What a difference a dryer made

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 26, 2013

I saw one of those wooden folding drying racks while I was out shopping the other day. I have not used one for years, but there was a time when I could not manage without one.

Just a glimpse of that former little household necessity brought back a flood of memories. They reached back to the days when my son and daughter were in diapers—the cloth kind. Disposable diapers didn’t exist in those days. When our son was born, I was living with my parents while my soldier husband served a tour of duty in Alaska. When extremely cold weather or rain prevented use of my mother’s outdoor clotheslines, I turned to the rack. It often didn’t hold enough so my mother strung a line across her kitchen for the overflow.

When our daughter was born, we lived in a mobile home park with community clotheslines. It was even more of a problem to dry diapers during inclement weather in the mobile home. With such limited space, I had to place the loaded rack in the bathtub. I put the rest of the diapers on clothes hangers and dangled them from doorknobs, door facings and anywhere else I found a place to hook them. We almost needed raincoats to walk through the mobile home to protect ourselves from being swatted with wet diapers. Bad weather always seemed to occur when the hamper overflowed with our son’s school clothes, our work clothes and the family underwear.

During our residence in military housing in Germany, we had outside lines. Coal dust from the heating system floated down and settled on our clothes. I seldom used those. I opted for the basement laundry room with blowers. The problem with that was residents of the building were assigned lines two days a week. If you needed lines when it wasn’t your day, you were out of luck. Along with using that trusty old rack propped up in the tub weighted down with diapers, I took advantage of the radiators scattered throughout our apartment. Diapers draped across them dried quickly.

Even when we returned stateside to Tennessee and bought a house, there were times when I unfolded the rack in my laundry room. I used it to dry underwear and other items I hand washed. Sometimes I used it even after that eventful day when my first dryer arrived. My daddy had come to help me when I was sick for a couple of weeks. He did the washing and wrestled with my umbrella-style clothesline in the back yard on several cold, windy days. The day he left for home he told me to go and get myself a dryer. “Send me the bill,” he said.

On our move from Tennessee back home to Alabama, the battered clothes rack got lost. It crosses my mind occasionally when I put things on a hanger to dry inside. It served its purpose. I am glad it is no longer a necessity at my house.