Everybody Else’s History . . .

The mysterious case of whose hand got caught in the wringer!

Three old washers lined up in the Man Cave of Lisa Rice

By Lisa Rice

ALLIANCE – Welcome back to what we are calling Everybody Else’s History – referring, of course, to our huge Man Cave here at the farm where we have been entrusted with literally THOUSANDS of strange and unusual things from the past. These are not our items. Instead we are temporary caretakers!

This week I want to talk about washing machines. And Mamas. As with any other invention, washing machines have changed (and improved) over the years.

I seriously doubt if anybody actually remembers having to wash clothes in a local creek, with a rock and unheated water. I’m not even sure if anybody remembers using a galvanized washer (on right in photo). As you can see, it has a ‘wash’ side and a ‘rinse’ side – but you still had to use a wash-board for scrubbing clothes clean. (It may have doubled as a bathtub for smaller children.)

But surely, someone remembers the next, improved washer (center of photo) that had a hand-held agitator, and a handy-dandy wringer. I can only imagine how much that wringer improved women’s lives! 

I don’t remember any of these washers, but I do remember my mama getting a washer much like this Maytag shown on left (some jokester labeled it a trash can much later on). The Maytag was not new by any means, but it was life-changing for Mama. It washed clothes all by itself, thanks to electricity. Imagine such a luxury! No more worn out arms and shriveled up hands. No more bending over and straining an already worn out back. 

Even though electric washers were a welcomed addition to any household, I also remember hearing scary stories about them. A downside of these powerful wringers was curious little fingers and hands GETTING CAUGHT in them. I remember hearing such a story about my own sister getting her hand caught up in ours. As I was getting ready to write this article, I wasn’t sure if it was an actual memory of mine. Or, if it was something I made up in my head, possibly involving someone else’s hand. 

So, I called my sister. She confirmed my memory (smile). Anyway, no matter how much I remember about our electric washing machine, there are many things I will never forget. Mama raised five children. She worked a full time job, and two part time jobs. I remember that no matter how tired Mama was after her ‘paying’ jobs, almost every single day she came home and washed a load of clothes (except on Sundays). I remember that, no matter what time of year it was, every evening Mama was seen heading out to the clothesline to hang out clothes. Whether is was 90 degrees in June, or 35 degrees in December. 

I remember that, no matter how poor we were, and no matter how tired Mama was, she had clean clothes on her children. She was a good Mama. That was a good washer!

Editor’s note: We highly recommend that readers call Lisa Rice to arrange a free tour of Everybody Else’s History, located in Alliance. You, your friends, and your family will all be amazed! Call Lisa at (252) 675-7489.