Clean Underwear and Hard Times

I think my mom would have made a deal with the devil for one of these in 1947.  She didn’t get one, nor anything else of the sort until around 1957, but I don’t recall her washing clothes in a washtub after the early 1950s.  From around 1954 until she got a home washing machine she went to the Laundromats with most of the other ladies.  I’m guessing this one was probably manufactured in the late 1940s.

I’d watched in one of the thrift stores in town for some while, them asking $55, then marking it down to $35, nobody interested enough to plug it in and find out if it worked.  But after it had been there long enough to cause me to figure they were getting tired of seeing it I plugged it in.


No vibration, nothing moving, just a clicking of the spring loaded timer and the sound of an electric motor trying to push the immoveable object.  I unplugged it more quickly than I plugged it in, carried it up to the cashier and told him it didn’t work, told him what it was doing and what was going to happen if someone plugged it in and left it trying to run.

“We can’t fix it.  We don’t have a repair department.”

“Yeah, maybe nobody can.  They haven’t manufactured parts for it in 50 years.  But maybe someone can.”

“Do you want to try?”

“Maybe.  How much do I have to risk betting I can?”

He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

The only tool required to get it running was my foldup Leatherman, oil, and a rag. It’s out there washing seven pairs of my jockey shorts at the moment.  I don’t envy it.

Been a long while since I’ve been so blessed.

12 responses to “Clean Underwear and Hard Times

  1. Good read, as always. you posted on my blog a comment about fire-ants. From the description and actions of your ants I don’t “think” they are fire ants. Here is a link of what they look and how they act.

    I certainly hope they are not !!!

  2. Hi ben. Thanks for the visit, the read, the comment and link. I can’t tell from the pics whether these are fire ants, or some other tribe of ants. These do take a pinch on one end and sting in a circle, but I’m not certain that’s not a trait limited to fire ants.

    Whatever their ethnicity, they’re determined and opportunistic enough to satisfy my needs.

    Thanks again.

  3. That thing reminds me of the washer my grandma had in a shed out in her back yard. It was cylindrical like that. But it had a mangle on top to squeeze the juice out of wet clothes. Sometimes she let me try the mangle.

    In fact, I remember before she got that fancy thing. When I was just a tad, she washed sheets in the backyard, not two blocks from downtown. Right across from Lily Duke Hospital and backed up behind the Baytown Sun’s printing plant. But back then they got boiled up in a big kettle with lye, over an open fire.

    This would have been around 1955. Not all that long ago, as the crow flies.

    She was an Old Testament terror for thoroughness. She felt God as a palpable Presence with no let up, and knew He was watching. Mercy didn’t much enter into it. God was all about Justice.

    She was a force of nature. It’s a wonder she ever allowed anything as morally doubtful as an electric powered washer onto the property.

    After the sheets were boiled, stirred with a paddle, mangled, and hung out to dry, she ironed them stiff and stacked them up in the linen closet. You could set a ruler against that stack. Sheets didn’t dare lean in Momo’s closet. Not if they knew what was good for them.

    She’d generally wash once a week. My grandpa Walter wore white cotton shirts and khakis most every working day. This was in the years before air conditioning got everywhere, so he often had to change into a fresh shirt in the afternoon. Anything white got boiled, starched, and ironed.

    Except maybe for the grandkids.

    But she lined us kids up straight too, and no foolin’. If you gave her any sass, or even just looked sinfully idle for a moment, you’d find yourself on your knees wiping down the baseboards with lemon oil. Momo was real big on “building character”.

    On the up side, that woman sure could cook.


    • Morning Bob: I’m obliged for you sharing the anecdote. I gather you were from down around Baytown. I spent a couple of years living in Port Lavaca back around late-65 to late 66. Maybe you and I passed one another going down the highway one time or another. You recall ever seeing a blue Nash Metropolitan convertable come the other way at you?

      Thanks a bunch for the visit, the read and the suggestions. J

  4. One thing leads to another. After I wrote that, I realized the “boiling the wash” memory had to be from earlier than I indicated. I was only 4 or 5, and I was born in 1946, right in that old hospital that was catty-corner across the street.

    I actually grew up mostly in Georgetown, Texas, where my dad had a grocery store. But my mom took us back to visit her mom in Baytown (the part where Momo lived was called Goose Creek back then) on a regular basis when we were little. By the time I was old enough to take proper notice of a Nash Metropolitan, we didn’t go down there so much.

    A friend of mine had an Isetta, that you opened and entered from the front. Another drove a Model A that killed its previous owner and could be made to backfire on command. That was about as strange as things got in Georgetown.

    For a brief time in the early 60s my dad acquired a bright red 1959 Malibu and let me drive it to school – or maybe it was a Bel Air. The one with the squatting bird rear end. I was King of the Road around there for 6 months or so, until he got a chance to make a profit on it and sold it out from under me.

    Things have been going down hill ever since.


    • Hi Bob. Good town, Georgetown. I lived there, myself, from around 1978 until 1992. Used to go down to the park and pick up burr oak acorns, carry them around to plant them all over the area. I went back there briefly January, 1999, for a day and looked at some I planted in front of the house in Sanaloma in the early ’80s. Trees were almost 30 feet tall already. Planted a lot of them in the lots I owned around 100 Hillview North, west side of the Interstate, south of the San Gabriel, as well. I’m betting they’re getting some size on them by now, also.

      Thanks for coming around. I appreciate you. J

  5. I thought maybe that moustache looked familiar. I’ve been here, the second time around, since 1983.


    • Hi Bob: Yeah. Looks like it might be Bill Giddings on the back row middle on the family pic on your blog, but I’d never have recognized him if it’s him without knowing your name. Brother-in-law to Tommy Foust as I recall. J

  6. Not sure what picture you are talking about, or which blog, but I don’t know a Bill Giddings. But then there’s lots of people I don’t know. Some of them may even be related to me. I do know of the Fousts, but it’s been a long time.

    It’s funny how you can live in the same small town with people for 20 or 30 years and never quite meet up with them. There must be a name for that… whatever you call the reverse of serendipity.

    Or maybe it’s just a side effect of living in my own head. I’ve been warned it’s a bad habit, and will eventually do me in.


  7. Pingback: September 13, moonbows and canned thunder | So Far From Heaven

  8. Good blog, Jules. I’ll be back to read more.

    Take care,


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