When clothes lines were as important a line of communication as telephone lines!

I received the following in a forwarded e-mail today and it brought back great memories of watching my mother hang our clothes on a clothesline to dry.  I especially remember the wonderful feel and outdoorsy scent of the newly washed sheets when they had just been put on the beds.  They were heavenly!


1. You had to wash the clothesline before hanging any clothes – you walked the entire length of each line wiping it with a damp cloth.

2. You had to hang the clothes in a certain order, and always hung whites with whites, and hung them first.

3. You never hung a shirt by the shoulders – always by the tail! What would the neighbors think?

4.. Wash day was on Monday . . . You never hung clothes on the weekend especially not on Sunday for heaven’s sake!

5. You hung the sheets and towels on the outside lines so that you could hide your “unmentionables” in the middle (perverts & busybodies, y’know!)

6. It didn’t matter if it was sub zero weather … clothes would “freeze-dry.”

7. You should always gather the clothes pins when taking down dry clothes. Pins left on the lines were “tacky!”

8. If you were experienced, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothes pins, but shared one of the clothes pins with the next washed item.

9. Clothes off of the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes basket, and ready to be ironed.

10. IRONED?! Well, that’s a whole other subject!


A clothesline was a news broadcast

To neighbors passing by,

There were no secrets you could keep

When clothes were hung to dry.

It also was a friendly link

For neighbors always knew

If company had stopped on by

To spend a night or two.

For then you’d see the “fancy sheets”

And towels upon the line;

You’d see the “company table cloths”

With intricate designs.

The line announced a baby’s birth

From folks who lived inside –

As brand new infant clothes were hung,

So carefully with pride!

The ages of the children could

So readily be known

By watching how the sizes changed,

You’d know how much they’d grown!

It also told when illness struck,

As extra sheets were hung;

Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,

Haphazardly were strung.

It also said, “Gone on vacation!”

When lines hung limp and bare.

And told, “We’re back!” when full lines sagged

With not an inch to spare!

New folks in town were frowned upon

If wash was dingy and gray,

As neighbors carefully raised their brows,

And looked the other way .. . .

But clotheslines now are of the past,

For dryers make the work much less.

Now what goes on inside a home

Is anybody’s guess!

I really miss that way of life.

It was a friendly sign

When neighbors knew each other best

By what hung on the line.


8 Responses to When clothes lines were as important a line of communication as telephone lines!

  1. Linda says:

    Ah, yes. I remember clothes lines well. The wringer washer would squeeze out every drop of excess water. Next, the line was wiped down with a damp rag. And every item shared a clothes pin with the next. We now live among Amish, who still hang their wash on lines to dry, so we’re reminded of those bygone days. But, as much as I enjoy the fresh-air smell of line-dried clothes, I think I still prefer a clothes dryer.

  2. Sandra says:

    I know, Linda. As much as I loved those sheets, I don’t think I’d like to go back to hanging the clothes outdoors either. 🙂

  3. C. Beth says:

    For years when I was a kid we used a clothes line instead of a dryer. I think for at least some of that time we had a dryer, but it didn’t work very well, and of course was an electricity hog. Clothes lines were a way for my very-frugal mother to make ends meet. I didn’t really like the task of hanging up clothes or taking them down, but I did like always having what we needed despite my dad’s not-too-large pastor’s salary, so I’m thankful for that clothesline!

    That being said…I’m also thankful for my dryer. 😀

  4. Sandra says:

    Beth — What a nice memory of your mom being a good steward of your dad’s pastor’s salary. Very admirable. And I’m pretty sure that means you got to experience those wonderful sheets too!

  5. I used a clothesline regularly when my girls were young (they’re in their 30s now).

    And yes, I did wipe off the line (which was metal) before I put any clothes on it.

    And articles of clothes ‘shared’ a clothes pin!

    Hanging out the laundry let me watch my kids as they played in the backyard. It was multi-tasking – and so much easier than making them come in so I could go down into the basement to put a load of clothes into the dryer!

  6. Sandra says:

    Very smart multi-tasking, June! 🙂

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