An “Aha!” Moment

23 Mar

Last night I was chatting with a friend and she remarked that when she was a young girl her hair was the same shade as mine. “I washed it on Saturday night and wrapped it in a scarf, so it would be nice for Sunday. We only washed our hair once a week. You couldn’t get soap, you know, because it was rationed during the war.”  My friend is British, a war bride and closer to my mum’s age than mine.

And suddenly it all clicked!

I have several Woman’s Day magazines from the 40s, saved by my ever-thrifty mother and grandmother.  There are frequent articles about making-do, turning men’s unworn suits into clothing for the rest of the family, and such. Some of them referred to substitutes for soap. Fat is used to make soap – and munitions. It just didn’t register with me that there was a reason for the things my mother did.

We washed our hair once a week, and took three baths a week. Saturday night so we’d be clean for church, plus Monday  and Wednesday nights. You don’t sweat in the winter, and in the summer there’s nobody around to know if you stink.  And we always wore our clothes two days, letting them rest a day in between.  The idea of wearing things twice never fazed me, and I made sure our girls did the same. Even my uniforms at school were purchased with the idea you wore the blouses twice. Too much washing wears things out, and although nobody had a dryer in the 50s (and precious few in the 60s) bashing things around weakens the threads.  I much prefer to clothes things on the line; it’s such a Zen thing. Bend and reach. Bend and reach. No hurry, no pressure, no grabbing things out of the dryer before the wrinkles set.  I always told the girls, “that stuff in the lint filter is your underwear”.

So there is was. Not some aberrant behaviour on my mum’s part but a hold-over from the frugal days of World War II – the war her husband and her brothers-in-law were waging overseas.

 

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2 Responses to “An “Aha!” Moment”

  1. tiggerlyss March 24, 2018 at 12:33 pm #

    My mother grew up during the Depression. I have learned many skills from her that she learned growing up during that time. My kids have learned these from me…I just don’t know whether either of them will find bags of frozen bones in their freezers waiting for a pot of water to make soup.

  2. Val March 25, 2018 at 1:48 pm #

    I constantly heard post-war philosophy,when I was a child in the 1950s and 60s, mostly to do with mending rather than buying new, and not wasting food. And the hair-washing once a week. But my mother had pretty much decided once war was a decade or more past that if she could have a bath everyday then she was going to!

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