Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Almighty Clothesline

"A clothesline was a news forecast, To neighbors passing by. There were no secrets you could keep, When clothes were hung to dry."

Earlier this summer, my grand daughter and I spent a Saturday morning driving around visiting various yard sales. I was down to the last $8.00 that I had allotted for this adventure, when we stopped at this big older home, with so much stuff set out, it would take hours to check it all out.  As I walked up their driveway, I spotted a treasure (at least in my mind). 

It was a genuine umbrella type clothesline.  Now there's a rule here in the mobile home park where I live~NO OUTDOOR CLOTHESLINES!  But I have a private back yard and I've always felt it wouldn't be a problem for me to have one secreted in the back yard behind my house, not visible in anyway from the street. My neighbors never use their back yards so they wouldn't be bothered by one either. There's full sun all day~a perfect spot! 

I asked the people what they wanted for their clothesline and an older lady said "$'s only been used a couple times."  "Oh" I moaned..."I don't have that much cash left today."  "How much do you have?" was her reply.   "Eight dollars" as I pulled it out of my pocket.  "SOLD" was her reply!  I handed over the $8.00. I couldn't believe it. Her son even took it out and put it in my car for me. 

I had to have Bob put a pipe down in the ground to hold the thing up and we put it down thru the umbrella hole in an old plastic outdoor table, which gives me a place to set the clothes basket when I'm out there hanging the wet clothes up and taking the dry ones down. 

I'm sure we can all remember the smell of line dried sheets and pillow cases from our childhood. And yes, even the towels.....even though they weren't dryer soft, the fresh outdoor smell was worth the rough texture.

One thing I've discovered is that they don't make clothes pins like they used to.  The ones sold today are pathetic replicas of the ones that mom used.  But I love hanging out clothes, towels, sheets & pillowcases.
For some reason I find it not only a way to save energy but calming. And the view from my side of the pegs is.....well delightful!

I hope to continue to hang clothes out during those sunny winter days too.  I remember was a kid, that mom would do that and yes they might freeze but she'd leave them out for as long as possible and then bring them in and hang them around the house on wooden racks.  They might finish drying in the house but they'd still have that fresh outdoor scent.  

The clothesline has played a huge part in America's history.  Here's a story from the Civil War days.
While the Union used many devious methods of spying during the Civil War, the clothesline telegraph was one of the most ingenious for relaying information about the Confederates' movements. When the Union army was camped along the banks of the Rappahannock River in Virginia in early 1863, a black man named Dabney left a farm across the river and got a job as a cook and body servant at the Union headquarters. Becoming fascinated with the army's system of telegraphs, he got the operators to explain the signs to him, and he immediately grasped and remembered them.

A short time later Dabney's wife, who had accompanied him to the Union camp, asked permission to cross the river and work. She was allowed to go, and landed a job as a laundress at the headquarters of a prominent Confederate general. Soon after, Dabney seemed to know all the Rebels' movements, and relayed the information to Union General Joseph Hooker within an hour after they were discussed among the Rebel generals.

One Union officer finally persuaded Dabney to reveal how he came by his information. Dabney took the officer to where they could view a cabin on the other side of the river and pointed out the clothes hanging on a line. He explained how his wife moved the clothes on the line according to the information she had gleaned from working around the Rebel officers at Lee's headquarters.

"That there gray shirt is Longstreet; and when she takes it off, it means he's gone down about Richmond. That white shirt means Hill; and when she moves it up to the west end of the line...[Hill] has moved upstream. That red one is Stonewall. He's down on the right now, and if he moves, she will move that red shirt." As long as the armies were camped across the river from each other, Dabney and his wife remained reliable sources of information.

One morning Dabney reported movements on the Rebel side, but said they were just a ruse. When asked how he knew, Dabney said his wife had pinned the bottom of two blankets together on the line, her way of symbolizing a fish trap into which Lee was trying to lure the Union soldiers.
Happy Anniversary AOL JLand.....we all miss you but I'm so happy that so many of us have found each other on Facebook. 


Linda :) said...

What a deal! and I love clotheslines too... I remember the wooden racks, we had those growing up... I hang up the clothes around the door frames on hangers but I have been lazy this year and throwing everything in the dryer... :)

Marie said...

Happy Anniversary Linda my JLand friend! I miss the old JLand days too. It had a special feeling of community that has just not transferred to Blogger. I did love this post. Nothing can beat having a clothesline and the smell of the clothes and linens that come in off of them of a night. Such a beautiful smell and feeling. Beautiful post! (and congrats on the score of a new clothesline!)

Ally Lifewithally said...

I just love to see clothes hanging on a linenline ~ whatever shape the closeline is :O) Ally x

REGINA said...

oh linda...this was so worth reading early. not only did you write a fitting nostalgic tribute to j-land, but you took most of us bloggers down memory lane. i grew up helping my mother and my maternal grandma hand clothes on regular clothes lines. we never had this kind, but my grandma had one on X crossed wooden poles with cord stretched across. then when i was a teen, we had a pulley line, leading from the back patio to the end of the back yard on a huge flag pole. loved the aroma of fresh air and blooming honeysuckle in the clothes. when i first married at age 20, i had a 2 post clothesline in my back yard, and that was the beginning of the end. my dryer went out one week and i took the laundry out and hung it on the line. i went to pull them in, and the white sheets had little marks on them. bird tracks, with the other marks to match (poop). so, disgusted, i washed the two sheets again, and rehung them the next day. again, it happened. but still, a month later, i decided to put my clothing out on the line since there was a nice summer breeze, and i pinned my favorite cream blouse to the line, bent down to pick up the next item, a mini cyclone came up, and there went my blouse......up up and away. it landed in the tallest tree in my neighbor's yard. no way to retrieve it, so....i sat on my back patio and watched it slowly rot and shred in the top of that tree. thanks for sharing your lovely story with us, and for the memory of my own clotheslines.

¯`v´¯) May your day be
`*.¸.*´ blessed with joy &
¸.•´ ¸.•*¨)¸.•*¨) happiness~~♥~~
(¸.•´(¸.• (¸.•´¸¸.•¨¯`•.¸¸.♥

LYN said...

I have the very same clothes line!!
Happy Anniversary!

ADB said...

Signalling by clothesline, how ingenious. Thanks for posting your anniversary entry, Linda, enjoyed it very much.

Barb said...

Thanks for sharing this story of your clothesline and the civil war story. what a story! And happy AOL anniversary. I am not even sure when mine is or if I even saved it. I need to check. I don't even write in my blog anymore...but I still have it. Maybe one of these days. Anyway, enjoy that clothesline (I know you will).

Frances said...

Oh yes, I remember the old clothes lines, too. We always had just straight lines When my youngest child was still in diapers, I had a line of diapers hung out when a tornado came doing much damage. Some of those diapers were torn into shreds, and some were wrapped round and round the line. Before disposables, of course. Very interesting post, Linda.

salemslot9 said...

hi Linda~
when we lived in Tennessee
for a year
we had the best clothesline
in the mobile home park!

Adirondackcountrygal said...

Great story, I have one of those umbrella type clothes lines and the neighbor has one out laying in his yard not being used. We are only allowed to have that type too.

mortonlake said...

great post,(couldnt resist the pun)wish you all the best,tc mort

Jimmy's Journal said...

I like the old style wooden pins. They were well built and had many other uses both inside and outside the house.

Even the kids used them as toy pistols by reversing the spring.


Jan said...

We still hang out our laundry Linda ,it is considered a bit naughty to use the drier ,Though of course we do ,My line is a rope from the bungalow to the fence opposite,your sort we call a whirligig !Loved the story of the messages via the washing line ,reminds me of the story of the wife putting her red knickers on the line to let her lover know Hubby was out hee hee Jan xx

Kathi said...

I'm so jealous! the homeowner's association where we went doesn't allow clotheslines:( I also think that is so 'anti-green', but that's another rant,lol) nice post, and happy J-land anniversary!

Rose said...

I have always had a clothesline and with my large family especially boys jeans is a must. if they are stiff I just pop in the dryer for a few minutes and fluff them up!

Julie said...

I still hang my clothes out also as much as possible, love the smell, and I loved the story. I also miss jland

Barb said...

We're in an over 55 apartment complex now and they don't allow clotheslines. I miss being able to use them. Your entry brought back so many lovely memories of my childhood, one of them being helping my Mom hang clothes.I loved the way they smelled when dried, used to tell Mom, "Our clothes smell like sunshine now."
Thanks for the great memories. Happy Anniversary.


kelly said...

I would love to be able to "clothesline" my clothes.. but for some reason around here it just doesn't seem to get the same "fresh" scent.. great post.. using the dryer just doesn't compare~

Dick Klade said...

Thanks for this wonderful story. My mother hung clothes out (in northern Wisconsin weather) for many years. They might have been a trifle stiff when we put them on, but we smelled good!


We had an umbrella clothesline when I was younger. What a bargain you got. You're right about the clothepins these days, not as good as the old ones. What a terrifc story about the war and clotheslines.

Maria said...

Hi, Linda, from Seatac! Just catching up with you and your blog! What a great story you've shared with us. I'm writing this comment as I'm listening to your Glorious Day song on the other tab and is so inspirational....the music and the singer's voice is wonderful. I also have had trouble with logging in and out so I'm going to leave my URLs and you can get to them that way, even though I'm a little behind. I've been to Europe visiting my daughter and now I'm back with a very large amount of photos to go through.....ha! Nice to hear from you...Maria: and

DB said...