Thursday, June 09, 2005
Grammie's House and Laundry racks
Originally uploaded by Allan & Cheryl
Aviator Dave's home-made laundry rack reminded me of the big laundry racks my parents and grandparents had when we were growing up. No wussy little flimsy Wal-Mart-style drying racks for them back in the days before dryers! While many used clothes lines - even back then - I suspect home-made GIANT laundry racks were the norm for many in that generation. It's what let you dry your laundry inside on wet or snowy days.
In the summer my Grandmother used a rotary clothes dryer outside. My mother just put her giant laundry rack itself outside - I remember hanging my little sisters cloth diapers on it. My parents still have their laundry rack - it's downstairs in the basement along with their indoor clothesline. My parents also have a dryer AND and outside clothesline. Yankee frugality runs in our family and even I prefer to line dry clothes much of the time to save electricity.
However - my Grandparents had a set up for winter clothes drying that bears mentioning as many of my generation and younger may not have run across it. The photos I have are photos of photos that I took as a child. Should I ever get a chance to go there again - I will take better photos!
Up until some point in my childhood - my grandparents heated their whole HOUSE - an old farmhouse in New Hampshire - (2 stories, basement and attic) with a wood burning furnace! My grandfather cut down the wood from his own property "wood lots", split the wood and stacked it in huge piles in the basement. Probably other places like outside and maybe the barn but it was the basement stacks of wood that stick the my memory from childhood visits.
The Wood burning furnace "down cellar"
The heat from the wood furnace came up through a HUGE grate in the middle of the living room floor. During the summer a carpet covered board would sit across the grate to make walking easier. In the winter though the chimney carried the smoke up through the roof and the grate carried the heat into the house via the living room. When the fire was going full tilt - you could burn yourself walking on it. My mother says this grate is how I learned the word "HOT" as a baby. (We lived near them when I was very small.)
The effect was the upstairs bedrooms were always cold and the living room would be scotching hot. Now this grate was where my grandparents dried their laundry in the wintertime. The big folding wooden rack would sit on top of it, which had the joint affect of drying the clothes and humidifying the house.
The other thing I remember is that my grandfather always kept his boxes of saltine crackers on top of the piano which was near this grate. I guess the heat from the wood furnace kept the room so dry that it made them nice and crispy.
The Laundry rack
I think it's around 5 ft tall and about 3- 4 ft long. It also can fold out much farther forming square at the top and bottom if more drying room is needed. Or fold up for storage. In the photo - it's only half open. You can't see but it's sitting over the grate in the living room and I believe that's my cousin Rodney. One of the few male cousins I have!
My Grammie still lives there but has had an oil furnace for a number of years now. I'll note she also had one of those old wood/gas antique stoves with warming ovens when I was small - many years ago replace by a modern stove. So many years ago that some of my sisters do not remember the old stove.
The water is also a unique situation - it comes from a spring and is not treated. The residents of the town have "water shares" and the water trickles in from the natural spring to a dividing system - manual like the dividers in the water play system at Science World. It then runs down by gravity to the town residents' water holding tanks. The water dividing house is at the top of the hill in the town. On our last visit there when Melissa was small it was still not locked and accessable to anyone. It is some of the best water I've ever had and as children we always thought it was fun to go down to the cellar and look into the big holding tank.
The Water tank
If it was a dry summer, people would have to conserve water and Grammie would have a sign over the toilet, "if it's yellow - let it mellow; if it's brown - flush it down." On really low water summers, Grammie would take the family down to bathe in the local swimming hole. I even remember washing my hair down there sometimes. Today that swimming hole is on private property with big no trespassing signs.
I count myself blessed that I have memories of my grandparents and some personal memories of some of the "old fashioned" ways of doing things. It makes me appreciate my electric heat, dryer, dishwasher, modern stove, and not having to worry about the water tank running dry in the summer. Here in the GVRD, we do have to conserve water in the summer, but it's in terms of using your sprinkler only twice a week, NOT foregoing showers and toilet flushes!
With five children, one or two of those huge laundry racks would be an improvement over the little ones we currently have. The kids broke one of the Walmart ones this week. They snapped the dowels off to "sword fight" with. However, as we haven't yet acquired all the tools required for "do it yourself" projects, I am thinking we should just buy and install a "rotary dryer" outside and stick to the little racks for indoor drying.