The forthcoming demise of my sister-in-laws mother has made me think about how much things have changed in so little time.

Im only 50 but I remember life before todays modern washers and dryers.

For example, I remember when I was a kid of around 11 or so, we didn’t have washers and dryers as we know them now. Im not saying no one else had one. I dont really know. I never saw one until I was 13 or 14. But I remember clearly what we did because it was all my dad, an airforce man, could afford.

Our “washer” was a ringer machine and you used it in the basement. it was electric and it churned the clothes back and forth, it didn’t spin out and didn’t drain automatically. Instead, you set a timer, or kept and eye on your washer for however long you wanted to wash.

I used a stick to push the clothes down and around a little…to help the machine get everything good and soaked. If the power was out, well then,  the stick came in very handy to churn the clothes around with, but it wasnt easy, wet clothes can be very heavy to churn armed with only the might of an 11 year old arm and the power of a stick.

When ready to ring,I unhooked the drain tube and placed it down to the floor near the drain hole in the basement. This could be messy if one was not experienced as the water didn’t politely wait to shoot out of the drain tube. You had to be fast and make sure you didn’t squirt your mum with the bloody thing on its way down or risk getting quite a smack upside your head.

Next, ready to rinse, I filled the washer tub again with another hose which was connected to the faucet above the  two giant, ugly, old, tin-looking sinks,  people would have used in the “way old days” before electricity. Yes, imagine that, to wash clothes by hand, some old houses were so modern they had built in sinks in the basement! 

When I was satisfied the soap was all out, I would drain again and turn the ringer on so I could feed the clothes through it to ring them out before  hanging up to dry. In winter we hung the clothes on basement clothes lines, and on backyard clothes lines in other seasons.

Sounds lovely archaic but it was scary for a kid. One had to be careful, of that ringer, because your hair, your fingers, or even your arm could get pulled into that bloody thing and it did some damage if it got you. I was lucky, the one time it grabbed my long hair, my mom was there to turn it off. It literally could have torn the hair out of my head. Scary fucking machine. I HATED IT.

I remember times when Carl and I were married, apartments didn’t have washer and dryers in them. Sometimes we didn’t have the money to go to the laundromat and I would wash clothes in the bathtub before hanging them to dry on a rack. It didn’t take an hour to dry. If it wasn’t warm enough to put the rack on the back patio, it could take days for a pair of jeans to completely dry standing in a bathtub.

And just think, my grannies generation, when they were kids, if you couldn’t afford the ringer you always had the old tub and scrubbing board that great granny grew up with. Or if you were lucky, basement wash sinks!

Only four generations of change. We take so much for granted. And I am so spoiled, I won’t even rent an apartment if it doesn’t come with a washer and dryer! But Im not ashamed of my love of this luxury. Tongue in cheek, armed with past experience, I know what to do it civilization falls. 😉

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