Saturday, April 25, 2015

Memories and musings

Do you remember things that went on around you in your childhood? I was musing about such things the other day, realising how much life has changed in the past fifty years. We are so automated now, we've almost forgotten how to do things manually.

The prompt for these mental meanderings was an old ship's washing machine, a tobbe that one of my neighbours in the harbour gave me a few years back. I've never had time to restore it, although I've long wanted to. Koos, however, decided he'd waited long enough for me to do something and took the task on himself. The tobbe was something he remembered from his childhood on board his father's commercial barge. This kind of 'machine' was what his mother used to do their washing. She used outboard water and he recalls 'helping', although whether mum saw it that way might be something else. Theirs was a slightly different model from this one, but the principle was the same. As you can see, it really is a lovely old thing.

Old tobbe washing machine with mechanical
driver.

Inside the tobbe, or tub, is a four bladed paddle that fits on a central pipe, through which the rod of the driver passes. Using either a small motor, or even a bicycle to operate the pulley wheel on the driver the rod turns, and the paddle is activated in a to and fro action inside the tub. The laundry is thus agitated (physically, not mentally of course). I can just imagine being a child and wanting to help with this too!

Koos has made a fabulous job of restoring it, as it was all in pieces and in a sorry state before he started. I just wish I'd done it as I love restoring old things.

Here's a photo of his father's barge. You can see the tobbe just next to the wheelhouse.



What I do remember is helping my own mother wring the wet washing out with one of these:

Clothes wringer (courtesy of ebay)
I enjoyed doing this and watching the water pouring out of the wet laundry. We're now looking for one here that can go with our tobbe. I'm not sure where we'll put them as the Vereeniging is far too small to house such a bulky system, but at least we'll be equipped if all power goes phoom!

Another thing I remember loving as a child was watching the piano tuner. My mother had a beautiful grand piano given to her as a 21st birthday present and it had pride of place in our lounge. The piano tuner used to come about three times a year, and I used to stand and watch him adjusting all the pegs and strings with his tuning tools. Being an intensely shy child, I never asked him what he was doing, but it was a very restful activity to watch. 

I also liked being cook's assistant. My favourite jobs were whipping cream (watching it thicken always fascinated me), making custard and sauces, and doing scrambled eggs. I think I just liked the transformation process from liquids to almost solid forms - strange child that I was! Later, when I lived on the farm in South Africa, I loved making butter, which is a similar process. So clearly, the fascination continued. These days, well, let's say the kitchen is not my favourite place...

Do you remember any special activities as a child? What did you enjoy doing most?

17 comments:

  1. An interesting blog post Val. I have no real memories of any the domestic tasks that took place. Though I do recall that there was a large wringer on a stand in the wash house - h'm it bit my fingers when I was playing with it once.
    Other than that I looked forward to the parcels that came to us containing blocks of Danish tub butter and brown bags of Cadbury's chocolates and biscuits waste and other goodies.
    One of my earliest memories is of attending a street party with my mother marking the end of the war, the long tables all covered by brilliant white table cloths on which stood bowls of jellies, cakes and an assortment of sandwiches incidentally non of which were spam! Months later my uncles and aunts dribbled home from various parts of the world and last of whom was my father's brother from India who bought a two seater sports car with his severance pay. Lots more memories of my various antics but sufficient for now I think.

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    1. More, Mel, more! I love your recollections! Thank you for a lovely comment!

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  2. Oh yes, I remember my mother with her chuntering washing machine and the wringer. I know we get nostalgic about these old machines - but housework was really hard in those days.

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    1. It was, Jo, and despite my 'modern' upbringing, I had my share of that on the farm in South Africa. No mod-cons there!

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    1. Thank you, Lucinda. I must catch up with you too soon!! xx

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  4. Val, nice thoughtful post. It makes me think of the old wringer washing machines and my grandmother's ice cream maker. Lynn

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    1. My mum had a lovely old ice-cream maker too, Lynn. Was your grandmother's a kind of barrel too? Ours had a large tube in it turned by a handle on the outside. A lovely thing, it was.

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  5. When my first child was born I went to the trouble of buying a mangle in an antique shop, it seemed to me a good idea for getting clothes as dry as possible and I remembered someone had one when I was a kid and I used to love using it!

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    1. Ah, Jenny, as children we could enjoy these things, couldn't we? It wasn't work to us!

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  6. So many nice memories, Val. That is a beautiful Tub! We had the old wringer too - my poor mother, washing for her many children with it. I liked to cook, and made biscuits and cakes from an early age. Tricky Mum, she turned ironing into a special treat for us - be good, and you can iron the hankerchiefs :) I spent a lot of time reading and playing piano, and liked to organise dress-up games, involving beauty pageants or funny plays about princesses. So old-fashioned now..

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    1. What a smart mum you had! I've always hated ironing, and maybe that's because it was a chore we were expected to do!

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  7. My grandmother had a wringer washer up until the early 1950s in MA. She also had huge stretchers where twice a year she'd stretch the newly hand-washed sheer curtains. It was as much of a signal of change of seasons as a daffodil or a falling red leaf.

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    1. Special memories indeed! I like the idea that stretching the curtains signalled the change of seasons!

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  8. Hi Val - I think 'old tobbe' might make a good butter churner?! What an amazing looking thing and obviously so practical back then .. we had a washing machine - but we also had a wringer ..

    Koos has done you great credit ... well done to both of you - cheers HIlary

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    1. Thanks Hilary! I'll pass on the compliment. Yes it could be a butter churner too, couldn't it?

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  9. The tobbe is beautiful and wouldn't it be wonderful if it was brought back in to service. My grandmother used to have a mangle and I remember her still having it even when they moved in to a brand new flat with a tiny kitchen in the early 70s xxx

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