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Rainy Days and the Laundromat: A Winter Memory Hub Challenge

Updated on January 24, 2016
Rainy days bring rainbows and clothes that can't be dried outside
Rainy days bring rainbows and clothes that can't be dried outside | Source

Rainy Days Doing Laundry

Have you spent a rainy day at the laundromat?

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Winter Invokes Rainy Day Memories

Jackie Lynnley has put out a challenge to write about a winter memory. As I've never done a challenge on Hubpages, I thought I'd give this one a go.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s. I cannot think of winter without imagining rainy days spent at the laundromat and what fun my brother and I used to have there. Only a young child could see such a tedious day as an adventure.

There were seven of us in my family. My parents had 5 kids within 7 years. This meant my Mom often had more than one child in diapers at a time. We produced a heck of a lot of laundry. We used to wash one load of towels almost every day. If we didn't, sometime around Tuesday someone would be reaching for the toilet paper after their shower. (That never happened...I think.)

We didn't have a clothes dryer until I was in high school. Instead, we had a clothesline with several lines extended across the backyard. We'd clothespin as many things as we could, the weight of it all sometimes making the rope collapsed. What joy finding a newly washed load laying in the dirt.

It seemed that the hamper was never empty and the washing machine was always running.

Rows and Rows of Laundry

My siblings and me (I'm on the right) ca. 1968.  If you look in the background, you can see one of our early clotheslines lining the backyard.
My siblings and me (I'm on the right) ca. 1968. If you look in the background, you can see one of our early clotheslines lining the backyard. | Source

Clotheslines are Useless in the Rain

In the winter, it rained quite often. For the wetter days, we had a rack my that my Dad set up over the bedroom door molding near the wall heater. Being short, it wasn't all that easy throwing the clothes up over the poles.

In the morning, my mom would turn on the oven to dry our clothes the rest of the way. We'd dress right there in the kitchen where it was toasty warm. Nothing like warm underwear and socks to start a chilly, damp day. It helped speed things up as she tried to get five kids ready for the school bus.

We made do until the weekend during the rainy season. By the weekend, we'd have several loads of laundry overfilling the laundry basket. It wouldn't be long before we ran out of things to wear.

This is the Way We Wash Our Clothes

A more modern laundromat than the one that used to be in my town
A more modern laundromat than the one that used to be in my town | Source

And, We're Off to the Laudromat!

“Over the river and the through the woods to the laundromat we go...” Okay, it wasn't all that dramatic. The laundromat was only three blocks away. We did have to drive down a busy street where there were sometimes prostitutes hanging out on street corners. The biggest danger we faced was my Dad trying to avoid our questions about why they were dressed the way they were.

My Mom would fill three or four big duffel bags with the laundry. Then, my brother and I would jump in the car. My Dad needed assistants. I'm not sure why we were always elected. It's most likely because we were the youngest and didn't have enough sense to realize no one else wanted to go.

Once we got there, we had to stake out several washing machines. My brother and I would fight over who got to use the change machine since everything took quarters. Once the washers were going, we entertained ourselves. If the laundromat was empty, my brother and I would give each other rides in the carts (shhh...don't tell anyone!). Otherwise, we'd play with whatever toys we stuffed in our pockets. You can play with Hot Wheels pretty much anywhere.

Don't worry about my Dad. He was off talking to someone. It didn't matter if he knew them or not. He would talk to anyone.

When the machines were done, we'd grab the carts and head over to the dryers. I don't really think the other folks liked being there at the same time as us. We took over half the machines.

We had an hour or so to kill. How would we keep from getting bored? You can only watch the clothes roll around in the dryer for so long.

Founded by Verne Winchell in 1948

This Winchell's Donut House in Southern California looks very much like the one in my old neighborhood.
This Winchell's Donut House in Southern California looks very much like the one in my old neighborhood. | Source

Winchell's to the Rescue

I'm sure you guessed the real reason my brother and I were so eager to help my Dad. Winchell's Donut House was next door to the laundromat.

We'd order a couple dozen doughnuts to take home for the gang. If we were lucky, they just put out the fresh ones.

My Dad would get a cup of coffee and we'd find a booth. Then, we'd help ourselves to a doughnut or two. I always went for the regular chocolate, my brother went for the old fashioned, and my Dad loved the crullers (I used to think they were called crawlers).

Wouldn't you know it? The woman at the next booth had a son on his baseball team last season. My brother and I could be doomed to an hour or more of waiting while my Dad talked about Little League. Thank goodness we were saved by the dryer timers. People would take your clothes out if you weren't right there. Didn't want that to happen!

Which One Will You Pick?

A selection of doughnuts
A selection of doughnuts | Source

Glazed and Frosted Memories

What's Your Favorite Doughnut?

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Heading Home with Our Duffel Bags

By the time we were sugared up, it was time to check the loads. We'd have a few more rides around the building in a cart before we'd stuff all the clothes in the bags and go home.

We'd race to the car to beat the rain--and to see who was fastest. I'm pretty sure we were more worried about getting the box of doughnuts wet than ourselves.

Until now, I didn't think about what a special thing those doughnuts were. It was expensive raising five children. We didn't have what you'd call extra money lying around between paychecks. Although a box of freshly made doughnuts only cost a couple bucks back then, it was splurging. And, what a wonderful treat it was!

Thank Goodness My Clothesline Days are Behind Me

I was so happy when we finally could afford a dryer. I've heard others wax poetic about the joys of drying clothes outdoor on a line. Ah, the smell of sunshine. Not me! All I remember is the endless loads being put up and taken down, the rope collapsing dropping everything in the dirt, and finding moths in my tops when we left the clothes out on the line too late. I had enough of that, thank you very much!

Winter will always invoke images of dreary, wet Saturdays spent at the laundromat and scarfing down doughnuts. Those were fun times getting out of the house and spending time with my Dad. A child's idea of an adventure for sure!

Thank you, Jackie, for putting out this winter challenge!

© 2014 Melody Lassalle

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    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Virginia, thanks for your comments! Oh my, a wringer washer. We used to have my great grandmother's old one (she ran a professional laundry in the 1920s-1930s). I can't imagine what your mom must have went through each week just to get the clothes washed. It was hard enough for us with an electric washer.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 2 years ago from Central Florida

      I love reading these kinds of memories.

      I was one of six kids, so I can relate to your household. We lived in the country and Mom washed with a wringer washing machine. Seems pretty quaint now.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Thank you, Eddy! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Elsie, I agree about damp clothes! We only had one wall heater and did not run it all night. Clothes dried over the bar often were barely dry. My Mom was great about letting us dry over the stove when needed but even then you could only get stuff so dry within an hour. I don't miss it! LOL

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful read and thank you so much for sharing.

      Eddy.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 2 years ago from New Zealand

      It was interesting reading your story, those were the days, really the young ones today have no idea what it was like many years ago, we didn't even have a clothes drier or laundromat where we lived.

      I remember in the winter putting my clean clothes on to go to school which weren't dry they were damp, I can still feel that feeling when I think about it.

      It taught me well because my clothes are now aired out in the clothes drier before I put them away in the draw, even in the summer, there is nothing worse than wearing damp clothes.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Ladyguitarpicker, thanks for you comments! We had an old washing machine like that in our yard. It was my great grandmother's (she was a laundress). Thank goodness my Mom had her 5 kids in the modern era. :D

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories. I do remember the cloths line and hanging cloths. My mother had a wringer washing machine, I can still remember running the cloths though the wringer and they cane out as flat boards.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Mary615, thanks for your comments, vote, and share! Much appreciated. When I was younger, it was like an adventure. As I got closer to my teen years my attitude was more like "why do I have to go????". I bet you get plenty of sunshine to dry those clothes outside.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Allison, thanks for your comments! Where I live the white stuff doesn't fall. So, my winter memories have to do mostly with soggy, wet days.

    • Allison Loker profile image

      Allison Loker 2 years ago from Brooklyn

      Thank you so much for sharing this memory. I have to say that my memories of winter in northwestern Pennsylvania included a little less sun and a lot more of the white stuff, but reading your hub brought me back to some of my fonder childhood memories. Wonderfully written!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      You did a great job with this Winter memory challenge. What a fun time you had with your Dad and siblings. Probably didn't seem like fun at the time, but it made for great memories.

      Thanks for reading my Winter memories. I included a photo of the clothes line I use now. I'm too frugal to use my clothes dryer, so I take advantage of our beautiful sunny days.

      Voted Up, etc. and shared.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Thank you for your comments, billybuc! As an adult I would definitely take advantage of the free reading time. As a child, it was an adventure that included doughnuts.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great memories. I've spent my share of time at the laundromat. A great excuse to read a book and pick up a treat. Thanks for a great look back in time.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Randall, this is a fascinating topic (ASMR). I suspect there are many noises or visuals that invoke the same response. It is interesting that a sound like rain can be soothing, but a sound like a fluttering shade can be so annoying that you might not sleep at all. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

    • Randall Guinn profile image

      Randall Guinn 2 years ago from Pinellas Park, Florida

      I keep forgetting things. I found out about ASMR while looking for videos of rain storms to help me fall asleep. Another item they include is the sound and image of someone folding laundry, so a rainy day at the laundry mat falls right into that category. They have some really good videos on youtube of rain storms, waterfalls, and gentle streams with birds singing. I watch them all the time. I had never heard of ASMR before a few moths ago, but there has been a girl on TV about it a couple of times. Her name is Maria. She's from Russia, and her QASMR name is whispers softly I think. I just watch the rain videos, but I also have a large collection of Bob Ross DVDs. I love to watch him paint. A very nice hub that you created Mel.

      Merry Christmas

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Randall, we were holding out for the doughnuts, so while we really wanted to get something from the vending machines, we held out. I don't think the offerings were that good back then. But, as a kid, you want anything that seems different.

      The rain has the ability to relax in a way that many other sounds don't. It's especially comforting at night. I have not heard of ASMR, but it doesn't surprise me that rain would fit in this category.

    • Randall Guinn profile image

      Randall Guinn 2 years ago from Pinellas Park, Florida

      Another thing that I liked about the laundry mat was the vending machines. It was good to have a little snack while waitng on the clothes. When I was older I used to stop by the laundry mat on the way home from school for a soft drink and a pack of crackers, when I had the coin. They always have a place to sit, so it gave me a place to relax for a moment, especially if it was raining outside. They had the soda machine with the pull out botttles, but then someone began popping the tops off the bottles for free soda, and they swapped it out for a can machine. The rain is another matter all togethert though. There's something special about the sound of falling raindrops, and today they lumped it into a category of pleasing sounds they call ASMR, or autononmous sensory meridian response. Watching Bob Ross painting videos are included in this as well.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      MsDora, children can sometimes find the greatest excitement in the simplest things. Thank you for your comments and glad to find another person who isn't thrilled with clotheslines :D

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Habitual visits to the laundromat, and having a brother for company--that's a great adventure for a kid. Glad you can still enjoy the memories. I still have a clothesline but I'm not excited about it, either. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Pstraubie48, thank you for your comments. It was fun to remember what it was like to experience the laundromat with my child's eyes. I know now I would be bored out of my mind waiting for each load to finish.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Randall, thank you for your comments! We never had a washboard. I think my Mom would say "thank goodness!" to that. We washed 8 or more loads of laundry a week. I think my Mom was happy when we each got old enough to help with the laundry. It allowed her to breath a little.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Pawpawwrites, thank you for your comments! I had never thought of drying clothes on a line in colder temps. Probably much like using a little too much spray starch. LOL

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Jodah, thanks for you comments and the vote up. Appliances can give us problems. I remember when we got our first dryer it was a used one. It worked well for several months then something went wrong and it caught on fire. Lost the whole load of clothes. Luckily, we kept it out in a shed off the garage so no harm to the house. Lo tech clotheslines can have their advantages.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image
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      Melody Lassalle 2 years ago from California

      Jackie, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for presenting this challenge. It brought back some good memories.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      Your trip to the laundromat sounded like quite an adventure. I had to take clothes to the laundry when it rained once in a while too.

      I do wish that I could have a clothesline thought..I did so enjoy the wonderful freshness that filled each piece of clothing and the sheets.

      Angels are on the way to you this morning. ps

    • Randall Guinn profile image

      Randall Guinn 2 years ago from Pinellas Park, Florida

      I have always liked rainy days, period, so it doesn't matter what I'm doing at the time. I remember the clothes lines as well. There's nothing that smells quite as fresh as sun dried bed sheets. When I was around 3 or 4, my mother did laundry using a washboard. In the winter it was especially painful. I can still remember my older brothers having to walk down a mountain trail to a spring for the water, and then carry it back uphill in buckets. When we finally got a washing machine, my mother got her hand caught in the wringer. We sure have it easy today.

    • Pawpawwrites profile image

      Jim 2 years ago from Kansas

      Great memories. I also have some memories of crying clothes on the clothesline. It was a real pain in the winter. It brought a new meaning to the term freeze dried.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for sharing these fun memories of Winter at the laundromat Mel. This was a very entertaining hub. We still use a clothesline to dry our clothes...the dryer keeps breaking down. Voted up.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Thank you Mel! You know the things we use to think were so awful when we were kids we often think of in fondness as we grow older! This story is proof of that and I know you think of your dad so lovingly when you think of these times out with him when they were taken so for granted back then.

      I am off now to add you to the top of the new winter memories! Thanks again for taking part; I so enjoyed your story and will be back to read it a few more times before this winter ends!

      Up and shared!!