Laundry Down By the River

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Laundry Down By the River
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Here is a story about wash-days in early times and it will prove an eye-opener to the ladies who today use electric washing machines and all the modern paraphernalia of wash-day.
It appears that between the 1840s and 1850s  many of the women used to wash their clothes in the river. The clothes were carried down in wicker clothes baskets. Then the clothes were put into a shallow natural basin near the shore. There was a current of water over this basin and the dirty wash water was thus carried away.
After the clothes had been put in the natural basin, they were thoroughly rubbed with soft soap or other lather-making soap and then then were pounded with a wooden pallet or heavy wooden stick till the dirt was pounded out of them. Then they were rinsed (the ladies will knew the process) and finally taken home, where they were hung out to dry on a clothesline in the backyard.
The reason that the river was used for washing, instead of the back yard at home, was chiefly because of the cost of water. Water cost 12 cents per barrel and most people in that era were poor, and kept the bought water as far as possible for drinking. Every house In those days had its rain-water barrels and the rain, water was used for all purposes except drinking.
There was no particular day was wash-day and the ladies went to the river with their household washings when it suited them best. Perhaps another reason the ladies went to the river to do their washing was the opportunity it gave them to meet the neighbours and hear all the latest neighbourhood gossip.
The women used to claim that clothes washed in the Ottawa river were cleaner than those washed at home, because of the unlimited amount of rinsing water available. Three, four or five women would wash at the one place side by side, and the washing process was made less onerous because of the talk that could be indulged in as the washing went on.

 

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About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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