much longer too! Occasionally I will use my cousin's washing machine to do a load of bedding as I've found that white cotton sheets can easily look dingy when repeatedly hand washed (maybe the bucket isn't  large enough to wash them properly?).  As I said though, there is only me; I'd hate to have to go through this with a family!

A
14 posts
Wed Jul 03, 24 6:02 AM CST

Yesterday I was going through my husbands dress/work shirts and noticed the collar on his new one getting dirty (he wears an undershirt so will usually just hang them back up if he feels they are still clean—it was clean except the collar). So I filled the sink with water and put the collar to soak and then I had a stain remover bar and scrubbed the collar. I agitated and scrubbed and tried to remember my past readings of Donna’s posts about hand washing. We’ve had super dry weather (abnormal for Southern Indiana) and I rung out the shirt as best I could and put it on a hanger to dry on the porch. It was dry in just a couple hours! I felt like I was back in Arizona where we used to live. I ironed it and hung it up and he wore it this morning. I know this sounds so simple to most everyone reading..but this was my first time hand washing one of my husbands shirt from start to finish. Why did it feel so much cleaner? 

s
17 posts
Wed Jul 03, 24 6:27 AM CST

Firstly, I love me some Twister and Queenie so thanks so much for that clip.  I also never heard that lovely song before and added it to my playlist : )

I believe that undergarments used to be considered "delicates" and likely their tendency to snag or tear was a primary reason for the hand washing nightly which I do remember my grandmother doing.  

In terms of drying laundry, I remember that my grandmother had clothes lines hung in the attic which tended to be fairly hot and dry but also had decent ventilation with regular windows (which she kept curtains on!)   She would haul the wet laundry up there to hang when it couldn't go outside due to weather and then haul it back down at the end of day.   That would have been up three flights of stairs and then back down two flights to the kitchen where the ironing would occur.   The attic was a favorite place to play and I remember keeping company with the damp laundry on occasion. 

I haven't used a dryer in years and in very humid weather I just keep a rotating fan pointed at the drying area although I will put off doing a load if it is too humid as the damp weather typically resolves in my area within a few days.  

The fact that we don't have a dryer makes my 21 year old son crazy!  But not crazy enough to make the occasional pit stop at a pay laundromat!



J
11 posts
Wed Jul 03, 24 9:36 AM CST
Tea S wrote:

That's interesting, but would never work here because of the near-constant dampness.  Does anyone know what people in cold damp climates did about laundry back then?  Because nothing dries overnight in my house, except maybe during the coldest part of winter, when the woodstove is fired up 24/7 and any outdoor air that gets in is too cold to hold much moisture.  

We usually get a day dry enough for hanging laundry outdoors about every two to three weeks, and since I don't have an electric dryer, I need at least enough underwear to last that long.

I'm just glad I do have a modern washer that spins things out pretty well, because the summer I tried to do without it, my hand washed clothes kept molding on the line before they got dry - it was very discouraging :(

I can tell you what works for me :) I live in the Pacific Northwest on the rainy coast. It rains here 170 days a year, and we have ocean fog most mornings. I don't have access to a dryer so I only line dry clothing. Part of the trick is to get out as much moisture as possible. Spin cycle on the machine does well, but I also have an old school  mangle (wringer) to use when needed. You also have to leave plenty of space between items so they don't mildew. During the dry season (July and August) I can dry outside in as little as six hours. In the shoulder season, spring and summer, when it is damp but warmer, it takes 12 to 24 hours on the covered patio that catches the wind. In winter when it's wet and cold, we dry indoors over the electric baseboard heater and it takes a day and a night to dry completely. A fan trained on the clothes to circulate the air will speed it up a bit In the past, people here would dry on racks near their wood stove for similar reasons. If you want to go more modern and don't have a direct source of heat to dry by, there are also electric heated drying racks you can use indoors. 

Also, people used to not wash as often in the cold season. You wore lighter weight layers near the skin that were easier to wash and dry, and heavier woolen outerwear that didn't require washing really until the end of the season.

T
48 posts
Wed Jul 03, 24 11:49 AM CST

Jenny Wren, 

Thanks.  Maybe I need to find a spot for a third clothesline so I can space items out more.  Also I think I have a mangle somewhere in the barn, so if I can find it I'll be giving that a try too. I don't think it will get any extra water out of washer-spun items, but I could be wrong!  I remember using it as a young child while helping my mom do laundry by hand, and it was kind of fun:)  Haven't used it since we got electricity and running water in the 1990's, though.

Sara M.,

I really love the idea of drying laundry in a well ventilated attic.  Sadly I think mine would end up with mold problems if I did that, but I can just picture your grandmother's attic with a bit of breeze coming through the open windows :D

M
1 posts
Wed Jul 03, 24 5:07 PM CST

I was born in 1942.  My family and I lived in rental houses until I was about nine years old at which time we purchased a home.  During that time most of the rentals did not have bathrooms.  Some did not have running water.  One place did not have a bathroom, running water or electricity.  "Sponge baths" as we called them were common in our house.  The ice man came bringing a big chunk of ice for the small ice box.  My mother drew water from the well and carried it to the house for every need, including laundry, which was done with a washtub and a rubboard. Once we had electricity in our "new house", they purchased a wringer washing machine which she used for many, many years. She had one "good" dress for church and funerals and a few house dresses.  No closet overflowing with clothes we do not wear.  Life was very hard back then, especially for my mother.  Even as a small family of three, we found it hard to live in three rooms we rented from the family that occupied the rest of the house.

I love your blog.  It brings back SO MANY old memories of a life I would go back to in a minute if I could.  Hard as it was, people were kind, neighbor helped neighbor, children and women were safe no matter where they went in our neck of the woods. People of all economic levels had manners and respect for themselves and each other.  They cared about their appearance.  Children were taught to behave and to respect their elders.  We have come a long way since those days but I don't think all our advancements have necessarily been good.

Look forward to your next blog post.

M

A
16 posts
Wed Jul 03, 24 5:10 PM CST

Perma press fabrics did not come into being until mid-to-late 1960's.  Before that almost everything needed to be ironed.  I never ironed sheets, but many people did.  However, I did iron pillowcases.  If you were careful how you hung sheets on the clothesline, they did not need ironed.  All sheets were flat, it was a few years before fitted sheets became a thing.

My mother had three older brothers plus her dad and talked about having to iron their underwear.  Probably cotton button fronts before underwear knits were available.  Most girls started ironing with handkerchiefs and pillowcases.  My grandmother broke her arm and suddenly I was ironing white dress shirts for grandpa and grandma's dresses when I was 12.  No one showed me how, but my aunt (bless her) invited me to iron in front of her a/c.  Uncle was a banker, so they could afford a/c.  I really struggled but think I did an okay job.   I didn't want to disappoint my grandparents.  

Can you imagine the difficulty of ironing before electric irons?  It must have been a huge job.  There was kerosene fired irons before electric, but I never heard anyone talk about using them.  I have seen them in museums though.  Mostly it was flat irons heated on the cookstove which thank God was before my time.  

When clothes were taken off the line, the ironing was separated out.  The ironing was then held until ironing day and was dampened and rolled the night before.  No steam irons then.  If you didn't get everything ironed, it was put in the fridge for the next day so it would not mildew.  Also, as part of laundry you had to starch many items such as pillowcases, curtains, tablecloths, dresses and men's shirts.  The items I most hated to iron were men's dress shirts and men's pants.  BTW men's dress shirts were always long sleeved until the mid-60's.

My dh wore dress shirts and when perma press became a thing and the first thing I did was replace all his shirts!!  

BTW in the 1940's and 1950's everyone carried handkerchiefs.  The first part of our school day was showing our hands were washed and that we had a clean hankie.  I think we were also asked if we'd brushed our teeth, washed our faces and combed our hair.  Mostly baths were Saturday nights with a touch up before bed each night.  I started first grade at age 5 in 1948.  The Pledge was said each morning and at that time "under God" was not yet added.  Boys could not wear hats inside and girls had to wear dresses.  In fact, I had to wear dresses thru all my school years except one school I attended for one year allow jeans.  Another school allowed slacks only on Friday's because Fridays were ballgame days. 

K
79 posts
Thu Jul 04, 24 12:27 AM CST

Handwashing.

I got 2 pure wool blankets out of our hot water cupboard and was shocked to see them both badly water stained obviously from a leaking ceiling in the cupboard. I washed them in the washing machine but when hung on the line outside the stains were still there. I brought the worse one inside and put it in the bath . Put warm water on then rubbed the whole blanket all over ( that was a workout  hahaha) with  Sunlight soap NZ.

I then left it overnight and the next day gentle washed it in the machine and hello stains gone. When I have a stain to deal with I will soap up the item and always leaved it soapy overnight and wash the next day.

My mother had a copper when first married to wash in but most memory is the wringer washing machine. Once i caught my.long hair in the rollers but did not panic and just turned the handle so the rollers went the other way bringing my hair back out. I always loved my own wringer washer. Just something therapeutic to use one. 


Edited Thu Jul 04, 24 12:28 AM by Karen S
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