Pipi’s Pasture: A day for ironing
As I wrote in last week’s column, Monday was wash day at the ranch when I was a kid. Then nearly all of the laundered items were ironed on Tuesday.
In the summer, wet laundry was hung out on several lines out behind the house. It was hung out on sunny days in the winter, too, because it was believed that wet clothes “freeze dried.” I’m not sure that they ever dried at all, but I do remember taking frozen clothes into the house. Dad’s Levi pants and long underwear were stiff as boards.
No matter whether the clothes were dried outdoors or on a drying rack that folded up when not in use (and put in front of the stove in winter), next they were prepared for ironing. The sheets were put right back on the beds (they smelled luscious after hanging out in the sunshine) so they weren’t ironed, but the pillowcases were. So were clothes, tablecloths, dish towels and even Dad’s handkerchiefs.
Before ironing, the clothing was sprinkled with water, either by hand or by a sprinkler that fit into the top of a soda bottle. It was rolled up and placed in towels and let set overnight. It wasn’t left very much longer because the damp clothing was subject to mildew.
I learned to iron at an early age, taught by Mom who showed me how to iron a shirt collar first, then the sleeves, and so forth. I sat on a tall stool next to the ironing board and ironed with heavy irons that were heated on the stove.
We didn’t have electric irons in those days so we used irons with a flat bottoms and handles, all in one piece. When the irons had been heated on the cook stove, we used potholders to remove the irons from the stove and to iron. When an iron cooled off, we put it back on the stove to reheat and picked up another. Imagine ironing in this way.
Later on we used a more “up town” iron. It was in two pieces, a flat bottom and a detachable handle. The flat part was heated on the stove and picked up with the handle. As with the first type of iron, extra bottom parts were kept hot on the stove. This iron didn’t require a potholder for handling.
In order for the irons to move easily over the clothing, we tried to keep their flat bottoms slick. We did this by rubbing the irons over waxed paper, mostly saved from papers used in wrapping bread in those days.
These days I don’t iron very much, especially if I take the clothes out of the dryer before they have a chance to wrinkle. No wonder there were days designated for just washing and ironing. It took a lot of time to do these chores, not to mention the work.
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