Most of us agree that it is more fun to read about “the good old days” than to actually relive them. Almost all of our state was hard hit Friday evening by the unusual windstorm that weather forecasters are calling a “derecho” a name I’d never heard, much less experienced.
It came fast and furious, and caught us unprepared for such a disaster. We were thrust back into yesteryear with the electrical power outages; telephone service disrupted and many homes left without water.
Actually, we could have coped better in years gone by. We were not dependent on electricity to run our households. When dark came, we lit the kerosene lamps (or in my childhood we had gas lights with mantles attached to the gas lines. Knocking off a mantle could be a calamity if it happened to be the last one. I can still hear Mom say, “Don’t jump! You’ll knock off the mantle!”)
We got our water from a pitcher pump that was powered by manual labor, and at one time we pulled our water out of a dug well with a tube-like affair called a “baler.” Sometimes it was a bucket tied to a rope, and cranked to the top by a windlass. The water from that Jackson County well was cold and sweet. We didn’t have to flush the johnny house, and it was always available.
This was much better than Mom had it though. She dipped her wash water out of the creek (it was clean then) and heated it in a blackened washtub over a fire outside. I don’t remember her washing clothes on a washboard, although she did in the early days of her marriage. She related to me many times of how she would scrub clothes until her knuckles were raw and bleeding.
What I remember is the old gasoline-powered Maytag washer that ran on “drip” gas (thanks to a kindly neighbor who worked in the oil fields.) She had to kick it to make it start, and sometimes it was balky. (No wonder she ended up with varicose veins.) She would run the white clothes through hot, soapy water into a wash tub of hot bleach water. She used a sawed-off broomstick that she called her “punching stick” to lift the clothes out of the hot water and feed them through the wringers. Then they went into a tub of cold water colored with Little Boy Blue blueing. Colored clothes of course skipped the bleach water.
A lot of them were starched heavily with boiled starch, and the whole lot was hung on the clothes line to dry. The starched clothes were sprinkled with warm water (remember the top with the holes that fit into a pop bottle?) We usually had at least two bushels of starched clothes.
Someone mentioned recently of a certain person who had “too many irons in the fire” and it called to mind those sad irons. No wonder they were called sad! I remember them well—you would heat the irons over a fire, and when they were hot enough, there was a handle that clamped over them. I remember Mom using them, and when one cooled down, she would take the handle and clamp it over a hot one.
I never had to use those instruments of torture, but after we got electricity, I was elected to do the ironing (all except Daddy’s dress shirts—he was particular about them.) All three brothers and Daddy wore starched and ironed pants. It’s no wonder that I am allergic to an iron. Permanent press was one of the greatest inventions ever, I think. I ironed Criss a shirt the other day and I think it scared him. He went to his closet and got another one to wear.
I was ten years old before we got electricity, and of course we didn’t have electric fans. Screen doors were a luxury we didn’t have either. I remember fighting houseflies all summer. We hung sticky fly tapes from the ceiling, and the fly swatter got a good workout. Daddy would gather wild peppermint and place four bundles on each corner of the oilcloth covered table to deter the flies. We would take turns waving a leafy branch over the table while we ate.
We were thrown back on our own resources this time. Thank the Lord for neighbors who had city water. We have a private well, and when the power is off there’s no water. We could carry water from their outside tap, and we took showers at our son Andy’s house (also with city water.) The camper was stocked with dishpans which we put into use. It was reminiscent of long ago days when we heated tin dishpans of water on the stove. Mary Ellen and I were the designated dishwashers until Jeannie and Susie got old enough to take their turn.
We had a tin washpan to wash our hands and faces—no spigot on a lavatory to turn for instant water. It had a permanent place on a round homemade stool that Grandpa made. Of course the number three washtub was pressed into service for our Saturday night baths, which was no joke.
We managed then, and we are managing now. Our grandson Benji called from Springfield, Ohio, concerned about us. I told him that we are mountaineers—we are survivors! Actually, an experience such as this makes a person doubly appreciative of the everyday luxuries that we are prone to take for granted.
We just welcomed our 30th great-grandchild into our family, born June 24 to Benjamin and Katrina Bragg of Springfield, Ohio. She’s a little girl, named Madelyn Grace. She only weighed four pounds and 15 ounces, but is gaining rapidly and doing fine. She was welcomed home by big sister Emma, and brother Patrick. Grandparents are Andrew and Jennifer Bragg of Ovapa, and Bert and Phyllis Hunt of Lizemore, and Donna Kegley of Springfield. Great grandparents are Criss and Alyce Faye Bragg of Ovapa.
Larry “Mad Max” Maxwell of Parkersburg is looking for the words to an old song that I barely remember—”Go and tell Aunt Rhodie.” Remember? “Her old gray goose is dead—the one that she’s been saving to make her a feather bed.”
Thank the Lord that there were few fatalities during this destructive storm, and we pray that things are getting back to normal for everyone. God bless you.
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