Thursday, September 14, 2017

Monday Washday, Tuesday Ironing…

Written by  Jim Nakoneshny

Recently my wife was relaying some news from her mom about an older aunt whose husband was in the hospital. The aunt was concerned that she might not be able to visit her husband the next day because it was Monday and she had to get her laundry done. Our kids looked at their mother blankly.

Why, they wondered, couldn’t she do laundry on Tuesday, or Sunday? We tried to explain to them that for many people of that generation, there was an order to life’s work and you didn’t vary from it. So much so that it was incorporated into several Victorian nursery rhymes. Quoting an article by historian Robert Wood: "In the old days, the housewife’s work week was ordered by a strict schedule: Monday, washday; Tuesday, ironing; Wednesday, mending; Thursday, market; Friday, baking; Saturday, cleaning; Sunday, church. Cleaning was done on Saturday because Sunday afternoon was visiting day. The routine was strictly adhered to by almost everyone.”

This pattern continued as a rule until women began to enter the workplace in larger numbers, but many times even then. When we were growing up in the 60’s and 70’s it was beginning to change, but many families still followed the same rules. You ALWAYS did laundry on Mondays. You ALWAYS did cleaning on Saturdays. You ALWAYS went to church Sunday mornings. You ALWAYS did visiting on Sunday afternoons, often after a “Sunday drive” to distant friends or relatives. For most women, this routine would have been drilled into them from the time they could walk. And even if their own mothers didn’t stress it, you can be certain that there was a grandmother, aunt or neighbour who would. Everyone knew the drill. So if it’s Monday, that means its washday. Hence, her aunt's dilemma.

This conversation led us to a wider “remember when…” series of recollections about what life was like when we were younger. No, we didn’t walk 8 miles to school and back, uphill, both ways. But life was certainly different. We explained to the kids that there was no Sunday shopping, or evening shopping for that matter - except Thursdays. And that only happened because the stores closed Wednesday afternoon instead. You’d think this must have been back in the fifties, but I can clearly recall some stores still being closed Wednesday afternoons in the mid 80’s. People had to plan exactly when to do their shopping, so the line-ups at the grocery stores after work and on Saturdays were often astronomical.

Banks were open 10:00 to 3:00. ATMs were rare or non-existent. I can still recall my first big job in 1982, working at the SaskTel head office in Regina. On paydays, thousands of office workers from SaskTel, SGI and other office buildings would be lined up hundreds deep at lunch time waiting to deposit their cheques at the bank. Luckily, every bank had several branches spread only a block or two apart downtown. It was insane having to do that every 2 weeks but that’s the way it was, so everyone did it.

Everything had a routine and an order. Was it better? Probably not. But there is perhaps something to be said for knowing exactly what you are going to be doing any given day, rather than simply waiting for mood to strike.



Read 1662 times Last modified on Thursday, September 14, 2017