From Kathleen Fox
The washboard hanging on the wall of our laundry room is no reproduction, artistically distressed to look pseudo-authentic. It’s just plain old. It’s been used. The wood is unevenly bleached and stained from standing in tubs of hard water laced with harsh soap. At the bottom of the ridged glass surface, the frame is worn away in the middle, no doubt from years of scrubbing dirty overalls.
I even know whose hands must have done that scrubbing. Not my grandmother (one of my sisters has her washboard), but my grandmother’s neighbor and close friend.
But let’s not wander too far into “olden days” stories about my grandmother scrubbing clothes on a washboard for a family of 12. At least by the early 1930’s, washboards may have been still used for extra scrubbing, but the bulk of the laundry was done with a washing machine. My mother remembers an early one with a wringer that was turned by hand—a perfect chore to assign to kids (in rotation, of course). The next one had an agitator and a wringer powered by a small gasoline engine. You can see one like it in action here.
This handy-dandy modern convenience still had to be filled with water heated on the kitchen stove and carried one bucketful at a time. Given the fumes from the engine, it would have needed to be used on the porch rather than in the kitchen. Pleasant enough in June; in January, not so much.