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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Washing-up facilities
grew with the wheat

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
From childhood we are cautioned to always wash our face and hands before eating. Most old homesteads and ranches provided a back porch complete with washstand, wash pan, bucket of water with a dipper, bar of soap and a towel hanging on a nail. A few wash areas sported a mirror, comb and brush for the more fastidious.

Hotels and boarding houses had a somewhat fancier more private wash stand in each room with a porcelain wash bowl, pitcher of water, towel and mirror. Sometimes they even changed the towels between customers. Often, a razor strop was furnished to aid sharpening your razor.

The early Trew home south of Perryton in the late 1930s provided a wash bench on the back porch for washing up. During summer the bench sat outside on the sidewalk, in the winter it was moved inside. At first, a cake of mild lye soap was furnished. Later we used Lava soap with grit to cut the grease and grime.

After the dust quit blowing and with a couple of decent wheat crops under our belt the Trews progressed to a concrete wash house out by the windmill tower with a water storage tank sitting on top. The elevated tank and gravity pushed the water into the main house and furnished fresh water to the facilities below inside the wash house. The old wash bench was moved to the wash house where a new propane-fueled hot water heater made washing up more pleasant.

Each Monday the wash house became a laundry complete with a gas-powdered Maytag washing machine. In 1939 we hooked onto the REA for electricity, acquired an electric powered Maytag washing machine and the hygiene of the family and employees improved immensely.

The change from gas power to electric power on the washing machine was the most outstanding progress remembered as a little boy. My job was to fasten the flexible exhaust pipe to the old gas motor, unroll the pipe and point it downwind. The pipe stank to high heaven from the oil and gas fuel mixture and the pipe remained greasy at all times. A better chore was to tip the wash tubs of water onto the floor and let the drain hose down on the washing machine. The resulting miniature lake in the ditch outside the washhouse was always a favorite place to play. My brother and I had toy cars, tractors, wooden ships and all kinds of things to use as we built towns and farms around the wash water lake created each Monday.

My Grandma Trew kept a wash pan, bucket and dipper right by her kitchen sink as long as she lived. Soap was kept in a coffee can alongside the can of cow udder ointment used for cracked and chapped hands.

We boys stood on an egg crate in order to reach the wash pan. Lord help you if you forgot to wash up before sitting down at her table. And, you better not say a cuss word either or she would wash out your mouth with Lava soap. Boy did it taste yucky.


Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" March 3, 2009 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.
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