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Chuck Hinman: IJMA 030: Tuesday - Ironing Day: 1 August 2008

Chuck Hinman: IJMA: 030 1 August 2008: Tuesday - Ironing Day Each day of the week had its special actrivity in the regimented lifestyle of a Nebraska farm a hundred years ago.
The next earlier Chuck Hinman Story: - IJMA 122 : Scared Spitless

By Chuck Hinman

Tuesday -- Ironing Day

One of the things that has sadly disappeared in my lifetime is a regimented lifestyle particularly of women of my mom's generation.

When I was growing up on a Nebraska farm in the 1920s-1930s there was a well known song that indicted a way of daily life for our mommas and grandmommas and therefore affected everyone in their families.

It went
"This is the day we wash our clothes, wash our clothes, wash our clothes.
This is the day we wash our clothes so early on Monday morning."
There were seven similar verses to the song for the seven days of the week. Tuesday was the day "we iron our clothes," etc. It escapes me what housewife activity was scheduled for the other days of the week but make no mistake, the backyard clotheslines of American homes were flapping with washed clothes at sunrise on Monday mornings!

These daily traditions were so ingrained as a way of life that tea towels and aprons were embroidered with these symbols. And they stuck -- for awhile.

I have previously written how Monday (wash day) was observed in the Hinman family. Now it's time to write my memory of what happened on Tuesday -- Ironing Day.

It started Monday afternoon when Mom put on her sun bonnet, the empty clothes pin bag around her neck and brought in the fresh smelling laundry off the clothes line. This was in the days before "wash and wear" material was known. Every thing would be ironed except cleaning rags and throw rugs. Mom was a thorough housekeeper; she didn't slack on the tiring job of ironing which took four or more hours each Tuesday. She taught her three kids how to iron easy things like handkerchiefs, tea towels, and maybe an apron or chambray shirt. But she did all the tough stuff. She starched and ironed everything to perfection.

She dumped the baskets of clean laundry on a large porcelain work table in the kitchen. There she took each item of laundry that was going to be ironed on Tuesday and sprinkled it liberally with water, rolled it up in a ball and placed it in the clothes basket.

As she made breakfast the next morning on the wood cook stove, she put the four irons on the stove to begin heating. After the breakfast dishes were done, the beds made, and preliminary work done on the dinner meal, she set up the ironing board in the kitchen with the basket of dampened things to be ironed nearby. The irons were called "flat irons" and were heated on top the wood burning cook stove. Because the irons lost heat during the ironing process, a detachable wooden handle was used. The way you could tell if the iron was cooled to be ineffective was to put some saliva on your index finger, touch it ever so lightly to the bottom of the iron and if it didn't "sizzle," you needed to change irons. You understand of course, this was in the days before farms had electricity.

Things that were starched took careful ironing, things like pillow cases, table cloths, aprons, print dresses, dress shirts etc. Some things that just needed "lick and promise ironing" were partially folded things like bed sheets, embroidered tea towels, overalls, etc.

Because much of the laundry had been sprinkled before ironing, Mom was careful that ironed things were thoroughly dry before she put them away in drawers and closets. She was too good a housewife to let mildew attack an item that wasn't thoroughly dry when it was put away.

Another thing I remember on ironing days was Mom kept a rag on the end of the ironing board. She test ironed each flat iron from off the stove to remove any traces of rust which looked terrible on a white damask table cloth or a white shirt.

When flat irons became obsolete, they were often used on the floor to hold doors open. But a few of us old codgers remember with a smile the olden days when they had a different use as we answer our grandchildren when they say, "what's that, Grandpa?"

Written by Chuck Hinman, August 1, 2008

This story was posted on 2012-11-18 03:08:10
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