Yesterday Not All Bad

Bill Neinast

Youngsters under 60 will have a struggle in understanding the following.  Senior citizens, however, will smile in pleasant memories.

This step back to yesterday is courtesy of Caroline Letterman Irvin, a University of Texas classmate way back in the 1940s. 

Remembering Moms Clothesline




(If you don't even know what clotheslines are, better skip this, or better yet, read on.  You might learn something.)


1. You had to hang the socks by the toes.  NOT the top.


2. You hung pants by the BOTTOM/cuffs... NOT the waistbands.


3. You had to WASH the clothesline(s) before hanging any clothes.  Walk the entire length of each line with a damp cloth around the lines.


4. You had to hang the clothes in a certain order, and always hang "whites" with "whites," and hang them first.


5. You NEVER hung a shirt by the shoulders - always by the tail!  What would the neighbors think?


6. Wash day on a Monday!   NEVER hang clothes on the weekend, Or on Sunday, for Heaven's sake!


7. Hang the sheets and towels on the OUTSIDE lines so you could hide your "unmentionables" in the middle (perverts & busybodies, y'know!)


8. It didn't matter if it was sub-zero weather... clothes would "freeze-dry."


9. ALWAYS gather the clothes pins when taking down dry clothes!  Pins left on the lines were "tacky"!


10. If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothes pins, but shared one of the clothes pins with the next washed item.


11. Clothes off of the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes basket, and ready to be ironed.  IRONED??!!  Well, that's a whole OTHER subject!


12. Long wooden pole (clothesline pole) that was used to push the clotheslines up so that longer items (sheets/pants/etc.) didn't brush the ground and get dirty.


And now a POEM...


A clothesline was a news forecast,

to neighbors passing by,

there were no secrets you could keep,

when clothes were hung to dry.


It also was a friendly link,

for neighbors always knew,

if company had stopped on by

to spend a night or two.


For then you'd see the "fancy sheets"

and towels upon the line;

you'd see the "company table cloths"

with intricate designs.


The line announced a baby's birth,

from folks who lived inside,

as brand new infant clothes were hung,

so carefully with pride!


The ages of the children could,

so readily be known,

by watching how the sizes changed,

you'd know how much they'd grown!


It also told when illness struck,

as extra sheets were hung;

then nightclothes, and a bathrobe too,

haphazardly were strung.


It also said, "On vacation now"

when lines hung limp and bare.

It told, "We're back!"

when full lines sagged with not an inch to spare!


New folks in town were scorned upon,

if wash was dingy and gray,

as neighbors carefully raised their brows and looked the other way.


But clotheslines now are of the past,

for dryers make work much less.

Now what goes on inside a home,

is anybody's guess!


I really miss that way of life;

it was a friendly sign,

when neighbors knew each other best

by what hung on the line

So here’s the perspective.

Some youngsters who have read this far may be thinking, how could those old folks be so stupid?  Didn’t they realize they were inviting thieves into their back yard?

Although it is hard to imagine today, this was a different era. If you lived in a small town, you did not even bother to lock your doors at night or when slipping off for a visit.  Why bother?  The door locks were operated with “skeleton” keys that were available for a dime a dozen at the local hardware store.

And, yes, there are clothes lines in my back yard today.  My wife has a clothes pin apron—a short apron just for those pins.

Those lines are the preferred dryer for bed linens.  Sheet dried by the sun and wind are wrinkle free instead of the crumpled mess coming out of an electric or gas dryer.  They also smell much cleaner and fresher.

What a shame that youngsters will never know the joy of slipping into bed between smooth, sweet smelling sheets.

Yesterday was not all bad.


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