Cleanliness is next to godliness

Whoever thought that one up was a frustrated mother trying to coerce an active little boy into a bathtub on a Saturday night.  She probably told him it was in the Bible.  She lied.

Because the word "utility" is too hard for little kids to pronounce, we called ours The Back Room.  The house purchased in 1946 didn’t have indoor plumbing, just two rooms downstairs, an enclosed stairwell, and two rooms upstairs.  If Dad put any plumbing in such as a sink and faucet system, I don’t remember being told about it.  When he built the kitchen and back room, I was the baby in the buggy with the cat, overseeing the process.  The indoor bathroom didn’t evolve until 1962.  Until then we had the path to the outdoor double seater.

Ok, sisters, how big was The Back Room really?  It was huge in the 50’s and shrank in the 60’s.  In that room were the stored home canned goods on the corner shelves, the chest freezer, wringer washer and tubs, the water heater, the utility sink where we brushed our teeth and occasionally pulled teeth, washed faces, washed hair, and participated in what Mom delicately called spit baths.  And there was a floor drain to pour down the bathwater.

The oval tin bathtub was stored outside much of the time.  Depending on the weather, it would hold rainwater, leaves, grass clippings, or snow.  All right, who forgot to turn it upside down?  If it was, I was nervous about what kind of wildlife lurked under it.  So I was probably the one who returned it to its nature setting rightside up.

On Saturday nights and special occasions, the tub was hauled into the back room, rinsed, and filled with costly hot water with a 6 ft. hose hooked up to the faucet.  When I was little, I fit in the square laundry tub, and the two sisters occupied the big grown-up tub.   We grew, the tub didn’t, so like the laundry, the cleanest kid went in first allowing the water to last the evening adding a little more hot water and maybe some dish soap for suds for the next one.  Conservation became very basic in our house.

Showers were a two person operation.  The bathee stood over the drain, was sprinkled by the garden sprinkler held by a parent, soaped down, and was rinsed by the same sprinkler.

If I had my choice, and I have had that choice for a long time, I wouldn’t choose an outhouse, a tin tub, and a sprinkler can.  But we lived through it.  We were clean, stayed healthy, and I now have stories to tell.

It’s a stetch to say it was lots and lots of fun.  To us, it was just normal.  The fun part came when the parents mistakenly thought the girls were relaxed from the bathing process and fell into a peaceful deep sleep.  So they made popcorn.  And a second batch for the clean little people peeking from the stairwell.


3 thoughts on “Cleanliness is next to godliness

  1. 1962 must have been a big year for receiving indoor bathrooms because that’s when we received ours.

    My memories of a northern Illinois winter walk to the outhouse in twenty degee below zero weather are funny – now – but they were not at the time.

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