Bev Jackson Cotter: Memories of the washing machine

Published 8:33 am Monday, March 25, 2024

Memories by Bev Jackson Cotter

As I was walking down the street,

Bev Jackson Cotter

A few days ago or more,

Email newsletter signup

I spotted a Maytag washing machine,

In front of a hardware store.

It was the ‘quote’ old fashioned kind,

With a wringer installed on top.

The kind you used to remove the water, In between the wash/rinse loads.

These Maytag machines came long before Today’s push button boxes,

Used when washing clothes was work,

Cleaning dresses, pants and soxes.

This Maytag was now a flower pot,

Decorating, in old fashioned style,

Enhancing the hardware store façade,

Encouraging passers by to smile. This story really wants to rhyme but I’ll continue in prose.

When I was a young mom, every Monday morning started out the same, filling the washing machine with the hose connected to the hot and cold water faucets, sorting clothes by color and soil, tossing the whites into the first load, and then after a few minutes sending each piece through the wringer into the first rinse, sloshing the items around to remove the soapy water, through the wringer again into a second rinse, then through the wringer again into a basket which I carried up the basement steps and outside to the clothes line in the back yard, where everything was hung, piece by piece, with wooden clip on pins.

As I hung the first load, the second load was washing. The cycle was repeated, using the same water and adding more soap, until three or four loads were done.

On a sunny, warm, breezy day, when the clothes were dry, they were all unclipped, brought back inside, sorted and folded. Those items that needed ironing, which were most of them, long before perma press fabrics, were sprinkled and rolled, waiting for Tuesday’s ironing. Sheets put back on the bed brought that sunny, fresh air aroma into the bedroom, so soothing and restful. On rainy days or in the winter, the washing routine was the same except then the clothes were hung on lines strung in the basement.

When my children were small, this washing and ironing routine was repeated on Thursday and Friday.

Just for fun, I decided to find out how many $3 per dozen Curity diapers went through that wringer. With four children and approximately 2 1/2 years per child, the number totaled 76,440. Oofta!

So many memories came back when I noticed that Maytag flower pot by the hardware store.

I remember my mother telling me how happy she was when she no longer had to use the machine with a smelly gasoline engine and they purchased one with an electric motor, and her warning me about not getting my fingers too close to the wringer, because I could get seriously injured. When she emptied her washing machine, she would save a bucket of soapy water to pour under the apple tree. I don’t remember what disease or bug it prevented. Mom also made her own soap. Recently, when I googled soap making there were several recipes including olive oil, distilled water, lye and coconut oil or other fragrances. I’m sure Mom, with her childhood as the youngest daughter in a German immigrant family, definitely did not include coconut oil in her soap.

In my mind, that Maytag wringer washing machine deserves all the recognition it can get, whether it be in a poem or a memory newspaper column or even as a flower pot in front of a hardware store.

Bev Jackson Cotter is a lifelong resident of Albert Lea.