Wash Days and the Large Family

We used to pull the sheets, two at each side, so they would be dead straight and then fold them.

Photo of child on mother's shouldersWe lived in a four roomed flat, three bedrooms and a kitchen living room. The stair-head had a bath that had a bench over the top, just cold water. Nine children; the girls all slept in one room and the boys all slept in another, the third bedroom was where my Mother and Father slept with the baby. We had washing days – whites one day, coloureds and woollens the next day. It used to take two days, but we all had to help with that. We had to turn the wringer and we had to iron and then, when all sheets and towels were folded, they used to go back through the dry wringer which used to flatten them instead of ironing them. We used to pull the sheets two at each side so they would be dead straight, then fold them; you would just think they were ready to go in a cellophane packet. There was a bench in the wash house where you could soap things or scrub the collars of shirts, with a scrubbing brush. Collars on men’s shirts came off, they were separate, so a man could wear the same shirt but a different collar. Collars used to go out to a Laundry and get starched, there was always a collar service everywhere. They would be put into brown boxes with string wound round. They went to the laundry in one box and returned in another.

We had to help at home too with everything; we had a task every night. One used to fetch the coal, someone used to chop the sticks for the next morning, another cleaned the shoes every night. We had water buckets, coal buckets, slop buckets; we each had a task to do before we could go out to play.

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