compiled by
Florence W. Deems

If you don't know what clotheslines are, you were born after 1970 when clothes dryers, gas and electric, started to be widely used, at least in the cities and suburbs of the USA. This page is more nostalgic than humorous, though.

You had to clean the clothes line before hanging any clothes--walk the entire lengths of each line with a damp cloth around the lines. They were made of cotton rope and gathered soot, black mold, and bird poop.

You usually hung the clothes in a certain order, and always "whites" with "whites," which you did first.

You never hung a shirt by the shoulders, always by the tail! What would the neighbors think? At least if the tails got a little smudged, you didn't worry too much, as shirt tails were always tucked in.

Wash day always on Monday! . .. . NEVER hang clothes on the Weekend, or Sunday, for Heaven's sake! Again, what would the neighbors think?

Hang the sheets and towels on the outside rows of lines so you could hide your "unmentionables" in the middle (perverts and busybodies, y'know!). However, this didn't really protect your "unmentionables" from prying eyes in the neighbors' second floor windows.

It didn't matter if it was sub zero weather....clothes would "freeze-dry." They'd get stiff and then it was safe to bring them inside. They'd be mostly dry.

But if it rained all week, you had to drape the wet clothes all around the house. In cold weather, this would be as close to the heat ducts as you could get the chair backs.

You had to remember to always gather the clothes pins when taking down dry clothes! Pins, including their basket, left on the lines were "tacky!" Not only were they visually "tacky," they'd also get dirty and moldy, thus ruining the next batch of clothes that you tried to hang. Birds and squirrels also liked to get inside the little baskets.

The clothes pins were made of wood, which after time and usage tended to get splintery. So you had to buy new ones. Or they'd split in half. Eventually, someone invented the spring clip style, which turned out to be a boon to housewives.

If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothes pins, but shared one of the clothes pins with the next washed item. But if you had only a few items, they'd dry faster if you kept them separate.

Clothes must be off of the line before supper time, neatly folded in the clothes basket, and ready to be ironed the next day. Or else what would the neighbors think?

IRONED? Well, that's a whole other subject! (Hint: It's what good housewives did on Tuesdays!)


Additional Thoughts

Sometimes clothes got bird poop on them and had to be rewashed! If the birds had been eating dark colored berries, it was hard to get out the stain.

Or kids sometimes used the sheets and towels hanging in lines as a labyrinth to run thru with their dirty little paws touching here and there. The only recourse was to rewash and rehang.

People whose houses had basements would sometimes keep clotheslines strung up down there, for use during really cold weather. And Halloween! Parents could make a maze of sheets with spooky things at each end of the aisles. With all the lights off and only flashlights, kids could get scared out of their wits with a good set-up like this.

Back in 1961 when we moved to this area, I had no dryer. But I did have on one of those umbrella-like clothes poles - which I used for several years. When not in use, it collapsed like an umbrella in reverse. Until one day a strong wind knocked it over, sheets and all. That's when I finally went out and bought a dryer. Must have been around 1970.

But clothes coming out of the dryer never smelled as good as they did when I brought them in fresh from outside. Over the years, however, as air pollution got worse, those who still used clotheslines found their clothes had soot on them. No one who lives in or near cities uses lines any more.

Used to be, back in the 60s and 70s we could see the Milky Way at night. Now we're lucky to see the brightest stars and the moon, that's how much the air has been polluted in and near cities.

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