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Today is December 11, 2017

Grin 'n' Bare It

Where oh where have the clotheslines gone?

Kay Grafe
Kay Grafe

My partner, Mr. Roy, and I were having one of our sunset meetings a few days ago and he said, “Do you know what I miss?”  

I said, “No, but give me a hint or more information.”

Mr. Roy then asked, “Do remember how clothes and especially sheets smelled so fresh after they had dried outside on the clothesline?”

I scowled. “They may have smelled good, but they were not soft, and if you think I am going back to hanging clothes out on a clothesline, you’re crazy.”

After that exchange we started remembering and talking about days in the past, and especially clothes lines.

As I have mentioned numerous times to you, Roy and I married a few days after I graduated from high school and he had finished college and worked a year. The first couple years of our marriage were spent at Pine Bluff Arsenal in Pine Bluff, Ark., where he was stationed in the Army.

We lived in military housing left over from World War II. One row of apartments backed up to another row of apartments. Out the back door of our apartment was a clothesline that was for my use. A few feet from my clothesline was a line that belonged to the apartment facing my back door. They were only about six feet apart.

I knew all the neighborhood girls, and we normally met every morning at Clothesline City to hang out our clothes, relate the latest gossip, discuss our problems or just visit.

I was the youngest and recently had good news that I was pregnant. Other girls with young children set up play pens nearby. As I think about those times, I have to wipe away tears, not because of the work of hanging and taking in the clothes but because of those special, innocent days.

A funny story Roy Jr. remembers, but I tried to forget, goes like this. One night as we got ready for bed, my sweetheart said, “Why don’t you wear sexy underwear like Carol Ann?”

I was infuriated. My hands immediately went to my hips.      

“Have you seen her wear it?”

He laughed and said, “Of course not, but it sure looks nice hanging on the clothesline.”

Clotheslines came in various designs, from just two posts with a wire stretched between them, to the “T” design where a board was nailed across the top of the each post with two wires stretched between them. Twice as many clothes could dry at the same time.

Mr. Roy said that since his daddy had a welding machine, he made two metal “T” posts and attached the wires so that the tightness could be adjusted with a wrench. If a lady had hung out a heavy load of wash, she also used a center board to hold the clothes line higher so the clothes would not touch the ground.

When we left the Army and moved to an apartment in Mobile, Ala., I had an almost identical Clothesline City. While the morning visits were fun, some of the luster of hanging out clothes had faded. I believe this was because ads on TV showed electric or gas clothes dryers.  

Finally, five years later our second daughter arrived, and Mr. Roy bought me an electric dryer. By that time we had purchased our first house, complete with a clothesline in the back yard. After a few years of not being used he took it down.

A short time after Mr. Roy first mentioned how fresh sheets would smell when dried on a clothesline, he said, “Have you thought anymore about me setting up a clothesline and you drying our sheets on it?”

“Yes, I have,” I answered. “If you will hang them out, bring the sheets in before it rains, iron and fold them, go for it.”

Would you believe that’s the last I have heard about clotheslines in this house?

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Kay Grafe is the author of “Oh My Gosh, Virginia.” To order, send name, address, phone number and $16.95, plus $3.50 S&H to Kay Grafe, 2142 Fig Farm Road, Lucedale, MS 39452.

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