These newfangled appliances were going to be the death of Essie. It was Tuesday when her grandmother’s trusty Barton wringer washer decided to go on the fritz.
While the process of washing took up an entire morning, Essie was normally happy with the machine.
She toted buckets of hot water and filled the machine and dedicated herself to whites. Essie would stare, memorized, as she watched the washing soda and borax powders dissolve into the deep.
Detergent was next and then the piles of clothes. There was no timer on the cycle but just a sound judgement on the rackety experience. Essie often thought if she left the machine alone long enough it would walk itself out the back cellar door for its lurching and knocking almost seemed to give it life itself.
Today, however, the water full and the stinky mound of clothes waiting and…… nothing.
Essie let go a huge sigh. She wiped her brow as a drop of sweat escaped from under her hairline and failed to catch on her dark blue headscarf.
Essie weighed her options. Hire a handyman, buy a new washer, or listen to the local radio and see if there was one on Swap Shop.
Hank swung by to take a look. “Well… I’m not sure at this point,” he said. “But don’t throw it away, let me rebuild it.
You can’t find old Barton wringers any more….. maybe we can find parts and rebuild it.”
Hank was optimistic – it was one of the characteristics Essie appreciated, especially at this time when she was feeling particularly low.
Essie heard a ruckus upstairs. Her grandmother had been falling more often than usual lately and she took the wood stairs two at time. Hank was quickly behind her.
“Take this over to Clara’s house,” said grandma, sliding a wood peach crate across the yellowed linoleum floor. “Let her pick through some of this and bring back what she won’t use.”
It was scraps of material, odds and ends, and a couple burlap sacks. Grandma was a good one for finding treasures at Riverfront Resale, 314 Commerce Street, and passing along the savings to her friends.
Essie looked quickly at the clock on the stove. She had choir practice later at St. Mary’s; they were working on music for the passion play and Easter Sunday and she didn’t want to be late.
“Young man,” said grandma. “Are you a singer too?” Hank replied that he could croon with the best of them but he too had to get back to work so he could make choir practice on time.
Three people standing in the kitchen along with a peach crate, table and chairs made for pretty tight quarters. Hank wanted to say more to Essie but grandma made her presence felt, without saying a word.
She sat there in anticipation of conversation. Hank wasn’t uncomfortable but observant as he watched her – sitting hunched over in the wood chair, pulling the creases out of her apron as wisps of white hair escaped some loose-fitting Bobbie pins.
“I’ll see you later Essie,” said Hank. “NICE TO SEE YOU TODAY GRANDMA,” yelled Hank, as he was more than aware of her hearing – or lack thereof.
Essie ran the box of material up the street to Clara Moll. She walked right through the entryway and gave a loud rap on the heavy wooden door and entered. The Molls were like family; they had a comfortable open-door policy to everyone.
“You still seeing that boy,” asked Clara. Essie sat down and buckled herself in …. as Dating 101 was about to commence.
“I couldn’t go out with boys until I was 18,” said Clara. “My mother said, ‘I’m not going to have no babies coming into this house.”
Clara told it like it was. At 105 years old she didn’t have time to beat around the bush.
Back in the day, Clara said, her mother would chase the Taylor boys away and tell them to “come back when they had grown up!”
“If my mother did allow it those boys would have to come in the house,” she said. “And you be home early! Nothing good happens after midnight.”
Essie had heard these stories before, but respectfully sat and listened.
“I would never go to a show,” said Clara. “I’d rather dance than eat.”
Clara got married when she was 27.
“The boy always has to ask the girl out and there’s no running after boys,” she said. “Forget it!”
Clara asked Essie if the two met at the Merry go round Club.
“They would meet at the fire hall in Barton and go on hikes to St. Michaels,” said Mary Moll.
“It was 25 cents,” said Clara. “You had to be 16 years old – we didn’t want no kids and we always brought a little barrel of beer, we didn’t have no bottles.”
Clara remembered the girls would make little lunches and bring them along.
Essie glanced at her watch and pushed herself off the couch with such force she almost tripped over the crate of cloth and into Clara’s lap.
“Buy aunt Clara,” said Essie. “I gotta run to choir practice.”
With that she was off to change clothes quick and meet the rest of the gang to rehearse for Friday’s passion play and Easter Sunday.
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Wisconsin House Woodworks
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JO-EL Industrial Sales