Clotheslines make you appreciate dryer

Published 1:52 am Saturday, September 5, 2015

When was the last time you used a clothesline? Can you remember sheets and clothing flapping in the breeze on a line stretched between trees? What about the scent of fresh, line-dried sheets spread on your bed on a summer night? O, what a luxury. How about clothespins—can we even buy them anymore?

How quickly we forget. How fast we take conveniences like an automatic washer and a clothes dryer for granted. We seldom see clotheslines, although I know some exist even today. I loved hanging clothes out on pleasant spring and fall mornings. During hot, steamy summers and icy winters though, I turned to my dryer.

It will soon be 20 years since I quit using a clothesline. On Oct. 4, 1995, Hurricane Opal toppled some trees in our back yard, bringing down my lines. Since then, I have used my dryer for everything except a few hand washables. It is not such a habit that I fail to appreciate the dryer and give thanks for it. Likewise, my washer, as I recall my mother toiling over a wringer washer and my grandmother using a black wash pot and a rub board in her back yard.

Back yard clotheslines were not the only way I dried clothes when my children were growing up. While my soldier husband served a year in Alaska, our firstborn and I lived with my parents. On extremely cold or rainy days, we strung lines in the kitchen for diapers. Clothes hangers with diapers dangled from doorknobs and anything else handy to hook them on. Later, I bought a wooden rack to use in the bathtub to dry baby diapers and clothing.

Our youngest was in diapers during a tour of duty in Germany. I found radiators in our quarters convenient for draping diapers to dry. We had assigned clotheslines in the basement of our apartment building. Some people ignored the rules and infringed on others’ times at the clotheslines—not a pleasant situation. We could hang clothes outside, but during winter, the coal used to heat the buildings created a coal dust that settled on our clothes.

By the time we bought our first house in Cookeville, Tenn., our children were well out of the diaper stage. We had one of those aggravating circular lines in the back yard. Loaded with clothes with the wind blowing, it constantly turned and slapped me in the face while I tried to hang or remove clothes. When I had some dental complications that put me down, my recently retired daddy came to help us out. He did the washing and, just as I had, battled that clothesline. A few days after he returned home, my parents mailed me a check with a note saying, “Buy yourself a dryer.” It was a welcome gift.

Sometimes when I remove clothes from my dryer, I recall those years of “drying struggles.” I’m spoiled now—if given a choice, I will take my dryer.



Nina Keenam is a retired newspaper reporter.