Monday was clothes washing day. Lucy, the black lady that helped raise the four of us children would load up the old wheelbarrow with some lightered (rich pine) to start a fire around the wash pot and some wood to keep the fire going. Also, she would have all the dirty clothes for the seven of us, scrub board, P & G lye soap, Argo starch, bluing for white clothes and probably a few other things. She would push the old narrow rimmed steel wheeled wheelbarrow up to the spring across the road from the house.
She’d begin by building a fire around the old wash pot while running water into a tub from a pipe from the spring. Then she would begin filling the wash tubs by dipping water out of that tub and pouring it in them and fill the wash pot. She would put soap into the wash pot and stir it around to get it well dissolved in the water. The clothes that were to be boiled into the wash pot would be stirred occasionally with the “battling stick” a 1” X 3” board about 5 feet long. (Some folk would put very dirty items on a platform and beat them with the stick to get heavy stains out of them. Lucy didn’t do that.)
Items that did not need boiling would be put into the “scrub tub,” add soap and wash them by rubbing them on the wash board a wooden framed board, about 15” X 24” that had a corrugated metal piece to rub the clothes over. All along the items in the wash pot had to be stirred.
When the non-boiled clothes were washed, they would be moved over to the rinsing tub, rinsed well, wrung out to get as much rinse water out of them and put into another tub to be taking back to the clothes line in the back yard of the house. Boiled clothes would follow the scrub and rinse procedure.
Items that needed starching would be placed in a small tub containing the Argo or flour starch, then wrung out.
When all the clothes were boiled, washed, rinsed and starched, they would be loaded back into the wheelbarrow along with the soaps, starch, etc. that couldn’t be left out in the weather and taken back to the clothes lines in the back yard. All the washed items were then hanged on the clothes lines. If there was a really heavy wash, the overalls and other heavy items would be hanged on the back barbed wire fence.
Clothes hanged on the clothes lines would have that good fresh-air aroma to them.
The next step would to take the things off the lines and prepared for ironing. All clothes that were starched would have to be sprinkled either by using a small nozzle placed in a Coke bottle or by dipping a hand in a pan of water and shaking water off the hand onto the clothes. After sprinkling, the clothes were rolled up again until time to be ironed.
Ironing was done by placing three flat irons on the stove or in front of the fireplace (mostly in winter time) and heated. Lucy would test the proper heat of the irons by wetting her finger and quickly touching the iron with the wet finger. If it sizzled, the iron was hot enough for pressing the clothes. The irons would not stay hot very long, thus the old saying to “strike while the iron is hot” was originated.