Ironing back then | TheFencePost.com

Ironing back then

Marilyn Kratz
Yankton, S.D.

Ironing Day was just that when I was a girl. It was a day when you spent most of the hours in it ironing. We hadn’t even heard of permanent press or synthetics. Most clothing and linens were made of cotton, and they came off the wash lines stiff and wrinkled.

I remember folding a huge stack of dish towels each week to prepare them for ironing. I’d put the entire stack on the ironing board and iron and fold one at a time, exposing the towel beneath it. What a tedious job!

Dress clothes had to be sprinkled with warm water the evening before and wrapped in towels so they’d be a bit damp when ironing them. The glass sprinkler bottle had a long thin neck with a nozzle pierced with lots of little holes. I remember how wonderful we thought it was when plastic bags first became available. They kept the sprinkled laundry just damp enough until we got to ironing it.

Our good dresses and Dad’s and my brother’s shirts had been stiffened with starch before being sprinkled and ironed. Looking back, I realize all that work pressing them smooth lasted about five minutes after we put them on. I guess everyone walked around in wrinkled clothes those days.

The first irons we used were small and heavy. We heated several at a time on the cook stove top. The one detachable handle we had was inserted into the top of an iron when it was hot and ready to use. That meant the stove had to be hot to do the ironing, even on steaming summer days. No wonder they called them “sad irons.”

Then Mom bought a gas iron. I’m not sure what kind of gas it burned in the small blue ball-shaped tank attached to the back of it. Mom had to use a little pump to force air into it every once in a while.

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As soon as we obtained electricity on the farm, Mom got an electric steam iron. No longer did we have to sprinkle the clothes.

Dad likely made the ironing board we used since it was made entirely of wood. Mom padded the top with layers of old sheets pinned securely onto it.

I remember spending hours at the ironing board. Listening to soap operas on the radio helped keep my mind off the boring task. I still iron a few items in my laundry, but nowadays, I sit at an adjustable ironing board. I listen to the radio while I do it, just as I did when I was a girl, but nowadays, there are no soap operas being broadcast. I kinda miss them.