by Juana Simmons
This article from Reminisce is similar to some thing I remember and lots of things my aunts remember, but not one remembers washing quilts like this tells. However, it also reminds us of the daily importance of quilts. Enjoy , Juana
--“ Life was slow an hard growing up in a steel mill town in the Deep South during the 1950's. In Fairfield Alabama- or the Hike” to old timers- people walked to get from place to place. The landscape was filled with dirt roads, ditches, hills and few house sitting beside well- worn paths.
--As children, we knew the rules. We were to stay within calling distance, and when the few street-lights turned on, we were to be in the yard. We used to play outside all day in the winter and summer, rain or shine. Even cold weather couldn’t deter us; it just meant putting on more clothes to keep warm. And if we couldn’t find our gloves, two socks worked just as well.
--Everything at the “Hike” followed a routine. On Sunday everybody dressed up and went to church. The churches were not air conditioned either. During the 11 a.m. services, the handheld cardboard fans from the local funeral parlor would work overtime to stir up a slight breeze for the crowd. Monday was washday, when wringer washing machines were cranked on many back porches. Clothes were hung on lines to dry, while smaller items like socks, underwear and hand towels were spread across fences and bushes. The drying whites were blinding. Afer taking them off the line, I couldn’t see straight for several minutes.
--During the winter, clothes were known to freeze on the line. When that happened, you’d bring them into the house and spread them near the space heater to thaw and dry. Socks, diapers and other heavily soiled items were frequently boiled. But my favorite time of the year was quiltwashing time. A No. 2 zinc tub out in the yard was filled with warm, soapy water and then the quilts were added. As they soaked, all the young children were called to stomp out the dirt. It was a fun way to make a nickel. The wet covers were so heavy, it often took three or four women to wring one quilt out. They would throw the water -logged quilt over the fence to dry in the sun, then take it in for the night before the dew settled. Once they dried, the quilts would go into the cedar chest for the summer.
--Every Saturday the yard was swept and the trash burned, nearly every yard had a black trash-burning pile at “Hike”. Every other Sunday we got our hair washed and straightened , while the men and boys got haircuts. My mother could fix hair, and word spread fast. Soon enough, neighbors came on Friday evenings to get their hair fixed, I loved the smell of hair grease as hot irons melted it while my mom worked her magic.
--We were not allowed to hang around the kitchen as the ladies exchanged gossip, I often heard the phrase “ She broke her leg” and I wondered why so many women were breaking limbs. Imagine my surprise when I learned it meant someone was pregnant!
--Hearing about the “loss” of relatives. I spent a lot of time looking for all those lost people before I knew what it really meant.
--All year round, the steam whistle at the steel plant governed life on the “Hike”. The 7 a.m. Whistle signaled the start of a shift at the plant and breakfast for the residents. The noon whistle meant lunchtime for everyone and the 3 p.m. blast signaled the end of the day for the school children and workers alike.
--Life continued in these predictable patterns throughout my early years until the 1960's, which would prove to be a period of rapid change. Looking back on those days, I am filled with the memories of a gentler, more innocent time.”
--By Cheryl Berry Griffin, Georgia