How we Lived

Monday was Washday. Don't ask me why but it always was, and thus invariably it rained. Washing day meant that mother had to get up earlier than usual to get the boiler fire lit in the wash-house, which like most houses was located down the yard.

Providing the wind was in the right direction and the sticks were dry, the water was boiling by 8 a.m, when battle commenced. I say this because it was no joke struggling with hot steaming wet flannel sheets, whilst trying to feed them between the huge wooden rollers of the mangle, at the same time turning the handle with the other hand. My word the women in those days could pack a punch, as I often found out when mam landed me one behind the ear.

The next dodgy part was getting them hung on the clothes line, with the prop in postionbefore they caught on the gooseberry bush, or the wind whipped them away before all the pegs were in. If it was raining then the heavy stuff had to wait until the next day, although the smaller items could be brought indoors to be put on the clotheshorse, or strung on a cord from the ceiling. Either way it was a blessed (I wish I dare use stronger words) nuisance, as it filled the house with dampness, and slapped your face when trying to get to the table for dinner. (Dinner by the way was at 12 noon, not at anything up to 8 o'clock at night as you modern folk will have it - pass the Rennies!)

Ironing was no easy matter either, as I did not know anyone who owned an electric iron - maybe there was no such thing. We only had heavy flat irons, which had to be heated on a bracket mounted in front of the fire. Naturally you had to have more than one iron so you could heat the next one ready for use. You will note that you had to have a fire going, even in summer, when it was roasting outside. There was no deodorants in those days either.

I did not know any houses that had wall to wall carpets, so cleaning meant that the pricked rugs had to be turfed outside and thrown over a bush, so that they could be given a good beating. Lino usually covered the basic floor, but in some posh houses the floor boards were highly polished, with loose carpets only near the fireside.

Pricked rugs consisted of short lengths of material cut from old clothes, such as suits and skirts. A wooden frame was used to stretch the hessian (old potatoe sacks) to enable the short length of material to be inserted. Women would sit for hours with a wooden poker thing that made a hole in the canvas into which you pulled the cloth clip. Some very nice patterns could be achieved, but my word did the mats weigh heavy when they were full of muck!. (If only Mr Dyson had got cracking with his all singing dancing vacuum cleaners in 1930).

The fire was the only means of heat, but in addition it was vital for baking and for heating water. It was therefore burning from morning to night, seven days a week. This resulted in an awful amount of soot in the chimney, which had to be cleaned out at regular intervals, which was the job of Harry Rodwell, who otherwise was the Lodge Gate Keeper. I seemed to be the one that had to be outside to shout when the brush appeared out of the chimney pot. On more than one occasion our chimney went 'on fire' when the soot behaved like petrol and made a very frightening sound as it roared away gathering momentum. This called for drastic quick action, when a wet thick sack was put over the fireplace to cut off the air supply.

I liked to be at home on a Friday, because it was always baking day. There was the lovely smell of new baked bread, and if I talked nicely to mam she would cut me a thick crust with plenty of butter - absolute magic. I could not understand at first why she put the dough mixture in its bowl in front of the open fire yet covered it with a damp cloth. These old ladies knew a thing or two, no doubt learnt in that mobile cookery van years before.

At the side of the fire was the 'boiler' as we called it, but it only held about a gallon water which had to do for washing up and washing ones face and hands. This led to many harsh words when someone wanted a quick wash before going out 'on the town' and mam had just used the lot for washing up.

Having a bath was a major operation, which for reasons of modesty, had to be done with no one else in the house, so this was usually performed after the others had gone to bed. First you made sure the fireside boiler was full with hot water, supported by a big pan of water boiling on the fire itself. You had already brought the zinc bath in from the wall outside, and placed it in front of the fire, and made sure you had a bucket of cold water handy in case things were too hot. Having performed this lengthy ritual, you stepped inside and sat down, only to find you had forgotten the ruddy soap, or the towel was out of reach.

Because no one wanted to creep about in their shirt (what were those things called pyjamas?) in the dead of night to go down the yard to the lavvy for a wee, a chamber pot, know as the po, was placed under each bed. This could smell a bit strong by the morning, and I did not envy mam's job of emptying them . As the saying goes, its was a nasty job but somebody has to do it.

The lady of the house was judged by others by the cleanliness of the fireside, and so these were treated with 'Black Lead' and 'Shino' every Saturday morning, with the hearth getting a coat of 'Whitening' nearly every day. We possessed what was know a 'Tidy Betty', a metal device that both guarded the hearth and supported the fire irons.

Running of the house was strictly the women's domain, and all that was expected of the man was to bring in the weekly wage, look after the maintenance of the property, and tend to the garden that produced vegetables for most of the year.
He also administered punishment to his offsprings, which to me was a good belting across my bare legs with his leather belt. It is worth pointing out that boys were not allowed to wear long trousers until leaving school at 14, so after reaching about 12 years of age I felt a right wally.