Reckitt’s Blue and cardinal Red
My post today is inspired by Haiku Heights prompt word ‘Pride’. It took me back to my childhood in the 1940s when women were expected to go back to being proud housewives so that the men returning from the war could do the ‘real’ jobs, which women had done perfectly well while they were away fighting. The housewives did this for a while, taking pride in spotlessly clean washing hanging on the line, and beautifully kept homes, which took all day to clean.
Lines of white sheets hung
over cobbled stone streets, when
Monday was washday
Do you remember Reckitt’s Blue?
I do as I grew up in the North of England in the 1940s when every woman worth her salt would boil wash her sheets to within an inch of their lives every Monday morning. There were no washing machines, and no kitchen in our houses. We had a tiny scullery with a sink and a gas cooker, a couple of cupboards and a copper for doing the washing. The sheets, always white in those days, would be boiled in a ‘copper’ and agitated with a ‘dolly’ before being rinsed in Reckitt’s Blue to make them gleam. They then had to be wrung out in a hand operated mangle or wringer as there were no spinners then. The earlier you got your washing out, and the whiter it was, the better housewife you were considered to be. It really was a source of pride, and the housewives were terribly competitive! Women used to get up really early to start the washing as it took ages to boil the water. Washing could take all day so lunch was a quick scratch affair. In our house it was usually Sunday’s left overs and chips. These were a real treat and to this day I can’t hear a tune played by Mantovani without thinking of chips as he was always on the wireless on Monday lunchtimes.
Living in a ‘back to back’ terraced house, we didn’t have a garden, just a yard with a coal house and lavatory in it. So washing was hung out to dry on lines stretched across the cobbled front street with poles to hold it up. I remember clearly as a child that whenever a doctor’s car, or an ambulance, wanted to visit a neighbour, all the women had to get their washing in and take down the lines so the car could pass! No-one else in our area had a car so the only time we saw one was when a doctor came to the street. For years I thought only doctors had cars and telephones.
The history of Reckitt’s Blue is fascinating and if you want to read all about it click on this link.
Cardinal Red Polish was another thing I remember my mum using. She would paint it on the tiles on our front doorstep and polish it thoroughly ‘til it shone. It had to be really well polished and dry otherwise it would be walked into the house if you stepped on it.
At the front door she
Knelt and shone to perfection
Her gleaming stone step.