It’s always an education to visit an antiques shop with my mom. On this special day, I not only went to the Rolla Antique Mall with my mom, but also my mother-in-law tagged along. Here’s the story.
“So, the wringer could be used one direction and then the other?” I asked.
“Yes,” said my mother, “And remember, this was before the washing machine with the wringer thing on it.”
“Oh, yes,” chimed my mother-in-law, Ginny Baird. “We’d have to stand and use the washboard first.”
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I followed my mother and mother-in-law to the next stop on the tour of antique technology – the wood cookstove. The women picked up various burner plates and poked around, looking inside the old contraption. They talked about heating water in a section of the stovetop, and about using the water for their baths – once a week, usually.
“My job was to go out and get the little sticks, so when Mother would want to start the stove in the morning, she could put the wood in there before the briquettes [coal],” recalled my mother.
Believe me, I received a real education about the technology of the past from these two women who lived it. My daughter and I love to visit antiques malls and shops, flea markets and yard sales, looking for unusual ice cream dishes and sherry glasses, the occasional shabby chic piece of furniture and calendar towels. Sometimes we find items that we have no idea how to use. Not so on this day with these two ladies.
After looking at the cookstove, which my mother said she wouldn’t mind owning today, we moseyed on over to look at irons, a coal oil can and other sundry items.
The women were really getting into the nostalgic mood by now, and when we got over to the booth with the coffin-shaped bathtub standing upright in the corner, they swung into action.
My mom said, “We should just put it on the floor and one of us get in.” They set it down and Ginny stepped into it. To demonstrate the ability to soak before rinsing, Ginny stretched out in it. By now, a few folks had stopped to watch the women’s antics.
Over my 27-some years of marriage, I’ve always suspected that my mother-in-law lives by the motto on a plaque in her kitchen: “All nuts are not in jars.” My mom’s family must have modeled themselves after this adage, too.
After extracting Ginny from the tub – which took the efforts of my mom and myself (Hey, you try lying prone in a tippy tub, and then, try to stand straight up out of it) – we went to look at vintage purses, rusty kitchen tools, and then, the greatest invention in a woman’s world, the telephone.
According to my mom, her family was assigned one short ring, followed by two long rings. Or, was it two short rings, followed by one long ring? It didn’t really matter, since anyone could get on the phone anytime.
Of course, we all know that party-lines preceded family-talk plans, and you know, maybe it’s not such a bad thing that anyone can be listening. That might cut down on innocuous gossip or hearsay on phone lines these days. The women said eavesdropping on the party line was called “rubbernecking.”
We went on to the next item, which Ginny pointed to, and said, “Kraut-cutter.” A metal slot on a board, about the size of a washboard, served the purpose of shredding cabbage quickly. Ginny also spotted a sleeve presser, and said, “Now that came in handy.”
So far, everything we’d looked at in the mall had been improved upon. That is, until we found the pants-creasers. Made of metal and adjustable to most sizes, these forms could be slipped inside wet trousers, keeping the pants smartly creased as they dried. My mom’s household owned one; Ginny’s mother didn’t have one. She wound up having to starch and press all the trousers by hand.
After posing with the pants-creasers, the women decided that their trip down memory lane had been fun, but that it was now time to get on with present-day plans.
And when I remember this trip to the antiques mall, I’ll hold the memory of these two special women in my life as they recalled their past times, without remorse, but with pleasure.
And this trip illustrated the words of the poet, Ellen Clementine Howarth when she wrote, “Where is the heart that doth not keep / Within its inmost core, / Some fond remembrance hidden deep, / Of days that are no more?
The Rolla Antique Mall is located on 12020 Dillon Outer Dr, Rolla, MO 65401
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