Memories of Stafford Street

Memories of Stafford Street

Memories of Stafford Street

Washing Day

When George was young, there were no automatic washing machines, everything had to be done by hand, wash day was very hard work. The clothes were put in a tub and agitated, and beaten with a dolly peg. Once clean, the excess water would be squeezed out using a mangle, and the garments were hung on the washing line to dry. White items were soaked in a blue bath to make them look very white and garments such as shirts were starched. Ironing was no simple matter as the iron had to be heated by the fire before each use. It was a long and laborious process, so different from what we do today.

Mondays were washing day. It was terrible, I used to wait for my father to come from work and give my mother a turn on the mangle. I've given my mother a turn on the mangle many times on the light things, the cushion covers and the lace curtains. The heavier things such as the sheets and the blankets would have to be done by my dad. Of course you mangled by turning the big wheel on the end of the rollers. It was alright when you started. You had to adjust the screw on the top to alter the pressure on the top roller. Eventually the middle of the roller would wear and so you ended with a concave in the middle of each roller. The wooden rollers were about 5inches in diameter and about three feet wide. The pressure eventually would wear the middle away, so no matter how you adjusted the screw on the top, the two ends of the rollers would prevent the middle sections coming together and so it was impossible to use without replacing the rollers. 

A funeral procession passing the Co op, on the corner of Whitmore Street and the Poor Hall and Drill Hall. Photo courtesy of Jennings funeral directors.
Some people had no money and so couldn't afford to change the rollers, and so they would use their hands to squeeze out as much water as possible, or put the washing in the what they called the dolly tub, which they used to blue-up in, and take off their shoes and stamp on the clothes to remove the water.

People used to have two tubs, a big one to maid in and a smaller one to blue-up in. All of the white things had to be blued up and starched. You used to get a Reckit's blue, and blue the water. The mixture had to be just right, too much blue and the clothes would be blue when they dried. 

If you got the mixture right the clothes would be whiter than white. The starch was made with hot water and starch. Put it on and it would dry hard. Some only just starched the fronts.

There was just one washing powder, Hudson's, a hard powder, a slab in paper, and you had to cut it to size. Its incredible how clean all of the clothes were got, under the conditions. It was a credit to some of the women when you look how they did it.

The ironing was done using a sad iron. This had to be heated in front of the fire on a little straddle, that you used to put on the fire bars of the grate. Once heated, the iron had to be cleaned before you could start to iron, because of the dirt from the fire ashes. If you put it straight on to your washing, the garment you were ironing would be dirty. It was very hard and slow work, as the iron had to be cleaned each time it was heated.

Some people used to wash for a living. We lived with my mother’s mother and she was a good washer. She used to have the job of washing all of the shirts for the son of Whiteheads, the printers. She was such a good washer. She used to button the shirts up, iron them and they would be immaculate. They wouldn’t send them to the laundry because my gran did a better job.

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