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Originally published 3-3-06
Good Day to Everyone!
Today is Saturday in California and it has been raining all week; beautiful showers that are much needed in this area. We
haven’t had rain all year.
Here we are in March again so quickly. Is it because I am getting older? Or is it because I am more busy? Speaking of busy,
I was just thinking of a Spring ritual that my mother used to talk about.
Spring Cleaning! Does anyone do spring cleaning anymore? I used to every year with my mother, but now it’s more like
every three years.
My mother said that when she was young everyone used to do Spring cleaning. So, when I was younger she also did the Spring
cleaning ritual. Pull all the furniture out of the corners, sweep all the corners and walls. If the walls didn’t have
wall paper, we would wash them. Of course, we would sweep the ceiling and walls first, to get all the cob webs. Pull the
mattresses off the beds wash the head boards, foot boards and frames. Sweep the mattresses and then vacuum them; flip the
mattresses over so they don’t wear out unevenly.
That was the hardest job for me . . . sweeping, vacuuming and flipping the mattresses. I hated it!! And, of course with
the job and my complaining came the admonition and story.
First the admonition from my mother . . . “Stop complaining! At least you don’t have to take the mattress apart
and wash the wool!”
“Wash the wool???” I would say. What do you mean?
Then the story! My mother would always jump into story telling mode at the drop of a hat! The only thing that saved my sanity
as I was growing up and hearing the same stories a million times, was that I liked to hear about her; “When I was young”
stories. Her history and the history of the little town she was from fascinated me; as well as the stories my father told.
They were great story tellers, very animated as they relived their younger days.
Washing the wool was a spring ritual that everyone did in my mother’s time. The only people that had a “store
bought” mattress were people “with money”. Most people made their own mattresses.
They bought the “ticking canvas” to sew the cover, usually from the local general store or by mail from Sears
and Roebuck or Montgomery Wards. If they were lucky they could barter with a Shepard that they knew for the wool. First,
they would wash the wool, because it was always dirty when first gathered from the sheep. They would stuff the home made
mattress cover with the wool to desired thickness and sew it shut.
After a year of use, every mattress in the house had to be taken apart and the wool washed. There were no plastic mattress
covers in those days. In my mother’s case, there were nine children and the parents. Not everyone had their own bed.
But, to be sure, there were at least 5 bed mattresses to be washed. And, of course, not every mattress was washed on the
same day. The mattress washing went on for several days so that there would be some mattresses to sleep on in the mean time.
No big deal you say! Take it apart and throw the wool in the washer! No way, practically no one had an automatic washer in
those days. It was aluminum round tubs and washboards with no indoor plumbing. So it was done outside over an open fire
to keep the water hot!
After it was washed, it was passed through the wringer to squeeze all the water out and set out on a tarp to let it dry.
Then, of course, you had to stuff it back into the ticking and sew it shut, usually by hand. My mother used to say that the
very “picky” people would take the time to “comb” or “fluff” the wool so you could get
a fluffy mattress. Otherwise, it was a lumpy mattress because the wool would shrink and clump when washed. She never told
me if my grandmother made them “fluff” the wool.
Whew! I’m tired just telling the story!
My mother had one small “old fashioned” mattress when I was young. She kept it wrapped in a mattress cover so
it wouldn’t get dirty. After a few years of use, not every year, she took it apart to “wash the wool” of
grit from use. Halfway through the process, she realized she didn’t have to do this anymore. She had my father gather
all the wool and ticking and toss it into the trash barrel! And so ended another “good ole days” ritual.
I was a teenager at that time and it seems just like yesterday! I can still remember the musty smell of wet wool. My how
Now I am babbling; I hope you have enjoyed our visit and my story. Won’t you post your thoughts, questions or your
own memories in our new forum “Parlour”? We would love to hear from you!
See you next month, I’ll be here . . . Stitching and Talking,
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New Year, 2007