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Jim's story - Page 5

Written by James Needham Groom (b.1911-)

This is as good a time as any to say a few words about family life in those days, and as a family starts with the Mother, so Iíll try to tell how she lived and what her duties were. Monday was usually wash day, and this was quite an experience itself. The equipment consisted of two wash tubs, a boiler, a rub board and some lye soap. Water had to be hand drawn from a well, carried to the kitchen range where a fire was built and the boiler was filled and the water heated. In the hot summer days, it didnít take long to break out in a great sweat. The water was dipped out into the first wash tub when it was hot, the clothes having been sorted out as to white, blue, dirty, fairly dirty, likely to fade, and the first batch was put into the tub. Each piece was soaped and rubbed on the rub board until it was judged to be fairly clean, passed on to the boiler where it was boiled in the hot sudsy water, into the second tub where it was rinsed, wrung dry as possible, then hung on the clothes line to dry. The dress shirts, womenís and girlís dresses and sheets, etc., also passed thru water with bluing added to help make it whiter. Everything had to be cleaned up, the tubs and boiler hung up and the kitchen mopped and ready for soaking.

Tuesday was ironing day. The kitchen range was fired up again to heat the flat irons. The irons had a removable handle, and as the iron cooled, it was put back on the range to be reheated, and the handle snapped on to a freshly heated iron. Everything had to be ironed - sheets, pillow cases, shirts, dresses, underwear. There were no such thing as a no-iron fabric.

Of course, while all of this was going on, daily tasks had to be carried on. Cooking three meals a day, cows to be milked, chickens to be fed and watered, eggs to be gathered, dished to be washed, garden to be planted, hoed, gathered and in season, canning, picking fruit, sewing, mending, caring for the sick and trying to be a wife to a man who maybe bathed and shaved once a week.

It was also up to the Mother to set three meals a day on the table seven days a week. She had to do this without ever going into a super market in her entire life. No quick trips to the butcher shop, pizza joint, the Colonels or McDonalds. Everyone in the family sat down together for all three meals and ate what was on the table, however good or uneatable it was. If one shoved his plate back once or twice, the most common food became a gourmetís delight. When times were tough, a meal might consist of fried potatoes, cornbread and syrup. Or maybe a big bowl of polk salad with a few slices of fat sows belly. No one was begged to eat. In fact, I believe one could have staged a week hunger strike without anyone attracting any notice.

This was before womenís lib. Once a woman married, there was no way to go back. Of course there were kind, considerate men then, as there are now, but there were others who were born bullies. The weaker female had to humbly take what ever abuse came her way because the wife and children were the property of the head of the house, the same as was a goat or mule.

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