Friday, February 1

Washers, Soapy Water and Worms!

Back in the 40's, my mom had a wringer washer that looked something like this one. Monday was wash day and I looked forward to it in the summer when I was home, because after washing on the back porch all morning, mom would dump the soapy water into the back yard. About five minutes after the soapy water flooded the low spots, worms of all description would surface through the grass while gasping for air. I was sure I could hear them screaming......"Save me!"

I was not your typical, prissy girl, afraid to touch the wriggling, slimy worms. Oh no, I loved them. They were the "hot dogs" in the daily repasts (not just tea parties) I spread for my dolls. Of course, they had to be sliced in 2-3-4 pieces first. I used an old file borrowed from daddy's tool chest to slice parts from the whole. Would you believe that of me? LOL I made mud pies for my dolls and on the buffets I set up for them, in addition to the hotdogs, were green beans (from four o'clock plants, I think) and small black seed pods I called blackberries. Various other plant parts were used as well, and I can tell you that few dolls were ever fed as well as mine. I do wonder some times if my zeal for slicing the worms bordered on sadism. I took out my six year old frustrations on them, I assure you!

The back porch that was home to the washer was the site of many play periods for me. I could sit out there if it was raining, and get fresh air (important to my mom) while not getting wet. It had a well-scrubbed wooden floor which my dad had painted gray just after we moved into that house. I got into a lot of trouble one day when my mom found me pounding nails and tacks into that wood floor. Shortly after that, daddy went to the lumber yard and brought home a box of scrap wood for me to experiment with. Better that, and a box of my very own nails, than more damage to the floor.

Did you love boxes when you were little? Small boxes could be used to make houses and apartments for dolls. I used to take old match boxes and make boats. They would float down the curbside gutter in a rainstorm, and if they capsized, we'd holler "man overboard". Big boxes were fun pretend play houses. My dad brought home a refrigerator box once, and another time he got some washer boxes for me. I could cut windows in a big box; draw curtains on them and sit in it for hours; reading or pretending I had my very own home. I wanted so badly to sleep outside in them, but mom wouldn't let me.

What is it about boxes? What do psychiatrists say about people who like them, collect them, keep boxes nested inside other boxes and never throw them out? Huh? I have collected, in spite of myself: wooden cigar boxes, tin boxes, Shaker boxes, document boxes, recipe boxes, plastic boxes, cardboard boxes, papier mache boxes, plastic crates, plastic tubs, jewelery boxes, wooden crates, banker's boxes........(gasping for air myself....whew). WHY?


He who postpones the hour of living is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses.

Horace, poet and satirist (65-8 BCE)


Carolyn said...

We had an electric washer and a wringer when I was a kid. We used the wringer outside to wash sheets & towels that hung on the line.

My brother & I made boats from match boxes too. We put the plastic cowboys & indians on them. We sailed them on the "oceans" we made by digging holes all over the backyard and filling them with rocks and water. Dad thought we had a large mole population out there.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

I loved big boxes as a kid. Or, just putting chairs in a certain configuration and draping a blanket over it for a tent/house.

These days, my son is bored within 5 minutes of no video games, but he does love reading, so I guess there's hope for him yet.

Floridora said...

We had a very similar washer in the basement. I loved to fool with the wringer and squish all sorts of things. Mom would get very upset at me for that.

Within my reach right this moment is a wooden cigar box saved from the good old days. I just looked, the brand is "Dubonnet". It is full of old pictures which I should sort out and discard most, but I never get to it.

deborah wilson said...


Followed your link from Eddie's blog, I'm finally getting around to visiting. I see that this is your second blog, good work!

sage said...

my great-grandma was still using a washer like that in the early 60s (she died in 64 or 65) and afterwards, my grandmother used it when she washed for her dad (supposedly it used less water than a more modern one and they were always concerned for their well (this is the same great-grandma who had both a wood stove next to a gas range (and she preferred the wood stove).


I liked the quote from Horace. Michele sent me. :-)

Kay Dennison said...

Oh heck , Judy! Worms were for going fishin' with my dad!!! After an early evening rain, dad & I would be armed with flashlights out huntin' nightcrawlers.

My little sister told my mom, "I hope Kay doesn't have any babies, I have to take care of her dollies because she doesn't." She repeated that to me after I'd married when I said I'd like children. I think I amazed my mother when my kids were born because she didn't think tomboys would be good mommys either.
My kids turned out good so I guess I did just fine.

Betty said...

As girls, we used to collect and trade playing cards, the way boys collected and traded baseball cards. The playing cards, in two rows, were perfect fits in cigar boxes. My mother didn't have a wringer washer, but she did have an electric ironing machine. I had to iron all the flat pieces (handkerchiefs, napkins, etc.) on it.

tommie said...

first of all, michelle sent me. While I do appreciate the novelty of an old timey washing machine....I do appreciate mine!

Becky68 said...

I remember having a refrigerator box as a child, I made a puppet theater out of it, many fun hours were had with that!
Michele sent me to remember with you today.

bobbie said...

That photo brought back memories. How I loved to feed clothes into the wringer. I also loved beating the rugs hung over the clothesline. I never fed dolls worms, but the berries from the barberry bushes were play food, unless I was lucky enough to have some nonpoareils and could use the white pills. Well, sometimes they wer used as pills, oplaying doctor. And boaxes were the best! A really big one made a opuppet theater for clothes pin people or cutouts.
Thanks for the memories.

Grannymar said...

Great memories! I love the worms bit!

Kerri said...

My mom had a wringer washer for years too but the wringer was turned by the motor so she didn't have to turn it by hand. Wash day was every Monday!
Poor dollies! You give new meaning to the phrase: "Let them eat worms!" Or is that 'cake'?
Dressing in mom's old clothes and using boxes for houses...yeah! Lots of fun. Thanks for the memories. Kids still love boxes!
I also received that wonderful deer photo, and the caption said: A lady that lives in Ladysmith Wisc. snapped this Saturday.

No_Newz said...

Aww great memories. :) I also love boxes. I have no idea what that means, but I'm with you. I never chopped up worms but I did feed mud pies to my dollies and a neighbor girl. LOL!

Nancy said...


I think you missed your calling!

After reading about how you made all that stuff for your dolls by using this leaf or that seed,and your skill with flower arranging, you should have been a float decorator for the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade.

Changes in the wind said...

Great post....loved you sharing your time as a girl:)
I didn't play with boxes but one time when I broke my big toe my
Dad make a little cast protector from a match box.

Granny Annie said...

Judy, you've done it again. Great essay and great stroll down memory lane. We lived down the alley from an appliance store. We were always dragging home boxes. We used them for Fortune Telling booths and jails. You name it. The other day my daughter called in utter dismay. They had bought a new TV and her husband TOOK THE BOX TO THE TRASH! He did not know their daughter had claimed it and the worst part, he did not know why. It seems my son-in-law had never played in appliance boxes!

Little boxes were for fly houses. I would name the flies and put on plays with them.

All the granddaughters love worms. None of the grandsons do.

R. Sherman said...

Hey Kenju.

My grandmother had the washer in the photograph in her basement in the early sixties. It was her "rag" washer and I watched her use it, including the wringer. (Perhaps I related to Sage,)I always enjoyed seeing the water squeezed out of the old towels and such.

Later, of course, I truly understood the meaning of the expression regarding body parts caught in same.

Cheers from Michele

Lisa said...

oh, you and I would have had great tea parties together! I had three brothers, and I had to bait all our hooks if my dad weren't there to do it for them. :)

and thank goodness for technology and maytag!!!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

You certainly had a wonderful imagination Judy...Your "Tea Party's" sound like they were quite elaborate...! Cutting up those worms? Eeewwwww...!

I like boxes quite a bt, but mostly to actually use them. Do you just collect boxes and store them in each other? Or do you use the boxes you collect---or at least some of them....?

Anonymous said...

I was not the kind of kid who liked playing with worms. My sisters and I used to take old tin cans and boil leaves and mud over a small flame. And we were always climbing up trees and playing on the roof. That's where we would throw our little green soldiers off, with plastic bags for parachutes.

Those were the days...

JeanMac said...

Memories again! Thanks. My Grandma washed outdoors.
Mu sister and I played house and also , "dentist". She would tuff raisins in my teeth as fillings - thank good ness she hadn't thought of sliced up worms!
One day my Dad drove around a box on the road - I asked why -"there could be a small cat inside"

Weeping Sore said...

I remember this washer in the backyard of an aunt's house. The extremely cool thing was that, when you fed stuff through the rollers to wring it out, it would stop and pop apart if you tried something too thick. Like, for example smaller cousin's arms.

Boxes! The best part of that color TV back in the stone age was the box. It was a fort until it disintegrated from too many enemy surprise attacks.

WendyWings said...

I have tons of boxes here , cardboard ones in all shapes and sizes that Miss Six won't let me throw away lol.
I have to do it when she is not around.
Michele sent me today to say hi.

Shelly said...

Don't know how I got here but I'm so glad I found this =D.
Great blogging!

Ol' Hoss said...

I have a box somewhere that nobody can open except me. Ho ho har de har har. But I only have one box, not a slew of them like you do.

Kristi said...

I have a soft spot for these old appliances. I just love them. My great aunt has an old stove from the 40s in her basement, and she still uses it!

PS: I used to love to make dioramas in boxes.

Joan said...

Empty Valentine heart candy boxes. I used to save them under my bed and every once in a while I would open them up to get that sweet chocolate fragrance.

panthergirl said...

Oh this is hilarious. I can't believe you chopped up worms to feed your dolls!! We used to trap ants under a magnifying glass and listen to them fry. Ew.

We loved boxes too... refrigerator boxes were the best!!

Beverly said...

So funny!!!
I emptied a match box yesterday and I promise you, I thought for a second, what can I use this for?? Save paper clips in?? I then laughed at myself.

You need to visit my blog and look around Christmas, and see my grandson in his fav present...the box it came

PI said...

Judy I could smell again that old soapy water- it never leaves you. Thanks for the memory!

Star said...

We knew how to play back then didn't we? My mom had a wringer washer too.

Maria said...

I loved boxes when I was a child and I think there is nothing better to spark that creativity in a young one. . . or in some cases the rest of us as well.

I got in lots of trouble for carrying worms in my pockets. They really do make a squishy mess and my mother was not terribly enthusiased with my worm children.

Shephard said...

I have always loved containers, and thus, the container store. But more so, unusual and decorative boxes, tho not ceramic or limoge (not spell-checking that, lol).

I can only imagine what a psychiatrist would say, but then again, by the very nature of being a psychiatrist, I bet she/he would have their own box collection.

And I was NOT one of those children who played in mud or with worms or bugs (too much Virgo in my chart, wink).