Thursday, March 21, 2013


But Where Will We Get the Water?

All the area where we live had hard water.  From Eldorado south and east, Sandy Creek and east, from Eldorado to the River and east, the water was filled with gypsum.  It was hard and you couldn't get suds to clean the clothes.  One could use pond water, that would be rain runoff from the hills around and probably had cattle drinking, walking, doing their thing it, so probably not the best.  Well water had the gyp.  Cistern water was from rain off the roofs.  That would be okay, but you might need it to cook, drink and bathe.

Granny and Papa had two cisterns.  So if they were full, they might have used some of their rain water.  She did have a washing machine, the old ringer type, they were all that way.  And I think her machine had an electric motor.  I remember Daddy saying she boiled the clothes in the big black kettle over a fire in the back yard.  They used lye soap and rubbed the clothes on a scrub board.  I don't know how that worked, because I thought lye soap wouldn't make suds.  In summer when it didn't rain, and it almost never rained, Mother took our clothes to Mother Shumaker's house.  They had a gas engine on their washer.  They brought it out into the yard, set up the wash pot, built a fire underneath and put in water from the cow pond just to the east of the house.  Myrl and Byrl pulled a two wheeled trailer with two fifty-five gallon barrels behind the tractor.  One stood on a rock at the pond's edge and dipped the water with a bucket while the other grabbed the bail and dumped into the barrel.  They drove up into the yard next to the washing operation so the women could have all the water they needed.

Generally Mother took her washing home and hung it on our own clothes lines.  Mother Shumaker didn't have any close lines.  She layed her wash over the barbed wire fence and on the limbs of a big mesquite tree.  More often Mother, and maybe Mother Shumaker, took our laundry to the Laundromat in town.  They had two or three huge boilers to soften the water.  The ringer washers and tubs were all set up along an open gutter with boards in place so no one stepped or fell into it.  The first I remember being there, I was five years old.  Mr. Conner was the owner.  I remember he asked how old I was.  I held up five fingers.  He said, "Well, it takes your whole hand to tell your age."  I thought that was pretty cool.

When Uncle Udell came home for his grandma's funeral, she was Mrs. Massey, he and Aunt Bonnie decided to go ahead and get married, rather than wait for the war to be over.  So maybe they made the arrangements at that time to buy the Laundromat.  I know it didn't seem long to me, after he got back that they were running it.  They had a little trailer house parked in back where they lived.  They were living there when Ronald was born.  Udell was a hard working man.  He reorganized the Laundry and moved the boilers from the front windows to the back corner.  He up dated and installed a machine to spin water out of the clothes, so when they were hung on the line they dried faster.  They also made and had ready to use starch, available for ladies who might want it.  Starching was a big part of clothes care in those days.  All Sunday type clothing: shirts, collars, blue jeans, bonnets (and 0, did they wear bonnets) needed to be starched, hung up to dry, then mended if necessary, ironed and hung on hangers ready for the next using.

There was a charge for the starch and the use of the clothes spinner.  If the weather might be humid or it was winter the drying time could be quite a while.  If it was summer time or a good south wind was blowing, the clothes might be dry by the time you finished hanging them on the line.  In that event, one returned to the other end of the line, taking down and hanging the next line full.  If the wind was blowing pretty stiff, you had to watch it or the starch would get whipped right out of the cloth.

After Uncle Udell died, Aunt Bonnie continued on in the Laundromat until she had run it a total of fifty years.  Ronald was a huge help.  He stepped in as a very early teen to do his part.  The other kids helped also and Mother Shumaker was living in town by then.  She was there to make a meal, baby set a kid and always to sew and writing letters to family far afield.

1 comment:

  1. You were talking about lye soap not making suds. It didn't in the hard or gyp water. It did suds in soft or rain water. That was fun times even if it was a lot of hard work.
    Have a wonderful evening.