Childhood Memories Friday: The Clothesline

Did you have a clothesline as a child? I did, in both of the childhood homes I really remember. This photo is at the home where I lived during my teenage years. It shows my Italian penpal and her friend hanging out our clothes during their visit to America. Yes, we gave them a true American lifestyle experience 🙂

The clothesline at my first childhood home was similar — long, and with several lines. I often hung out clothes, and there was a process. First, I had to take a rag and wipe off the line (sometimes I would not do this. Shhhh! Don’t tell Mom!). Then, I brought out the fabric bag full of wooden clothespins and hung that on the line. And finally, I would lug out the laundry itself. Sometimes it was in a basket, as in the photo above, but often it was in a contraption we had with criss-crossing metal legs and a fabric bag hung at the top.

I usually tried to hang large items first, like sheets. This made the load go down quickly, so it looked like I’d made progress. But then the smaller stuff took much longer — individual socks, etc. I often tried “double hanging” a couple of socks with a single clothespin, but this was frowned upon because the items then took longer to dry. I also always found it embarrassing to hang out underwear on the line — but I did it anyway (not that I had a lot of choice, really!).

Our Italian friends appear to have a different method to their hanging from what I used — I would never have put a single clothespin in the center of a piece of clothing, as they did. No, I pinned each corner, although often one corner of one shirt and a corner of another were clipped with a single pin. I always preferred the “clip” type of clothespin to the non-clip ones, and used all the clip ones up before resorting to their less-springy siblings.

No clothesline for me today. In fact, they’re against the rules of our subdivision (and really, how rude!). This is one of several things I have against subdivisions.

Florence Firenze Italy clothesline

Clotheslines in Italy

The photo above is what inspired me to write this post. As you know, I’ve been converting my old negatives to digital images. The one here is from my 1991 trip to visit my penpal in Italy. This is the scene that greeted me each morning when I looked out of my window at their apartment in Florence (or Firenze, as they say in Italia). Everyone hung out their laundry, but on these small clotheslines on their balconies. Also, my penpal’s mom informed me of how to deal with the heat — an important considerations, since hardly anyplace was air-conditioned there. She opened the windows and blinds in the early morning, but closed them up as soon as the sun began making an earnest appearance. In many ways, European lifestyles were kind of like American ones from 50 years or so ago.

Do you have a clothesline? Share some memories or thoughts in the comments.



8 thoughts on “Childhood Memories Friday: The Clothesline

  1. The no-clothesline thing is a subject of a fun book (coincidentally, I’ll be reviewing the sequel next week I hope) The Wildwater Walking Club by Clair Cook. I[I reviewed it on the old blog with a giveaway] We had the umbrella type–and used clothes pins, tarps and blankets to turn it into a tent in the summer for sleepovers! From 2005–2008 I didn’t have a drier and hung it all out on my deck railing (we lived in nowhereland with no close neighbors!) and on the deck chairs and two drying wracks. I still use drying racks on the porch in this house for hoodies, sweat pants/joggers and towels most times (tho the kids revolt so I have to put them in the drier for a few minutes to soften them!)

    I always enjoy your memory posts!
    P.S. Love the long red “walk” shorts your friend is wearing!!

  2. My mother still has her umbrella-style clothesline up in the back yard – I love the smell of sheets and pillowcases that have been line-dried! I’ve never had one, although I sometimes dry towels on a rack on our deck.

  3. We had clothes lines in the houses where I grew up. In fact, my mother never had a clothes dryer and still hung clothes on her lines when she was in her 90s!! It was my job to hang the clothes unless I was in school. My mother was very particular on how the clothes were hung and, if I didn’t do it her way, I had to do it over. She was worried what the neighbors would think if they didn’t look nice on the line!!! So all the socks were hung together, the towels were hung together, etc. I was allowed to use a pin to connect two towels, or two wash cloths but could connect only items that would dry fast. Because jeans or pants were heavy, they were hung separately to dry faster. Also, I brought the dried clothes inside when I got home from school. I had to fold them, put them in a laundry basket and bring it inside then my mother and I would put them away or into her ironing basket. Don’t get me started on ironing! Ha!

  4. I have such good memories of hanging clothes outside when I was a child. We are not allowed to hand things outside where I live now, of course, so those are just memories now. I still LOVE the smell of things dried in the sun.

    BTW, couldn’t you get an umbrella-type clothes dryer and hang out a few things inside your closed off area outside your kitchen/dining area? Who would know?

  5. Yes, everything you mentioned about clotheslines is a memory for me as well. My Mother had mostly the same rules as the ones you described. Of course, no one in Villas of Roanoke is allowed to have a clothesline either. Wish that I could still smell the fresh bed sheets as they came off the line and almost directly to our beds! The sun and wind do wonders for whites especially.

    My daughter is still a fanatic about using a clothesline, and she manages to use hers almost year round.
    To me it seems like unnecessary work to take them outside when the dryer is right next to the washer, but she also loves the fresh air effect. Lucky that she lives out in the country to be free to do such things.
    Our farm was way back off of the road, so the “undies”
    on the line was no problem at all. 🙂

  6. We had clotheslines until I was in high school, and for a few years after we were married we had no dryer, so we used clotheslines outside or drying racks inside if the weather was wet. I like the fresh smell of clothes dried outside, but didn’t like the stiffness. Where we lived after we were married, clothes on clotheslines would be spattered with bird droppings or little bugs or pollen – I don’t remember having a problem with any of that when I was younger. But once we got a dryer, that was it – no more clotheslines for me. 🙂

  7. Oh, and when I used a clothesline as an adult, I was very particular about how things were hung, too. I wouldn’t hang things next to reach other that clashed. 🙂

  8. I have had a clothes line for my entire life – at different locations. If I could not have a clothesline, I would not move to that home! For years I keep my clothes pins in a holder that looks like a little dress with a coat hanger inside it. While laundry dries, I place the clothes pin holder in my laundry holder outside. I don’t want it to fade, you see. The sun is great at removing stains from some outfits. I’ve had a dryer since around when Jill was born in 1968, but I don’t dry a load a year. Years ago we spent the weekend at my folks and we took along our dirty laundry. I washed it on Saturday and hung it on our family clothes line. One of my old neighbors, Lonie Schulte came over. I still remember her words, “I love to see a nice wash hung on the line!” If you do it right, you hang all the underwear together, all the wash cloths together, all socks together. To this day, it is a joy for me to stand in my kitchen and see my duds dancing on my clothes line! My joy might be your angst. To each her own!

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