We Used To Hang Our Clothes To Dry

Remembering Mom’s Clothes Lines

        There were usually 5 or 6 lines, each about 14 feet long,  5 1/2 feet high, and with long wooden poles that could push the lines UP so that the ‘wash’ wouldn’t brush against the  ground and get dirty and yet allow  the lines to be within  easy reach for the one hanging the clothes.
         These were unwritten rules, but  every  woman  knew them by heart and followed them to the last word.

1. You WASHED the Lines each Monday, by  wiping their entire length with a damp cloth to remove any accumulated dust that would soil the just-washed clothes.
2. Wash day was on a Monday.  Only death or dying permitted any other day, and even then NEVER on a Sunday.
3. Even if it were sub-zero weather, clothes would  ‘freeze-dry.’
4. You had to hang clothes in a certain order, always hanging whites (bed linen) with whites, shirts with shirts, sox with sox, towels with towels, pants with pants and so on.
5. And socks were hung by the toes, NEVER by the tops; Pants by the BOTTOM cuffs, NOT the waistband; and NEVER a shirt by the shoulders, but always by the tail.
6. Sheets and towels were hung on the OUTER Lines so that your ‘unmentionables’ could hang unseen on the middle Lines and some women, modestly hung their underclothes INSIDE  pillow cases, shielded  away from prying eyes.
7. There were Clothes Pin bags that you nudged along the  Lines to be handy when hanging clothes, and to put those pins  back in again, when taking down the dried clothes.  It looked ‘tacky’ to see pins on empty Lines and also they would get dirty and so soil the next Monday’s wet clothes.
8. If you were efficient, you would hang the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothes pins, but  would share  pins by overlapping the corners of  two items.
9. Clothes had to be OFF the line before dinner time, sprinkled  and neatly rolled, placed in a clothes basket, and ready  to be ironed on Tuesday. Never, never Monday evening.



A Clothes Line was a news report for people passing by,
For there could be no secrets, with clothes hung out to dry.
It also was a friendly Line, for neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by, to spend a night or two.
For then you’d see the fancy towels and sheets,  upon the line.
And the special ‘company’ table cloths, with intricate designs.
And also of a baby’s birth, of those  who lived inside
As brand new infant clothes were hung so lovingly with pride.
The ages of the children could readily be known
And seeing how the sizes changed, you’d know how much they’d grown.
It also told when illness struck, as extra sheets were hung
With nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too, haphazardly strung.
They also said, “Vacation time”, when Lines hung limp and bare
And , “We’re back” was told, when crowded Lines had not an inch to spare.
New folks in town were scorned if clothes were dingey, gray
And neighbors carefully raised their brows and looked the other way,
But today the Lines are of the past for dryers make work less
And now, all that’s there within a house is left for us to guess.
But I really miss that way of life, ’twas such a friendly sign
When neighbors knew each other well, by what hung on the Line.

( anonymous )

Reach Ethel at: ethelbrad@comcast.net

Ethel’s books at: WWW.BradfordDesigns.com

2 thoughts on “We Used To Hang Our Clothes To Dry

  1. No one observed this protocol better than your mother, my Gma, Bessie Brown our back door neighbor was also good at it. I laugh at the time our wires rusted, it fell Ken and I to sand the wires clean to prevent rust stains on the clothes. Lol jim

  2. I remember Ethel’s clothes lines, one was a four-pronged umbrella frame that would spin around, and another was a spring loaded coil that would unreel over to the apricot tree for use, then retract for the rest of the week. Then I remember the smells of the sheets on the line. Clean, smells like home, grandma, spring time, innocence and youth of a child at play.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.