Sometimes we look back with nostalgia at a more leisured past, when women filled time after their chores with knitting and crochet, while listening to the story on the radio. I suppose it did happen like that, and I vividly remember my mother in law with her finely tuned routines, most afternoons were for her personal hobbies, as she rose at dawn to make the house dust free and perfect. She had plenty of time for leisure before she cooked her evening meal.
My mother seemed to come from a tougher background, a gritty and hard working class, who prided themselves on being scrupulously clean. So her days were filled with more drudgery. My father although a delightful man, was a builder and we had a few houses that were literally built around us. The plaster going on the walls, as we tried to sleep. Mum had some challenges especially when we had to live in the garage for a year or so. She rarely complained. With cold water from a tap in the drive, and no washing machine anyway she proved she could take it.
Washday was the big leveller, with no electricity until the house was finished; she boiled old tin baths on an outside gas burner. For her this was essential. Whites had to be white. No excuses. So Sunday night it was soaked in soapy suds. Next day it was rinsed, scrubbed to within an inch of its life, then boiled in fresh water and sunlight soap. After that more rinsing, and finally the blue bag was added to the water, or was it the starching came next? Anyway the results were stark white linen, stain free tea towels, and for me my underwear ( I was a teenager) boiled until the elastic gave in. All that work! Just to have a line full of perfect whites, and striking coloureds.
Washday food I have written about before, and I still love the memory, lamb stew and dumplings, then a huge fruity bread pudding. It was worth rushing home from school for.
Mum eventually had the house of her dreams and a twin tub, which amazingly kept her going for a full 25 years. My Mother in law had a washer with a mangle over the top, and she replaced hers some time later for a much better automatic.
I had some nightmare experiences of my own. In our first flat, which was half of a house in NZ, we had an outhouse with a wood burning boiler, I never quite got it to work. Thank goodness we were there such a short time. The next house I had a laundry but no washing machine for a long time. That made it tough. Eventually we afforded one as I had two children in eighteen months, so loads of nappies.
The days when life was easier, I had the full shining kitchen, my children ready to fly the nest, and I had gleaming equipment all around me.
It comes too late, we needed the mod cons when the children arrived, and came from a generation where we only got what we could afford, which meant we went without of course. So as my family went off to make their own lives we were left with a huge four bedroomed house complete with dishwasher and all the gadgets I needed. Since then our fortunes have changed many times. We now rent, and although I have a good automatic washer, I have no other luxuries, we are going back again, and mostly I can cope, I sold the clothes dryer, and that helps to reduce the bills. Not quite where my mother was in 1954, but at least I know how it feels, as we reduce our appliances to the bare minimum. But I aim to keep my hair tongs, after a life time of wild curly hair that is one mod con I keep!
What things remind you of your mother or childhood? Tell us in the comments below…