Always before doing the laundry had consisted of scrubbing clothes on the scrub board, wringing them out by twisting them and then dropping them into a tub of rinse water where they were swished around by hand, wrung out again and dropped into another tub of water. A final wringing and then they were placed on a wire "clothes line" to dry. It was an all day job! But when we moved in here we were surprised to find that it came with a washing machine. As I recall it had a gas motor and sat in the kitchen. The tank on the motor was probably coal oil. Maybe kerosene. Maybe gas. The motor caused the agitator to go back and forth, thus beating the clothes clean and eliminating the need for the scrub board. Mother did, however, pre scrub the collars of the shirts on the scrub board. We must have been very dirty little kids, especially our necks.
This new washer was great! It even had a "wringer" which was two rollers and you turned a crank and placed and item of clothes between the rollers and the water ran back into the washer. This was wonderful and made Mother's work so easy! But alas! It had been left there for a reason. The second time the laundry was done the motor gave out and could not be repaired. The rollers did not do a good job of wringing.
So, Mr. Reuben Floyd Bartholomew, land owner went into town and opened a charge account and purchased a brand new, never used, white washing machine for his wife. That was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen. And it was electric! It plugged into the one plug in that was in the kitchen. (More about the wonders of electricity later!) The best part was the stop lever on the wringer. If you got your fingers in there by accident, you could smack the lever with your free hand and the wringers would stop and open allowing you to retrieve your appendage. The alternative was to be pulled through the wringer and spit out in the rinse tub! So wash day now became a joy!
Water would be heated in the 3 legged kettle out back with a wood fire and carried in by buckets to fill the washing machine. Cold water was carried for the rinse tubs. The final rinse always had a dab of "bluing" added so the white clothes had a hint of blue instead of the drab gray of the women who did not use bluing. The first load of clothes washed was always "the whites". The whites were placed on the clothes line to dry and life continued.
Oh, forgot to tell you the very first thing that happened was the bar of lye soap was grated into the water and agitated until it dissolved. I must elaborate on how the lye soap came to be.
When the lye soap supply started getting low, the first step was to clean the ash bin of the stove out and build a fire with a certain kind of wood. The wood was important as it affected the color, smell, and texture of the soap. This ash was saved for "soap making day". On soap making day the 5 gallon bucket of grease we had been saving for this occasion was carefully heated and strained into another clean can. Only the top was used as the bottom contained water and lord only knows what else. This was placed on the back of the stove to be kept warm. Mother would place the ashes in a colander lined with several layers of cheese cloth. She then carefully dropped water into the ashes which ran through and was caught in a vessel of some sort underneath the sieve. When she thought it looked "right" she would place a raw egg still in its shell in the mixture. As I recall when all was right the egg would do something "proving" the lye. When that happened there was a flurry in that kitchen like you would not believe!
The kettle of warm grease was set on the floor, someone poured the lye into the grease can while mother stirred frantically with a hammer handle reserved for this purpose only. Depending on the strength of the lye, the heat of the grease and the humidity of the air the grease would start to "trace" means to show marks of the hammer handle. When the trace marks showed the concoction was poured into a wooden box that was lined with cloth. If any part of the procedure was not perfect two things would happen. If the mixture did not trace, then lye was off and the whole thing a waste and had to be thrown out. If it traced to quickly it would set up on the way to the mold. Usually the hammer handle would be trapped in the soap and could not be retrieved until the soap was all grated. But if everything was perfect and the grease extra clean we would end up with white soap that actually lathered. Back then a woman's worth was often connected to that bar of soap she produced, and to her credit, my mother rarely failed!
That scenario is what went through my mind when Chuck Vail gave me a gift certificate to Vitamin Cottage and I saw a book on soap making. I figured if my mother could do it under the primitive conditions she did it under that I could surely turn out a bar to be proud of and that is what I have done. Sadly nobody ever asks me what my soap looks like, but I think I will show you anyway. The best part is what this does for my skin. See, this stuff is made with all natural ingredients so rather than plugging up my pores with petroleum distillates, it opens them and keeps my skin young. I have a lot of repeat customers for this soap and my lotions. Just goes to show, that no matter how things change, the more they remain the same. When I first started making soap I could buy lye at the grocery store, but then the druggies learned how to use it and embalming fluid to make drugs and it is no longer available. I have to order it online and I am limited how much I can buy and I have to certify that I am not a drug lord.