The Clothesline

Comments by Michelle Dunlap


Most folks nowadays consider the clothesline obsolete, but I still use mine...couldn’t live without it. Oh, the inside clothes dryer has its uses; it’s nice to have when it is raining and you simply have to do some laundry, but the result’s not the same. A dryer won’t give the clothes that fresh, outdoor smell that sun-drying will.

Yes, I still use my clothesline whenever I can, and I still hang things just like Mom taught me as a child; I’d feel guilty if I didn’t.  

For all of us who are older, the following “rules” will bring back memories; for the younger ones it will add some thoughts.

1.         You had to wash the clothesline before hanging any clothes. Walk the length of the line with a damp cloth around the line.

2.         You had to hang the clothes in a certain order. For example, always hang whites with whites, and always hang them first.

3.         You never hung a shirt by the shoulders, always by the tail...what would the neighbors think?



A clothesline was a news forecast
To neighbors passing by.
There were no secrets you could keep
When clothes were hung out to dry.


Neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by
To spend a night or two.

For then you'd see the fancy sheets

And towels upon the line;
You'd see the “company” table cloths
With intricate design.


The line announced a baby's birth
To folks who lived inside
As brand new infant clothes were hung
So carefully with pride.


The ages of the children could
So readily be known,
By watching how the sizes changed;
You'd know how much they'd grown.


It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,
Haphazardly were strung.


It said, "Gone on vacation now"
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told, "We're back!" when full lines sagged,
With not an inch to spare.


New folks in town were scorned upon
If wash was dingy gray,
As neighbors raised their brows,
And looked disgustedly away.


But clotheslines are almost a thing of the past
For dryers make work less.
Now what goes on inside a home
Is anybody's guess.


I really miss that way of life.

It was a friendly sign

When neighbors knew each other best

By what hung on the line!



The author of the above is not known, but it is a favorite of  Michelle Dunlap. Michelle lives in Ottawa, Kansas, and is a descendant of the Elk County, Kansas Freemans. Her research of that family line has enlightened many of us.


Thanks Michelle!