I can remember my mom as she washed our family’s clothes in the old Maytag wringer washing machine. Mom would have me fill the square tub on the machine with hot water and the two galvanized rinse tubs with cold water. The side-by-side tubs were on legs that had wheels on the legs and a drain on the bottom of each tub. Those tubs were placed next to the wringer arm where it could swing over top of both tubs.
Mom would dump some soap powder into the washer and pull out a red recessed knob to engage the agitator, allowing the powder to mix with the water and get frothy. The knob on the side of the washer reminded me of a bellybutton.
The first items to go into the washer were the white and light colored clothing; underwear, socks, undershirts, and dress shirts. Mom would have to out figure how long to allow the clothing to slosh around until they were clean. She would push the agitator button in and the sloshing would cease. Mom would fish the clothes from the hot water with a wooden spoon handle and feed the clothes through the wringer that was positioned over the tub with the “first” rinse water. It was interesting to watch the clothing flatten out, squeezing the wash water back into the washing machine. Sometimes trapped air would hiss and cause the water to squirt high into the air as the pocket was compressed. The flattened clothing was pushed out and into the rinse tub.
Once the washer was emptied of clothes, the next load was tossed in were the bright colors: tee shirts, shorts, dress pants and shirts. Mom would allow the whites to soak in the rinse water swirling them around with her hand. Just before the “brights” were washed clean, she would swing the wringer over the center between the two rinse tubs, running the whites from the “first” rinse, into the “second” rinse water. She’d swirl them to soak the last of the soapiness from them.
Back went the wringer and Mom would run the bright clothing from the washer into the recently vacated “first” rinse and toss in the jeans and darks into the washer. The wringer was turned to the far side of the “second” rinse and the whites would be forced between the wringers’ rollers, only to tumble out and down into a laundry basket. It was time to hang them on the line outside.
Loads of towels, sheets, my dad’s work clothing, and finally the rugs were worked through the washer, rinses, only to join others on the rope clothes lines. It didn’t matter the weather, Mom would hang the clothing outside. (She didn’t wash on rainy days.)
In the winter, she would come back inside, her hands reddened from the cold air on her hands that had been moistened by the wet clothes. More often than not, the clothing was stiff and frozen before she would hang the last piece of each load. Even though the clothing had been soaking in cold rinse water, steam would often rise from the wet material in the frigid air. Once the clothing would “freeze dry” Mom would retrieve them and re-hang them on lines in the basement to dry some more. She would take them down and iron them to get the last of the dampness out of the clothing, either hanging or folding them for storage.