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The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION

Laundry history aired in Anola

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 08/5/2018 7:00 AM

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Warren Kruchak, president of the Anola and District Museum, displays sock stretchers, a glass washboard, and a wooden wash tub from the museum’s “Lessons in Laundry” exhibit, which features artifacts and stories sourced from the RM of Springfield.

JORDAN ROSS | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

Warren Kruchak, president of the Anola and District Museum, displays sock stretchers, a glass washboard, and a wooden wash tub from the museum’s “Lessons in Laundry” exhibit, which features artifacts and stories sourced from the RM of Springfield.

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The Anola and District Museum is giving the public a laundry list of reasons to check out its latest feature exhibit.

"Lessons in Laundry" offers museum-goers a trip back in time to discover—or remember—how the perennial household task has evolved over the past century, moving from the riverbank to the front porch to the kitchen to the mechanical room.

"Now we think of laundry as such a chore, and we don’t realize the chore that it once was," said museum board member Colleen Kruchak.

The exhibit was conceived when a fellow board member, Susanne Wastle, had a conversation with an older relative about how the job of washing clothes and linens has changed since pioneer times.

To illustrate the historical shifts, Kruchak and Wastle have assembled an assortment of artifacts, all sourced from the RM of Springfield. There are glass washboards and wooden wash tubs, plus gas and electric wringer-washers.

Smaller items were collected too: sock stretchers, flat irons, agitator paddles, and an assortment of laundry soaps, including a box of the popular Oxydol brand of washing powder.

But as Kruchak explained, the items weren’t the only thing donated. Along with them came an outpouring of memories, prompting the addition of a text component to relay local stories of laundry loads from decades past.

Older rotary machines, for instance, included a fixed roller that "mangled" or manually pressed water out of clothing and linens by sandwiching them between spring-tensioned rollers.

Kruchak’s grandmother, Verna, recalled her grandparents stirring clothes with a wooden paddle and adding boiling water from the kettle. A chemical agent called "bluing" was sometimes stirred into the final rinse to whiten any yellowed collars or cuffs.

However, Kruchak said the rationale behind some bygone methods escapes her, such as a winter routine in which clothes were washed inside the house, set outside to freeze, and then brought in to thaw by the fire.

Of course, it was the advent of electricity that paved the way for today’s push-button ease. Warren Kruchak, the museum’s president and Colleen’s father, said Anola was added to the electrical grid in the 1940s, while outlying areas were serviced up to a decade later.

That meant some rural residents were still wheeling their gas-powered wringer-washers out onto the porch while their town-dwelling counterparts could order a shiny electric model from the Eaton’s catalogue.

Colleen Kruchak said she hopes the exhibit, housed in the museum’s blacksmith shop, one of five heritage outbuildings on the grounds, imparts "an appreciation for the work that people used to do," and shines a light on labour that traditionally fell to women.

"One husband noticed how hard his wife was working, and so built a washing machine for her," she noted.

The Anola and District Museum is open Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. through Oct. 7, or by appointment. Admission is $2, and additional donations are accepted.

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