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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Clothes Line History . . .

I remember the clotheslines stretched all across the backyard at our house in Omaha. And boy, did the clothes smell good when my Mom brought them in . . . especially, fresh sheets on the bed at night. In the winter the lines were strung all over the basement, but never smelled as good and took a lot longer to dry!

You have to be a certain age to appreciate this.


(If you don't know what clotheslines are, better skip this.)

1. You had to wash the clothes line before hanging any clothes--walk the entire lengths of each line with a damp cloth around the lines.

2. You had to hang the clothes in a certain order, and always hang "whites" with "whites," and hang them first.

3. You never hung a shirt by the shoulders, always by the tail! What would the neighbors think?

4. Wash day on a Monday!...Never hang clothes on the weekend, or Sunday, for Heaven's sake!

5. Hang the sheets and towels on the outside lines so you could hide your "unmentionables" in the middle (perverts & busybodies, y'know!).

6. It didn't matter if it was sub zero
weather...clothes would "freeze-dry."

7. Always gather the clothes pins when taking down dry clothes! Pins left on the lines were "tacky!"

8. If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothes pins, but shared one of the clothes pins with the next washed item. 9. Clothes off of the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes basket, and ready to be ironed.

10. IRONED? Well, that's a whole other


A clothesline was a news forecast
To neighbors passing by,
There were no secrets you could keep
When clothes were hung to dry.

It also was a friendly link
For neighbors always knew,
If company had stopped on by
To spend a night or two.

For then you'd see the "fancy sheets"
And towels upon the line;
You'd see the "company table cloths"
With intricate designs.

The line announced a baby's birth
From folks who lived inside -
As brand new infant clothes were hung,
So carefully with pride!

The ages of the children could
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed,
You'd know how much they'd grown!

It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,
Haphazardly were strung.

It also said, "Gone on vacation now"
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told, "We're back!" when full lines sagged, with not an inch to spare!

New folks in town were scorned upon
If wash was dingy and gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows,
And looked the other way.

But clotheslines now are of the past,
For dryers make work much less.
Now what goes on inside a home
Is anybody's guess!

I really miss that way of life. It was a friendly sign.
When neighbors knew each other best by what hung on the line.

1 comment:

  1. I loved the poem. I just put my line up this week and hung my first ever load out to dry. Well, I did it once or twice as a child when the dryer broke. I love it so far! I love the way they feel off the line and I just did our sheets today, I can't wait to get in bed tonight. I love seeing them on the line. You can really only see them from my son's room so I go look out his window all the time. =)