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If You Can Survive a Washtub Bath, You Can Survive Anything

Updated on November 1, 2019
kenneth avery profile image

Kenneth is a rural citizen of Hamilton, Ala., and has begun to observe life and certain things and people helping him to write about them.

Rare Rectangular Washtub

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It Was 1963 in The Very Hottest

of summers. I was 10. And loving life. Back to how hot it was when this event happened. It was so hot that if you like hot dogs, all you had to do was turn on the Cold switch onto the hot dogs and in minutes they were ready. That, my good friends, was hot. And to make things worse, my family and I never go to eat hogs for some very unsocial reason to which I spent my life trying to understand.

We lived in a place called the New Hope Community which was circa nine miles north of Hamilton, Ala., in a rented home from (a) Mrs. Verta Dobbs, (I have told you about her many times), a widow woman who had several acres of land to produce cotton and corn that was to be grown and harvested Plso she could have her living.

Enter my dad, a master share cropper, who loved this work so much that in many mornings, he was up by 4:30, drinking coffee even helping to cook our breakfast for my mom. Now, she was a very special woman. Most men in 1960 still held to that ignorant doctrine of “the woman’s place was in the home while he was free to work and go where he pleased.” I thank God for my parents for always loving and respecting each other.

Please Understand That Every

week was primarily the same as the week before. We rose early, ate breakfast, I went to school, dad worked the fields, and my mom did her housework and kept meals ready for all of us at day’s end. And at the end of each week, if I had any neighborhood buddies on Saturday around 4 p.m., we all made tracks to hide in places that not even the F.B.I. could spot. We were serious about our hiding in our rural home place.

Like the finest-tuned clockwork in Berlin, my mom would stick her head out of the kitchen door and say in a loud voice, time for a bath! Those four words were like one nation yelling an attack on another nation, except with mom, he words rang so sharp and painful to us and for good reason: I was expected to sit down and take a Saturday Evening Bath in a real, true-to-life No. 2 aluminum washtub. I am not lying to you.

My family and I had two aluminum tubs at all times to be used from everything to transporting fresh hog meat in the winter time and cold watermelon in the summer. We swore by No. 2 aluminum washtubs.

My family and I had a few other uses for our “famous” No. 2 washtub including . . .

Keeping young tomato plants covered to keep the hot sun from burning them.

When water was scarce,. we did have two dogs to watch our property, we would fill these washtubs up with water and our dogs, maybe stray cats, or whatever animal was suffering from thirst, made it to our washtubs to get a drink of good old well water.

When my buddies and I were playing Hide ‘N Seek, I was the one who slipped underneath our washtubs and stayed perfectly-quiet. This tactic worked great, for one time.

You see. The No. 2 washtub was more than a vessel to take a bath, it was a multi-purpose washtub.

I am not here to tell you about taking Saturday Night Baths in aluminum No. 2 washtubs to make you think that we were trying to be more different than anyone else, the reason was we did not have indoor plumbing. Facts are facts. And these are sadly true. We had an outdoor toilet at the edge of our yard and there is no need to tell you the “what” went on when one entered our toilet. If I have to explain this to you, then you need to study a few months of Rural Life in Alabama, and gain a new understanding of how I lived.

Frankly, my buddies and I should have seen it coming the first times when we saw my precious mom barking-out the orders about bath time being yelled from the kitchen door, but as you know, young male children only do one thing: get into mischief and have fun. And besides, it was just me who had to sit down in the ice-cold water that was put into that washtub. The reason why my buddies were excused from following suite with me: all of these guys had mostly-modern homes that all came with indoor plumbing, bathrooms, and with those white ceramic bathtubs.

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When Bath Time Rolled Around Every Saturday Evening

neared, I was always depressed because my buddies would try their best to not laugh at me, but when they made a way for them to see my birthday suit and inside this washtub with me yelling for help while my mom laughed while I was being tortured, but it all happened. None of my buddies bothered to put a finger on the trouble that I was in during 4 p.m. until 5 p.m., every Saturday night in the summer time. What do I think of that time now that I am a grown man?

I still hate it. When I am in our shower and hear that water sloshing and falling on my old body, I almost scream for my blessed mom to stop or I will die. Folks, if you have ever taken a bath in an aluminum washtub, then you understand exactly what I am talking about.

To bring this lecture home, when I was 12, taking Saturday Evening “Torture” Baths, I feel as if the big-hearted citizens in my neighborhood would not scold me for staying dirty for weeks on end. But alas, we have all fell into a “soft society,” with its fancy ceramic bathtubs with special lighting, carpet, and even speakers to listen to music while we bathed.

No more can I ease back into my yard and take a Saturday Night Washtub Bath because in my town, there is an ordinance that forbids people from stripping-down to the bare skin and having a good old rural bath and I could even sing while I bathed if I had a No. 2 washtub because I am now 65, and I can hold a tune with the best of them.

Now where we live today in northwest Alabama, Marion County, we have heard tell of a Williams family who does not use inside plumbing or a shower. The men folk all trod down the local creek (Williams Creek, no relation to the Williams family) at 4 a.m., seven days a week, 365 years, to take their morning bath.

Honestly, I have yet to be that curious about this private ritual.

October 30, 2019__________________________________________________


A Modern-Day Washtub

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© 2019 Kenneth Avery

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    • Brenda Arledge profile image

      BRENDA ARLEDGE 

      20 months ago from Washington Court House

      Your article is quite good. I remember the outdoor washtub.

      However we eventually had plumbing indoors...a shower first. Then it got replaced with a tub and no shower.

      But that didn't stop the need for the washtub.

      If us kids got dirty while playing outside...we got to take a dunk in the silver tub before entering the house.

      I remember those times well...i don't recall others having to do this..at least not in town. We lived in town.

      It doesn't plague me as it seems to you...i can take a shower without thinking of it. But it was definitely a different time.

      And yes, i remember the lovely outhouse too...but only for a short while...then we got that nice indoor area.

      Nice write.

    • rdsparrowriter profile image

      Rochelle Ann De Zoysa 

      20 months ago from Moratuwa, Sri Lanka

      Hi can understand what you felt as a child. Living at my grandmother's house, had to bath outside due to no plumbing inside the house at the ages of 8-11 years. I daily bathed around 5:00 a.m and had to wash after 6:30pm. It was really cold due to wind most of the days and had to deal with uninvited guests like frogs and rats :) Those experiences made me thankful and grateful to God for what we have now :) God bless you!

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 

      21 months ago

      I just had to read this article when I saw the title. As a child, we all got bathed on Saturday night in a washtub in front of the fire. At least, it was not outside!. There were 5 of us children and we all went in one after the other. Some of the water was lifted out and dumped and fresh put in, if the water got too cold. Then we were all sat in our nightclothes on the old sofa to watch the latest cowboy film on TV, with our Saturday treat of a small bar of chocolate each. Maybe Bronco Lane or Wagon Train, or one of the similar ones. The water was heated in a boiler and carried bucket by bucket to fill the bathtub. It was emptied the same way. My father would go out in the evening, to let my mother have her bath. I don't know when he bathed! We didn't realise as children but carrying those buckets of water from the boiler to the bath was heavy work. It was only some years later we got a bathroom installed. You really appreciate that after a tin bath.

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