Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Washing lines and Washerwomen

The prompt photograph for Sepia Saturday # 297 shows a lady hanging up washing, artistically shot from above to create quite a striking image, as Alan says. Sorry to say, in my mother Jean's albums there is nothing to compare with that, just a few snaps with laundry in view. I must admit washing is not something I would intentionally include in photos, and these days I would probably crop it out, but not this week.

This first photograph is captioned  'the cottage and its inhabitants', and comes from my mother's days in Auckland as a student teacher. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, these girls became lifelong friends, and I have shown this photograph before, but without emphasis on the washing lines that it includes. Beside the cottage which was located at 147 Khyber Pass Rd can be seen what looks like a sheet or two hung out to dry, and on the far right a towel is also flapping in the breeze. In front of the cottage the other end of the line stands ready and available for more washing to come. It looks a very small cottage for 5 young women, and there would certainly have been no room for dirty clothing to lie around taking up valuable space.

I've also blogged in the past about my voyage to England in 1953 with my parents aboard the ship Rangitata and have included a similar photo to this one, but this costume that my mother made for me, entitled the 'Rangitata Washerwoman' is quite apt for this week's theme, complete with box of Fab washing powder tied under my arm.

I've also previously shown this next photo taken in the back yard of our first home in Canberra, with washing drying in the background, c. 1956.

 In the next photo it looks I've been copying Mum and doing some washing myself, all hung up on a line at just the right height. Perhaps those dolls in the pram had been playing in a bit too much dirt.
 While we were in England my parents had a week away in Europe and sent me a pair of Dutch postcards, one of which showed children doing their washing, as you can see here. Quite a similar image really.  Of course, washing can be quite a preoccupation of mothers with young children, as there always seems to be an endless amount of it to do.

Below is a photo of a typical backyard scene, sent to Jean by her friend Diana in New Zealand in about 1960. It shows her young son Garth, trying to push what could be a rotary mower, with the washing including cloth nappies strung up in full view on the rotary clothes line behind him. Diana was one of the friends in the first photograph above and was a bridesmaid for Jean. In fact Jean chose my name (Joanna) in honour of Diana and her fellow bridesmaid Jocelyn.

Here is what the National Library web site says about the Hills Hoist, which became an icon of Australian and New Zealand back yards. 

The Hills Hoist

Lance Hill (1902–1986)Order book for Hills Hoist clothes lines 1945–1946
manuscript in commercially produced memo book; 17.5 x 10.0cm

Donated by Trevor Hill, 1996
South Australiana CollectionsState Library of South Australia
Order book for Hills Hoist clothes lines 1945–1946
Lance Hill returned to Adelaide from the war in 1945 to find his fruit trees competing for space with the family clothes line.
In his laundry workshop, Hill set about creating a rotary clothes hoist for his family that would later develop into that symbol of Australian suburbia, the Hills Hoist.
Not only could the line be raised and lowered, it could spin to take advantage of the wind. The Hills Hoist was also popular because it could hold four nappies on each of the four outer wires.
Orders from impressed neighbours and relatives began flooding in, even though it cost twice the average weekly wage. This order book records Hill’s very first sales, when a hoist cost £10.10s and installation an extra £1.5s.
Today, Hills Industries operates internationally and produces a wide range of products from building and industrial parts to play equipment.
The Hills Hoist is an enduring Australian icon in more ways than one. A Darwin family reported that the only thing left standing, and working, after Cyclone Tracy was their Hills Hoist.

Finally, here is a photo taken in December 1999. My son and I are standing on the rather less than salubrious rooftop of our three star hotel accommodation in Athens. The Hotel Carolina boasted views of the Acropolis, which you can indeed see very faintly on the hill behind us if you look closely. What the hotel description failed to mention was that in order to get this distant view, you had to fight your way through an extensive and low slung line of washing, comprised mainly of the owner's wife's voluminous underwear. It was funny at the time, although it would have been more so if I had thought to take a photo of the way through the washing. Sadly I did not, so you'll just have to imagine it from my description. I'm not sure why we were so desperate for a view here, because of course we went to visit the Acropolis close up the next day.

For other clean, fresh-smelling laundry-related blogs, why not go hang out a while at Sepia Saturday #297
       Hopefully not too many people will choose to air their dirty laundry in public this week, but you never know!

We were visiting the city of Ballarat today, and I spotted this in a shop window display - it's a genuine mini model of a Hills HoĆ­st, including the name, so I just had to add a photo of it in here. By the way, the reason we went to Ballarat was to visit the very interesting Ballarat International Foto Biennale, in which surprisingly there were several photos that included washing.



Kristin said...

You do have quite a few views of laundry on the line, even if you are missing someone actually hanging it up.

diane b said...

I remember those lines with the stick propping them up.

Little Nell said...

Thes are wonderful. Isn’t it strange that washing features in so many old images - these days we try and hide it.

Jo Featherston said...

They still have one like that at the farm owned by my husband's family in Herefordshire, but I'm sure I've avoided including it in any back garden photographs I've ever taken there, which would be quite a few over the years. It's fairly well hidden at the back of the property anyway, not centrally placed like a Hills hoist often can be.

Anonymous said...

I think we become a bit blind when we're taking a photo and only see the person we want to photograph. But you have done your fair share of recording our drying tactics when now so many people just stick things in the tumble dryer. I'm glad that your mother brought you up correctly and taught you that doing the washing is women's work :-) That a great photo of you, your dolls and the washing.

Jo Featherston said...

Well, right now the son pictured above has hung out our washing, and may well have to get it back in again shortly, as rain is threatening. We don't have a dryer.

Postcardy said...

I enjoyed your selection of photos. At first I didn't realize that there was something holding the Fab box up.

Wendy said...

I remember people having a rotary clothesline and thought that it was the BEST thing ever because it didn't stretch across the whole backyard disrupting a place to play.

I love the story of fighting through underwear to get that shot of the Acropolis. Even without a photo, the memory is proof that once again Sepia Saturday did its job.

Karen S. said...

I really enjoyed all the happy little faces with your photos.

Barbara Rogers said...

What a great collection of photos of laundry hanging around and about. I'm now inspired to see if I have anything ancient or modern about drying clothes.

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

What a darling child you were. Loved the Fab photo and the idea of battling through voluminous underwear. The doll's clothing on the line is so sweet.

Deb Gould said...

We had a rotary clothesline when I was little -- the ropes weren't really rope; they were plastic. Anyway, my mother used to tie the dog to it; he'd rotate around the back yard...

Alex Daw said...

That Hills Hoist article was fascinating. They were expensive at the time won't they? Loved that comment about them being the only thing standing after Cyclone Tracey.

Mike Brubaker said...

Great post on a universal subject. Laundry seems to be more common in family photo collections than I expected.

anyjazz said...

The Hills Hoist! I have never heard the origin of this handy item. We had one years ago and I remember drying diapers on the wind. And you found so many photographs with laundry on the line, right out of your own family collection! Good post!

Tattered and Lost said...

I do remember my mother hanging clothes on one of those round-about lines. I can only imagine what I must have been like when it got spinning. As it is my pup loves to jump at sheets blowing. I can only imagine what he'd do if they were spinning round and round.

Lorraine Phelan said...

My mother never did succeed in stopping me or my four younger siblings swinging on the Hills Hoist occasionally. Oh dear.