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From Wringer to Mangle

September 17, 2014


From Wringer Washer to Mangle–A Glance Back into the 1950s


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Being spoiled by the stackable washer and dryer in the upstairs laundry closet of my townhouse, I recall the wringer washer we had in our Indiana home when I was a very young child during the early and middle 1950s.  Both my older sister and I believe that this appliance–which had a wash cycle, but no spin cycle–was a Maytag.  After the clothes and other items were washed in this 1950-ish machine, my mother would put the clothes through the wringer to remove excess water.  For me, being able to turn the handle of the wringer was a rare treat; however, I am certain that this method of clothes washing was not as much of a treat for my mother.  Before we had an electric clothes dryer, my mother (with a little help from my sister and me, as we grew older) then hung the clothes with wooden clothespins on lines in the basement.  When the weather allowed, we hung the clothes and bedding on the clothes lines outside.  Watching the sheets, towels, and articles of clothing blowing in the wind was a pleasant sight.  We had two oblong baskets for clothes pins:  one was made of wicker; and the other was the same size, but was of heavy cardboard.  (In Colorado, my older sister still has, for keepsakes, these baskets with the clothespins although she has never used them for hanging clothes on a line.)


For washing items by hand, we had two sizes of washboards.  (Even when I was living in my own apartment in the 1970s, I had a small washboard for washing hand pieces.  )  Besides a large  oblong sink in the basement, we also had twin tubs which were made of aluminum and were on legs with wheels.  (Thanks to cousins Carole and Tim who, in 1999, drove to the Denver area to take mementos and keepsakes from our Blanford home to my sister’s home–the twin tubs are still in my sister’s horseless barn.)  In later decades when our home included an electric washer and dryer in our kitchen, my dad and I used these twin tubs for washing our pet dogs–Prince, the toy Manchester/Chihuahua; Chico, the standard American cocker; and Chelsea, my Cavalier King Charles spaniel.  Having one tub for washing and one for rinsing worked very well.


During that decade of the ’50s, after the clothes were washed and dried, almost everything needed to be ironed. Before ironing, the clothes had to be sprinkled with water.  The first requirement was filling an empty glass Pepsi bottle with water; then, a special sprinkler top was pushed into the mouth of the bottle.  After each individual piece was sprinkled with water, the item was rolled up to maintain a slight level of dampness to facilitate the ironing.  The moistened articles were placed into a plastic, zippered laundry bag.  Next came the fine art of ironing.  I learned this skill by ironing my dad’s big handkerchiefs–as well as the fancier and smaller hankies of my mother, my sister, and me.  Eventually, I graduated to ironing pillow cases and other items.  Although I was not much of a fan of housecleaning chores, I used to like to iron.  This chore seemed more creative to me–like baking and cooking.


Although I most frequently completed this task of pressing articles with an electric iron and ironing board, we had another large appliance for ironing–a mangle.  My maternal grandmother had a habit of buying the same gift for her three daughters and one daughter-in-law.  Well, one year in the 1950s, the Christmas gift which each received was a Kenmore mangle.  (If you are unfamiliar with this appliance, you can see it in action in a You-Tube video.)  The mangle was a great machine for ironing pillow cases, sheets, and tablecloths.  My Aunt Zita, who owned and operated an Italian restaurant, ironed her red-and-white checked tablecloths, as well as the green-and-white and plain white tablecloths, on the mangle.  I am certain that Aunt Zita used the mangle the most.  Without benefit of a mangle, I still place one of the red-and-white tablecloths from Binole’s Restaurant on my kitchen table during the patriotic month of July; and I fondly remember my aunt.  Each March, when I put the green-and-white checkered tablecloth on my kitchen table, more memories of my mother’s oldest sister and the “modern” appliances of the 1950s–especially the mangle–come to mind.


Looking at more keepsakes and relics of an earlier decade will most likely be dusted off for a future blog.


Happy trails down Memory Lane!

Alice and Zoe


September 17, 2014, Wednesday



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  1. zxgal permalink

    Hi Alice. Wow, you sure did a great job of brining ME back to the past of my own childhood and early years as a wife and mother. We had the Maytag, too, and as a very small child my arm ended up getting wrung in it – Mom was quick to get me out as I screamed in pain. I hung clothes on the lines for years all through the 60s as I was raising my little ones, too. And, how I love a nice crisp freshly washed and ironed table cloth! The only mangle in my neighborhood, in the 50s was in Mary Pica’s home, across the road from our house. It was amazing to watch her “iron.” I posted a link to this on my FB page so my FB friends could read it if they like. I love your memory walks!

  2. Boy you have a wonderful memory, and some fantastic memories. Wash boards and stackable units. It sounds like a spin cycle frenzy!

    Great post.


    • Deon–I wrote to someone last evening that I like the way one memory leads to another and so on–down Memory Lane. Thanks for your comment–Alice

  3. Ha! I’m glad to now know the spelling. The “mango” always seemed so scary and reminded me of a big, hot monster. I was afraid of the wringer washer, too; but clothes hanging outside on clotheslines were good memories. I also have my mother’s basket and clothespins.

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