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Forum Home > Memorabilia From the past. > Lye Wash Day Blues.

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This piece was narrated by Doris Cartwright, in 2005, when she was in her 90s. Like Winnie Wooldridge, she also lived in Elizabeth House, Pedmore Road, Lye. The stories they have left, are an example of just what we all miss out on, when we fail to ask the more senior members of our families, how it was when they were younger. Doris was in fact, Eleanor's older sister, the family name being Beasley, and they were both born at 24, Orchard Lane Lye. Their father, Ebenezer Beasley, was a sober and godfearing Iron Plate worker, who was born, and died, in the same place, Orchard Lane. Like her sister, Doris did not use her first name, and for those who have an interest, that will come at the end of this article.

"  Recently my mind has been going back over the years, and thinking how times have changed, and I began comparing washing day in my mothers time, and mine, as it is today. My mothers Wash day, and for many women like her, was a hard days work. Around the area, Wash day was a Monday, and so on the Sunday, the big Copper was filled with water, and a the fire was laid ready for lighting. Early on Monday morning, the fire was lit, and slowly the water heated up.When it was judged to be hot enough, it ladled out into a wooden tub, washing powder added, clothes, all the same colour put in, and then pummeled and turned by a wooden " dolly ". Hard work, but I suppose good excerise for the arms. ( my granny had muscles like Popeye ) When they had been dollied, they were lifted out with a stick, laid on a board, and one by one, put through the " Mangle ". This was a cast Iron contraption, with a large wheel on one side, connected to two wooden rollers, which when wound round, turned the rollers in opposite direction, and squeezed out the water. The clothes were then put into the Copper, the fire refueled, and bought to the boil. The coloured clothes then went into the wooden dolly tub, and the pounding and twisting began again. Then they were mangled, put into the stone sink, and given a final wash with a block of hard soap. ( Sunlight was the prefered brand ) Then a final rinse in cold water, and back through the magle they went.

                          The " whites ", were then taken from the Copper with the stick, and and piled into the sink, which had been refiled with clean water. I should add here, that the Tap was outside, and some distance from the wash house, so there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to fill both the copper and the sink. Having been rinsed, the sink again refilled, it was time for the " Blue Bag ", more rinsing, and then back into the mangle. Pillow cases, Tablecloths, and other items had to " Starched ", and if it was a fine day, it was hung on a line in the open to dry. Still not finished, for the clearing up had to be done, the copper emptied and cleaned, ashes from the fire cleared away, and the floor cleaned as well.

                         When I married, ( George Cartwright, 1938 ) I had my own home, there was no was no tub and dolly for me, and no mangle either. I had a machine in which the clothes were moved about by a wooden paddle, which I had to move sideways and round about, the wringer on this consisted of of two rubber rollers, which I had to turn with a small handle. The water for this machine, was heated by a concealed gas jet underneath the tub. There was a copper in the kitchen in which I used to boil my whites, but even then, my wash day was no where near as arduous as my mothers had been. Then came a day I shall long remember, a Salesman came to call, telling me all about this wonderful electric powered twin-tub, and, after all his sales talk about a trial with no obligation to buy, I consented to see one, which was duly delivered and I was showen how all the controls worked. Well it wasn't wash day, so how could I test it I wondered. Just at that time it was close to our Sunday School Anniversary- remeber them, each Chapel had their own special day when the children of the sunday School would sit on a rising platform built up by wooden planks - and I had been given the task of washing the curtains or drapes which surrounded the platform. It would be quite a big wash so what better test could there be. So I tried it out my new machine and found it more than satisfactory. So much so, that when the salesman came to see how I had fared, I told him he could leave it here.

                      I diposed of my machine with the rubber rollers, my husband dismantled the the copper, and the kitchen was re-organised to accomodate my twin-tub, which gave me sterling service until I moved into Elizabeth House. ( my mother had to be wrenched from hers with a crowbar.) And what now! Well I walk along the corridor to the Laundry room, where I have the choice of two machines, a top loader and a front loader, which ever one I choose, I put in the articles to be washed, add powder and conditioner, close the lid or door, and switch it on. I can go back to my flat and do anything I want, even have a nap until the washing cycle is completed, then pop the stuff into the dryer, and go away again and " do my own thing ". What a difference since my mothers time. I bless all who invented washing machines, especially the electric ones.

Beatrice Doris Cartwright. 1911 - 2012.  ( with grateful thanks to Colin Wooldridge, for permission to use the material. )


A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 3, 2013 at 2:58 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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