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Sunday, August 28, 2011

AN OLD APPALACHIAN WASH PORCH


Sunny days with a bit of a breeze were ideal for getting the family's clothes washed, dried and put away in appropriate spots during the early 1900s. 


An outdoor water pump on a covered back porch provided an outdoor room for the washing ritual by the women of some households. Lots of wash materials were gathered together on wash day. Such as a wash stand, a wringer with zinc metal tubs filled with water to rinse the clothes  and the proverbial scrub board and scrub brush to use on extremely soiled clothes or linens. An outdoor clothes line was close by for sun drying. 


It took up a big chunk of time during her day -- the washing, hanging, and folding -- but that was not all she did that day. Some of the other chores she might do were feed the chickens and hogs, weed the kitchen garden, darn socks, bake some bread, prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner, pluck some chickens, can corn relish, dry beans and corn cobs for their seeds, and watch after her children too. Plus more! Whew!


The photo above was actually the place where a woman did wash her clothes in the summers of the early twentieth century. The home now stands empty and will be torn down within the coming year  according to the present family owners. 

36 comments:

  1. Something new I never had heard of, but how sensible! The pump right there and everything easily to hand to do the washing -- probably near enough to the kitchen to check on the bread in the oven. Oh,yes and to bring out the kettles of hot water. Phew! Hard work indeed.

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  2. That's so sad they're going to tear it down. Why would they want to do that I wonder.

    The photo on your header is beautiful!

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  3. My FIL used the outside pump to wash himself off after work each day. Rachel (MIL) also used it for laundry, although they had a modern wash machine when I met them.

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  4. I am so appreciating my washer and dryer...

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  5. Hello Barbara:
    One can so imagine the scene in this porch on washdays. We can recall our grandparents with wash tubs, scrubbing boards and mangles. What bliss, the electric washing machine!!

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  6. I'm glad that you caught that bit of history before it is gone forever.

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  7. Oh, what a lot of work! Glad those days are in the past, even if a clothesline full of clothes flapping in the breeze on a sunny, blue-skied day is a pleasing sight.

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  8. I absolutely LOVE this picture of the wash porch! How cool that the well and clothesline is still intact. Is that the wringer washing apparatus just out of view behind the porch post? What a beautiful setting in which to perform washing duties. We may have moved forward in technology since then but clearly we have moved backwards in enjoying the process behind our duties.

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  9. June -- you have a keen sense of how woman's work would be defined in the early 20th century -- that their working spaces would be adjacent to each other . You observed that the placement of the kitchen adjacent to the working porch would be more efficient. In the photo the working porch is adjacent to the working kitchen. One could just step inside the door from the porch and be in the kitchen to take out the baking bread or fetch the hot water to for the laundry etc. Very good comments -- thanks -- barbara

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  10. Sheri -- the best clothes lines with flapping clothes and linens that I have seen were in Michigan. These lines were found around Amish farms. A few times I have seen clothes lines with several beautiful quilts hanging on them. Another was a ingenious line from the Amish farmhouse to their two story barn -- it was a two liner that was loaded up with clothes using a pulley system. It stretched diagonally upward from their farmhouse to the top of the two story barn. It was quite ingenious but it somehow reminded me of the long line of Tibetan flags that one sees strung out in Tibet. Both the Amish clothes and the flags flapping wildly in the wind, but in different cultures of course. -- barbara

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  11. Louise -- you speak the truth about disappearing history -- sometimes I feel like I am riding around watching the cultural icons disappear, like a silent auction -- going, going, gone seems to be the mantra. -- barbara

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  12. Jane and Lance -- Automatic appliances were more than welcome when they first came on the scene in the U.S. But there were many women here that did not make an immediate change over. They seemed to be attached to the old way. Thanks -- barbara

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  13. Tess -- you and 2 million other folks in the country. Thanks -- barbara

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  14. Dianne -- The old electric wringer washers are still in use by some but I don't know of anyone using the old hand method of washing clothes. I have read about "back to the earth" folks that are using the hand method. Given that the cost of utilities are escalating maybe we will all be hand washing someday? -- barbara

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  15. Linda -- People do tear down houses around here because they have reached the stage where it costs more to repair than to rebuild or sell the acreage. To many, like yourself, it is sad to see these small vintage houses, that define the culture, disappearing from the landscape. Thanks for the comment on my header, I appreciate it -- barbara

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  16. Darcy -- what are the chances that we could get this society to slow down and enjoy the washing process in a country environment? Would people really see the worth in doing so? Do folks really attempt to smell the roses? Yes, I think some do but they are in the minority or so it seems to me. -- barbara

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  17. Easy to see where sayings like "A woman's work is never done." came from. It's interesting to see the remnants of days gone in your photos. And, I really love the photo in your header at the moment, wonderful color and angle...I'd like to have a poster of that on my wall.

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  18. That wash porch is a great find. My grandmother used a shed beside her home. When we would visit in the summer she would wash our clothes in her wringer/washer. I was always fascinated by the clothes being squeezed through that wringer.

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  19. Nice find Barbara,
    Enjoy the angle and feel of the photo. Make a nice calendar image.

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  20. A nice post, Barbara! Back in '75 when we first came to the mountains, I used my neighbors electric wringer washer several times. You had to watch your fingers!

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  21. Rose -- Thanks for the nice comment on my header. It was taken last year at a farm that raises blackberries -- very nice folks who once farmed tobacco when it was a popular crop. -- barbara

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  22. Farmchick -- Wringer washers are still used today by some folks. If you collect old quilts and want to give them a cleaning a wring washer is a good method -- it is gentle compared to an automatic washer. Thanks -- barbara

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  23. Grampy -- a nice comment from a good photographer -- kind of you -- barbara

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  24. Kay -- If you want to really check out "sad" check my blog list on my sidebar under vernacular architecture -- under that check either of these two 1) Preservation Research and/or 2) Abandoned. Lots of architectural "sads" in these blogs. barbara

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  25. Vicki -- You have been living in the mountains a long time. Yes, fingers could get caught if the wringer did not have an automatic release. thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  26. It is so sad that these examples of living history get lost in the name of progress. I love this building and your information is so interesting. The washing has gone in the machine here this morning and then will get pegged on the line as the sun is shining today so easy in comparison with the lady who used this one.

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  27. Oh, I hope they don't tear it down! I've never seen a water pump on a back porch before. I posted one time about a wash stand with legs. I called my post Wash Day Blues. It's really neat, I got it from my dad, I have no idea where he got it. But I like it. I am so glad we now have modern washing conveniences. I have letters my mom wrote in the 1940s to my dad (they were courting at the time) and she was always talking about having a big ironing to do. Some of her stationary even had an ironing board at the top of it.

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  28. cuby poet -- it is a toss up. We like the old for its history while the new saves us labor and time.
    -- barbara

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  29. Janet -- I'm afraid that they are. I will check out your Wash Day Blues. How wonderful that you have the letters that your mom wrote to your dad in the 40s. Ironing was a big deal back them -- as I remember my mom slaving over the ironing board. -- barbara

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  30. Sure glad we don't have to do laundry this way any more! Barbara, I put up a new post and it's just for you. I also linked it to your blog.

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  32. Mama-Bug -- You are kind -- I so appreciate your gesture. Also, thanks for linking it to my blog. You are part of the very nice folks out there in the blogosphere.

    Doing laundry in a non-electric fashion would take forever. We are lucky to have such amenities.

    Thanks again -- barbara

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  33. Harry == Thank you for stopping by and I welcome you to do so in the future. -- barbara

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  34. Love the pictures, found while looking for back porches, they're very reminiscent of times long ago.

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