The ironing board

Photo by Waldemar Brandt - Accessed on Unsplash

Today’s the day, I can’t put it off any longer. I have to get that ironing done. With all the determination I could muster, I wrestled my ironing board out of the cupboard and dragged it into the living room.

The ironing board resisted and would not co-operate as I tried to open it up and stand it on its leg. Guess you are getting to be as old as me, I thought, but I am not replacing you, you will just have to wait me out until someone tosses you in some re-cycle bin.

I look at the old thing and then pushed on it to make sure that it stood steadily on its leg – after all, I don’t want it to collapse when I am ironing. “We have come a long way, you and I,” and indeed we had. Trying to remember how far back was a waste of time, and there were blouses to be ironed. 

Blouses now, yes, but back then when I was a young bride married to my Mountie, it was shirts. Many, many shirts amongst other things. We lived in a rented house which came with a washer, a wringer washer.

Don’t suppose young people even know what a wringer washer is now, but this one was a beastie.

First, I had to wash all the clothes. The white sheets and pillow cases came first, then all the shirts, then everything colored after which what ever else was left. There was no timer on the machine, so I would let the agitator work for five minutes, stop it, and then put every article through the wringer and placed them into a clothes basket.

One load done, on to the next one, changing the washing water half way through. When all the clothes were washed, the rinsing process could begin. Same routine, whites, shirts, colored things and then the remainder.

The only difference here was that when the first rinse was complete, I could carry the basket full of clothes up to hang them on the line. Repeating it at the end of each rinse.

I am rather short, so hanging sheets on a windy day could turn into quite a challenge. I had to make sure to pin the ends tightly with a clothes peg so that it would not fly off and dangle on the ground. If it did and I was lucky, the ground would not be muddy and the soil could just be brushed off, but if there was mud on the ground, it meant doing a re-rinse. Once the sheets were hung, the rest was easier even on a windy day. I always did it in the same order, sheets, pillow cases, towels, shirts, then the jeans or what ever was left.

Hanging clothes was almost as tiring as the washing. In winter it was even worse because my fingers became stiff from the cold, and as for taking the washing down, well, that could turn into a nightmare. There are no instruction books on how to take frozen sheets off a clothes line, this is a talent I had to teach myself. I am not sure how I managed it, but I never a sheet left behind. The shirts on the other hand were easy. I took them down and then stood them up next to one another, domino style, before taking them into the house to thaw.

The odd thing about frozen clothes was that even though they were damp, as they became limp and thawed, they also began to dry. An extra bonus to all this thawing of clothes was that their moisture humidified the house.  Ironing sheets and pillow cases was easier in winter because of the dampness. In warm or hot weather, because my iron did not have a steam option, I had the added chore of sprinkling the clothes with water.

Once sprinkled I rolled them up and let them stand for a while before I started to iron them. If I didn’t do this, the wrinkles would not come out, especially in my Irish linen table cloths.

Washing and ironing was my most demanding job, and yes, I ironed everything from sheets to table cloths to tea towels to my husband’s pajamas and even his underwear. From what I remember, the only things I did not iron were the towels. My husband sometimes went through four shirts a day.

He would wear a clean uniformed one in the morning, change at noon, and then change into a sports shirt at night. However, sometimes he was called back to escort a prisoner somewhere and then he would have to wear a clean white shirt.

Some weeks I had over twenty shirts to do. I got so good at ironing them that it only took me seven minutes to do the whites, the uniforms and cotton ones about five minutes, tops.

Yes, this ironing board and I have been through a lot. The funny thing is that I still iron some of my sheets and pillowcases and my tea towels. Guess old habits are hard to break.