Wash Day with the Poss Tub

In the winter, shirts used to get stiff with the cold; you could take them off the line and stand them up in the kitchen.

In my house you had to come through the bedroom into the back kitchen and you had a little scullery. It was just like a little back passage, you had your cold water tap, nothing else. You came out of that door and went down into the yard where there was an old wash-house. You had to fill the big pot with water, not like now when you just open the door of the washing machine and throw your washing in. Your colours, woollens, blue and starch, everything was separated out before washing.

The big pot had a fire underneath, which had to be set before going to work. The first one in the house had to light the fire underneath till the water got nice and hot. We had an old zinc tub and a poss stick which was a wooden pole with a cross handle and three little legs. You had to stand and poss and poss until your washing was clean. If you wanted some water out of the copper you used a zinc bowl with a wooden handle which you used to lift out of the copper. It took a long time, a full afternoon’s work, by the time you got through it.

One thing I loved as a child was washing in the winter. The fabrics were so thick and you couldn’t get a lot of water out of them, so they were hung on the line with water still in them. Shirts used to get stiff, you could take them off the line and stand them up. It was really funny to me, as a child, seeing my granddad’s shirts standing up in the back kitchen. As soon as they got warmed through they collapsed.

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