Archived Story

As the clothesline turns

Published 12:24pm Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Unless you are driving through a rural section of our area you probably will not see many clothesline in use anymore. Before the days of electric clothes dryers the majority of homes had a clothes line “out back” for drying washed clothes. Many younger folks may not even know what a clothes line looks like or most likely never hung clothes out to dry. They may have missed out on one of life’s forgotten memories.

Going back even further before the days of automatic washing machines most women had a “wash day.” According to history, this was usually on a Monday or Tuesday. Laundry was not done on the weekend and you would have been the talk of the town if you had clothes hanging on your line on a Sunday. Depending on how far back one goes, the clothes might be washed on a rub board, boiled in a black pot outside, or washed in a wringer type machine. Since this involved much more prep work and hands on, it was a process not just a last minute thought of washing a load of clothes. I bet very few people wore a piece of clothing for a little while and tossed it aside to be washed. You would probably catch the wrath of the person in charge of laundering the clothes.

But according to information passed on this week, a clothes line was much more than a device to get cloths dry. Before the days of phones, computers and texting, the clothes line was also a news forecast for neighbors and those passing by. There were no secrets to be held back once the clothes were hung out to dry in the sunshine. As they flapped in the breeze tales were told.

If you had visitors and overnight guests, your nicest sheets and towels would be seen on the line. White table clothes would be a sign that company had dined at your table. By watching the evolution from diapers to children’s clothes all could see how fast your children were growing up. When illness fell to the occupants of a home, extra sheets and towels could be seen, with prayers probably sent up, without even being requested, for those in need. Also the black dress probably was a sign that someone in the family had gone on to their reward.

So the days of knowing what was happening with your neighbors lives by the clothes line are over, but then along came Facebook and Twitter so we can all update our status and tweet our thoughts to all.

Randy Garrison is the president and publisher of the Hartselle Enquirer.

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