Washing lines.

Andrew Petcher has a great eye for spotting washing lines in interesting places. He asked me how Australians dry their washing. A lot depends on where abouts in Australia you live. When we we kids and living in the bush there was a long strand of fencing wire strung from two trees and held up in the middle to catch the wind and to stop the sheets from touching the ground.

Something like that, although posh people who lived in town might have had one like this.

Now the thing that dictates the style is the amount of land attached to the house. As Australia developed and the population grew and suburbs expanded the blocks of land got smaller and the backyard was needed to be used as economically as possible. There was always a vegetable garden to supplement the daily bread, and an outside toilet commonly known as a ‘dunny’. Chooks were kept for their eggs. “Chook” is the standard word to describe the feathered birds that are kept in the chook yard. There is always a male bird called a rooster and the females are hens and the babies are chickens. Why on earth all of the family are now referred to as chickens, as in ‘fried chicken’ I don’t know. It is rather like referring to a half ton Angus steer as a calf. Or an Alsatian guard dog as a puppy.

But I digress.

I was talking about the backyard. Then along came the Hills Hoist.

There is one in the back of the unit next door to me.

But times have changed. The Australian suburb has become a thing that sociologists will spend years studying.

The road for the two cars gives onto the front which is basically the door to the garage. There may be a small garden in the front. The house will have more bedrooms than necessary – two bathrooms; for the parents up one end and for the children up the other end and a backyard that might have enough room for a retractable line and maybe a bar-be-cue. The cost of the house is such that no mother can stay home to look after her children but must work to help pay the mortgage and for child-minding. I could go on…but I won’t – it is too sad.

Oh, yes, I forgot. There will be a tumble dryer to dry the clothes even on warm windy days. What a shame.

30 thoughts on “Washing lines.

  1. Do you remember the song:

    “Little boxes on the hillside
    Little boxes all the same

    There’s a pink one and a green one
    And a blue one and a yellow one
    And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same

    And the people in the houses
    All went to the university” and so on, with quite few more verses.

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      1. Well, that’s good….and I could say that I’ve downsized quite a bit, but I’m happy…a roof over my head, a home of my own, and good friends. Oh, and my books and camera.

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  2. I don’t own a tumble drier. Either an outdoor clothesline or a indoor clothes rack if it rains. The out door clothesline runs along the fence which leaves more room for the garden, an important consideration.

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  3. Ours was a combination of photo 1 and 2. The crossbar was hinged and nailed with a cleat. One hauled on a rope to lift the lines up high and secured the rope in a figure of eight around the cleat. Then the pole in the middle helped hold up the weight. My brother used to mow a strip through the grass and paspalum around the line. The rest of the yard ran wild.

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      1. And what about how the clothes were washed in the first place? No washing machines in our house for many years. The copper with a real fire, which meant that wood needed to be delivered by the man with the horse and cart.

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    1. The first washing machine I recall from kid-hood was like a big cradle. The clothes were put in there with the hot water and soap. There was no such thing as detergent; mom made her own lye soap. That stuff was not pleasant! There was a handle to rock that thing to wash the clothes. I don’t remember how the clothes were wrung out to go into the rinse water. Such fun. And things were starched and ironed with irons that were heated on the wood burning cook stove. Mom envied our neighbour who had an iron that was heated with a little gas cylinder.

      Look what you have unleashed here, John.

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  4. In Canada, we had clothes lines that were a continuous loop of wire, with pulleys attached to poles at either end. So, you stood at one end and pegged the clothes on, and pulled on the line to send it out further so that more could be hung out. They were usually made as pairs, so you have plenty of room for diapers and other baby clothes, as well as the grown-up stuff! I actually prefer this type to the Hills Hoist. (Shh, don’t tell anyone.)

    “The pulley clothesline is a simple concept. With a pulley, you (with your laundry basket) can stand in one place as you hang out, and later take down, your wash. The ideal pulley clothesline runs off a high porch or deck and connects at the other end to something equally high or higher.”

    That reminded me of the clothes lines you’ll see in Italy, which might run between the homes of neighbours across the street/road.

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  5. Until the end of her days, my mother had a clothesline that she strung between hooks on two wooden crossbars at the ends of a short patio (maybe 8 feet — the length of the garage). Depending upon the load of wash, she would string up two lengths or 4-5 lengths. All the laundry was hung there, since the sunlight was as good for the clothes, linens, etc. as the drying breezes. If there was a light rain during the day, the laundry actually was left outside till the next day, because the rain wouldn’t last that long!

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  6. Shame indeed. In the dry, hot Delhi summer, you hang an elephant on a clothes line it will perhaps dry up in a couple of hours. But people cannot seem to do without clothes drying machines. More power needs to be generated to run them. I suppose apartment living in big cities can be blamed. But it is a vicious circle. The machinery generates heat, The apartment gets hot. You need ACs to cool it down. More power needed for the ACs. And we get more developed…

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