The Story of my Life
Louise Virginia (Weir) Frasier
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very one had wells for water. Some wells were dug by hand and were thirty to forty feet deep. Some wells were drilled, and some of those might be deeper than sixty feet deep. A hand pump might be used in some of the more shallow wells, but with most of the others you brought water up by a pulley. The chain or rope would pass through a pulley and wind around a roller as you drew it up. Sometimes the buckets would be cedar and sometimes tin. There were a few artesian wells where water bubbled up out of the ground.
If you had a dug well, you might put your milk, butter, cream, or anything you wanted to keep cool on ropes and lower it into the well just above the water. You had to be careful when you drew water so it wouldn’t bump the other buckets.
Some houses might be near a spring, and a spring house might be built to keep things cool. If you lived in a town big enough for an ice house, you had ice boxes. You could buy blocks of ice weighing twenty-five, fifty, or even a hundred pounds. An ice man would drive a dray or open cart and sell or deliver these blocks of ice.
In the ice boxes the ice would keep several days and keep things cool. Or you could take an ice pick and get ice for tea, water, or what ever. People drank a lot of lemonade. Nothing would freeze in an ice box, but if it did you threw it out for frozen foods except milk products were deadly if eaten after they had been frozen.
On wash day (or laundry) the boys in the family would draw up water to fill tubs, pots and etc. Also the boys would split wood fine enough to put under and around the pot or pots. The water was heated and clothes boiled in the pots too. Rub boards were used. These were framed pieces of tin with ridges or raised rows on them and the clothes were rubbed over these until the dirty spots were gone. The clothes were washed, rinsed and boiled then taken out of the pot and rinsed three times.
After the third rinse, all cotton and linen clothes were starched. Starch was made from wheat flour and boiling water. A few drops of kerosene or salt was added to it so the surface of the clothes would shine. Then the clothes were hung on the clothes line and pegged with peg clothes pins.
When they were dry you took them down sprinkled them with plain or scented water and rolled tightly then the work began! Flat irons with handles weighing from one and a half to four pounds were heated on the stove. You used one until it got cool then you put it back on the stove and got another one. It was good if you had about four irons of different weights so you had plenty of hot irons.
Although not much farm work was done on Saturdays, it was a busy day. That was the day the house would be cleaned, the yards tidied and all out buildings put in order.
Every Saturday morning all yards were tidied. Hard packed dirt yards were swept with a brush broom. A brush broom was limbs (mostly dogwood branches) tied into a bundle and used to sweep with.
All rugs were taken outside and hung on a clothes line where they were beaten. All bed linens were changed, even bed-spreads. Every scarf or doily in the house was changed. Furniture was shined with kerosene rags. The parlor door was opened. The parlor was a room used only on Sunday or for special company (or for courting). The parlor had the best couch, rockers, dressers, tables, and table lamps, an organ or piano. Most parlors had rugs almost as big as the room. These were taken up twice a year and beaten. Some people stored them during the winter months.
All floors were scrubbed with scrub mops. Scrub mops were made from a block of wood about six to eight inches long. Holes were bored in these and corn shucks pulled though the holes. White sand was put on the kitchen floor (for most kitchen floors had cracks), porches, and other rooms where there were cracks in the floors. Water was poured on the floors and the boards were scrubbed with the shuck mop. Then hot water was used to rinse the floors. The sand and hot water sure made the boards shine!
All out houses were white washed and limned once a week. And all fire places were white washed. White wash was made by taking white clay and mixing it with water and a dab of kerosene. In the summer, screens were made to hide the fireplace or a big vase of flowers was kept there. Stoves were blacked. All lamp chimneys were cleaned, wicks trimmed, all lamps were filled with oil. Also, on Saturday, cakes and pies were baked for Sunday.
After the house, yards, and out-buildings were cleaned and tidied the real fun began for Saturday night was bath night. If it was winter time fires in the fire place would be built up. Wash tubs would be brought in and water would be put on the stove in the iron kettles and pots for heating. Clean clothes were laid out for every member of the family.
Everyone had a bath on Saturday night, but very seldom did heads get washed. Adult women washed their hair about once or maybe twice a year. Men shaved everyday and everyone took a sponge bath every day. Clean under-wear was given out on Wednesday nights too, so everyone had clean clothes twice a week.
Mary Will, Elizabeth, Evelyn, Comer, Buford
Mama Weir, George W., Dora and Nora (one of them in the shadows on the left)
Of-course Sunday clothes, school clothes, and every day clothes were all kept separate. You never wore your school clothes to do the chores or to play in. All shoes in the house were cleaned and shined Saturday night. In the summer, patent leather shoes were worn and they were shined by rubbing a biscuit or piece of bread over them.
During bath time all heads were inspected for head lice. We never had any. There were no deodorants. Women used talcum powder and when they sweated it made a terrible stink. But very seldom did you have a body odor. Was it because everybody smelled the same and you were used to it?