By Jim “Pappy” Moore
Long before anyone started talking about wind power and solar power we had both. It was called the Family Clothesline. Out in the backyard stood the structure which everyone used at their home. Two cross-bars stood at each end. The cross-bars were twenty to thirty feet apart. Attached to them were typically four wire lines which were spaced about two feet apart. Upon those lines were a multitude of wooden clothespins, each one powered by a metal spring.
Clothes, towels, and bed sheets were washed in a washing machine which may have been an old school one which required hand-wringing of a wash load before it went to the clothesline. For the lucky, a newer washing machine also did the job of wringing the water from the load with a fast-spinning action still used today in modern washing machines.
The damp wash load was placed into a large carrying basket and carried out to the clothesline, where the basket was placed on the ground. One by one, each item would be hung from one of the lines, dangling and separated in such a way to allow maximum exposure to the sun and the wind.
Mother would typically hang the wash out to dry, or it was done by older kids. The task required learning to handle several clothespins at one time, usually accomplished by having more than on in each hand, or using the mouth to hold extras as something was hung up. Two clothespins would do to hang most items, but larger ones such as bed sheets required four or more.
Depending on the amount and heat of the sunshine and the amount and speed of the wind, a wash load might take from a few hours to all day to dry. The process was monitored by having one of the kids run outside and feel the hanging wash to determine whether it was still damp. Things like boys’ jeans usually took longer than shirts and blouses to dry.
Things sometimes required immediate action by the entire family. Suppose you have just sat down to dinner. There are clothes and such on the line. The first person to realize it had begun raining outside would sound the call: “It’s raining!” Instantly everyone would jump up and run out the back door to the clothesline, each one gathering up as many items as he or she could hold. Each would run inside and toss those items onto a table or the sofa, or a chair, then run back out for another load. This was continued until all the clothes, sheets, and towels were inside. It was a team effort and the entire family knew it. Otherwise, you might not be wearing those jeans and that shirt you intended to wear tomorrow.
Dinner was usually a time when family talked. There was no watching TV. There was no making or taking phone calls. If someone came to the door, all would wonder “now who would visit during the dinner hour?” Stories were exchanged. Jokes were told. School events were discussed.
If you ever had to wear a slightly still damp pair of jeans, you know the feeling was “ewwwww!” Thankfully, that seldom happened.
Notice that no one ever suggests everyone use clotheslines any more, even though they were the original wind and solar power in American homes. And dinner? Everyone has to have their cell phone in hand and lying close by in case someone “liked” one of their posts today.
Wind and solar power. We had it for free, long before it was fashionable and expensive.
Copyright 2022, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.