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Chuck Hinman, IJMA No. 072 : Saturday Night Baths

It's Just Me Again. No. 72. Saturday Night Baths Some can still remember the ritual.
The next earlier Chuck Hinman story: Where Does Butter Come From Part IIIs Chuck Hinman your favorite Sunday with CM columnist, as many tell us? If so, we hope you'll drop him a line by email. Reader comments to CM are appreciated, as are emails directly to Mr. Hinman at:
By Chuck Hinman

When you get to be 88 years old, the days of your life start slipping by and it seems like each day is just like the day before. Nothing changes.

But that isn't necessarily so. What happened to Saturday night baths? It seems like just last week I had one. Do any of you here at Tallgrass Estates remember Saturday night baths? How would you explain to your grandchildren what a Saturday night bath is (or was)? I'm warning you to expect to hear the word "gross" in their response!

Many of our grandchildren who have a bath or shower every day of the week will never believe that a large percentage of their grandparents can remember a time when the whole family took a Saturday night bath in a large galvanized wash tub placed on the floor in the kitchen. Many houses did not have a bathroom or running water and certainly not heated water.

Here's how that strange custom of Saturday night baths worked.

Particularly if it was in the winter time, water was heated on the wood burning kitchen stove. It was then placed in a large galvanized wash tub set in the middle of the kitchen floor with additional cold water added to fill the tub about half full.

A wooden chair was pulled nearby the tub and a stool with the bar of bath soap and a stash of bath towels and wash cloths. You sat on the chair with your feet in the water and stood up in the tub as necessary to get at "everything." Remember? Of course, you do.

And no, we didn't all use the same bath towel or wash cloth. After all we were not "heathen." We had some SENSE OF PRIVACY although you are probably wondering how we could share bath water and feel "private" about that.

Continuing with the Saturday night bath custom, we began late Saturday afternoons, the mommas and the girls took their baths first. They hadn't worked in the dusty sweaty fields all week and so weren't as dirty. As Saturday evening and the bath ritual wore on, the boys took their turn taking their baths in the common bath water until last of all, the daddy who presumably was the dirtiest took his turn.

When he got through, by then the water was pretty murky and good for nothing but to be poured out the back door and the tub put away until clothes washing day on Monday mornings.

Now, the Hinmans were fortunate to have a bathroom with hot and cold running water, so we didn't have to share bath water. We were lucky as Nebraska farmers go in the Saturday night bath days. I can remember when washing my hair on Saturday night in the bath tub having to get down on my knees in the tub and washing my hair.

Of course as you might suspect, as boys, Bob and I didn't do a very good job of getting the dirt washed out of our ears. Neither did Dad.

This was a weekly ritual on Sunday as we went to church in our Sunday finery. Mom sat in the back seat and Dad, Bob, and I sat in the front seat and for a reason. Mom would take her clean Sunday hankie, spit on a corner of it and in turn wash the dirt out of our ears that we had missed when we took our Saturday night baths. We chirped a tune of "Ouch, that hurts Mom" as Mom held us each by the ear as she gave us our spit baths. And she wasn't very gentle on any of us, including Dad if she found a place we had missed in our ears.

But you could count on it, when we walked in the doors of the Congregational church in Liberty, Nebraska on Sunday morning, the Hinmans were as clean as a Saturday night bath and Mom's special spit baths on the way to church could make us.

Mom Hinman's motto was "Cleanliness is next to Godliness."

This story was posted on 2010-11-07 06:56:13
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