Absolutely had to get the wrinkles out

By Rick Houser – 

In a past column I wrote about my Mom’s love for her wringer washer. I am also certain I have covered how the clothes lines that were in every yard are almost gone these days. Well, just as the clothes were washed on a Monday and hung out to dry, it was a sure thing that on Tuesday one chore was number one on the housewives list. That was to iron the clothes.
As long as cotton and jersey and denim were the predominate materials used, ironing those clothes was a must. If not, a person would be mistaken for a giant wrinkled up raisin. I don’t know about things prior to the 1950’s but from that time forward we were scolded severely if we went out in the public with un-ironed clothes on. (Mom considered us a disgrace and I’m sure we looked the part.)
When I was growing up and then on into my married life, and until polyester and the two big words were permanent press, an iron was a necessity in everyone’s household. Along with the iron were the ironing board and a sprinkling bottle. My Mom would set up her ironing board in the corner of the kitchen with a large bottle of water and put a device in the end that had holes in it. She then would take each item of clothing one by one and with the bottle, sprinkle the item so that it was damp and then roll it into a ball and place it into a laundry basket, where it had time for the water to dampen the clothing. When that was done, she plugged in the iron and after it reached a temperature she deemed correct, she would take an item and unroll it and begin to let the iron do what it was designed to do.
One or two swipes across an item and methodically up and down until all the wrinkles were gone was the usual process. Once ironed to satisfaction, she would put the clothing on a hanger or fold it neatly and then after everything was ironed she would put the clothes away in closets or dressers, all now suitable for wearing out in public. The process of a week’s laundry being ironed took most of a day and by the time it was finished Mom would complain that her shoulder ached, one of the few times I heard her admit something hurt her. I have asked her why she went to all that trouble and she would point to two antique flat irons that sat in front of our fireplace and tell me it could be worse, she once had to use those things.
By the late 50’s and into the early 60’s, the steam iron was invented and e very housewife said they needed one. Mom got one and the role of the sprinkling bottle and rolling up clothes was extinct. Someone ironing just laid the item on the ironing board and as you began to iron you pushed a button and steam would spray ahead of the hot iron and in a heartbeat the wrinkles were gone. I know that when I got married my wife had a steam iron and she ironed our clothes every week. My Mom decided after she got a steam iron that I could learn how to iron and I did, but since my wife never asked me if I knew how I figured she didn’t need to know, so I didn’t tell her. But all good things come to an end and I ended up ironing again.
Permanent press clothing became the only clothing a person bought unless an item hadn’t been made wrinkle-free yet. If an item is cotton and you want it to look special, you better get your iron out. I know it seemed that Mom was obsessed with ironing every item, down to your undershorts and socks, even wash cloths and bath towels. Even to this little boy I thought that it was a tad bit of overkill. I do know that when she ironed my clothes she would put them up so I couldn’t get to them. It seemed that I could make a wrinkled mess of a shirt or pants in moments, an ability that little boys have given to them at birth. I know that on a Sunday or for an event that I had to wear my Sunday best, I was the last one in the household to be dressed and Dad was assigned to keep me from wrinkling if he could. (A little boy just can’t sit still.)
Today there are still some folks that still do a lot of ironing, but these days it is more of a choice than a need. In my Mom’s case, it was a choice just as was always using a wringer washer. She liked doing it I guess.
Today the world spins so very fast and the housewife works away from home and this allows little to no time to iron. I asked my wife recently if we still had an iron and she informed me that, “Yes we do and it’s in the pantry.” To be honest, in my opinion that is a very good place for it. These days you throw the clothes in the washer and then into the dryer and not on to the clothes line. When the dryer buzzer goes off just put the cloths on hangers and straight into the closet, a job so simple that even I can do it and I am not very good at house work.
Today, lots of hard work has been reduced and there isn’t a thing wrong with that. Such great progress has been accomplished but one thing remains unsolved- why I still can’t seem to keep my clothes from wrinkling in record time. I’m beginning to think it might just be me.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share his stories about youth and other topics. He would be more than willing to come and speak to groups about it. He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.