PALAVERING WITH BEULAH: What happened to clothes lines?

Published 3:31 pm Friday, July 31, 2020

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By Beulah Rampage Fishbite
Contributing columnist

What ever happened to clothes lines?  They went the way of porches I guess.  Clothes lines were pretty neat things.  And the sheets that came off them in the afternoon and onto the beds were glorious to climb into at bed time.  Sheets off the line had such a scratching clean smell you just wanted to wallow.  There was a routine to using a clothes line – wipe it off first.  Many birds and bugs with dirty feet had rested there so the line was wiped down.

If there were three or four lines, sheets and towels were always hung on the outside lines to hide the unmentionables or step-ins on the inner lines.  Stretch those sheets out taunt because that sure saved ironing.  Yes! Some folks ironed the sheets. Clothes were hung in order – sheets together, towels together, shirts, socks, undies all batched together.  Shirts were hung by the side seas upside down.  Socks by the toes so they would not stretch out.  Pants by the waist so the moisture would drain down and the garment would dry quicker.

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To make the clothes pins go farther items were overlapped and shared pins.  At the end of the day the pins were gathered and put in a basket or a bag.  Clothes pin bags were made out of little girl dresses often.  The hem of the dress was sewn together and a wooden hanger held the dress on the line.  This way pins were taken in and not left out in the weather.

Remember the clothesline poles.  Long poles with notches on the end to prop the lines up as they became weighted down with wet clothes.  I can remember seeing all sorts of poles.  Wooden and metal.  Seems like those metal ones might create a hazard.  And the lines were rope, wire or later plastic-coated wire.  Usually strung from a T-brace or between a couple trees.

As a kid it was my job to hang up clothes.  It was an ok job but I would have rather read a book.  Once the clothes were hung up, if a rainstorm came up later there was the mad dash to get the clean dry clothes off the line and out of the rain.  Once at boarding school I was detailed with a gaggle of girls to get clothes off the line for a big storm was coming.  We ran out there and were harvesting the sheets and other items.  A huge wind came and started grabbing garments.  I remember seeing a bra swirl straight up, as high as the third story of the nearby building and it was spinning.  What a sight.

Once a friend from St Louis came to Homer on a weekend visit.  That friend had grown up in the city and the one thing we had in Homer that so amazed my guest was our clothes lines.  Do you see many of them anymore?  Are you lucky enough to have one?

Yep, I miss clothes lines.  Their being gone is a report of our society as it is now.  Women have gone to work outside the home.  New modern appliances and the development of fabric have all chased off our good ole clothes lines.