DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jun 17 2009

About A Washboard

by Jnai W

I’ve been feeling really nostalgic lately and that’s all thanks to my new washboard. I’ll explain if I may.

I live in a cute old apartment complex with a pool that, curiously, hasn’t been opened yet, at least 300 small children gone summer-crazy and a dodgy, probably-haunted laundry room. Needless to say, with its odd horror-flick lighting and creepy little noises, it’s not really an enjoyable place for sorting one’s fine washables and lingering around while the clothes are cleaning. So I decided, being kind of a romantic at heart, that I should get a washboard and launder my clothes the old-fashioned way.  I figured that it beats having to trudge to a laundromat or beg friends and family into letting me use their washer and dryer all the time. (I’ve tried to find a way to tie “washboards” to DCPL in some relevant way but this is the best I could do.)

I have to say, DCPLers, that I’m really enjoying my washboard. The most fun part–aside from the actual using of the washboard–was purchasing  and bringing it home Sunday before last.  The reactions I got when I bought it and toted it home on the bus were similar to the ones I get when I tell people  that I work at The Library: a mixture of amusement (“Oh, how cute! Do people still use libraries?”) and general good will.

“Oh, you mean a scrub-board?” the friendly ACE Hardware worker corrected me, before offering her assistance and quizzing me about how southern I was.

Later, as I was walking to the nearest bus stop with my new purchase, one lady hollered out of her car window ” I haven’t seen one of those since I was a kid! Where’d you get that?”

Not long after that the bus driver that day and the lady in the seat behind me  had their own fond memories of their mamas or other loved ones working their laundry over the scrub-board (but now I’m confused–is it scrub-board or rub-board?)

This is kind of what my washboard looks like...

This is kind of what my washboard looks like...

I’m still trying to figure out how to bring this blog post home and make it some how relevant to the Library. I guess I just like the fact that it’s really useful, traditional (nostalgic, even) and inexpensive to use…kind of like the Library, perhaps?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison W. June 17, 2009 at 11:41 AM

Washboards aren’t just for laundry…they are used in cajun/zydeco music as well. DCPL has a quite a few CDs of this music style. So get some thimbles J’Nai!

Lisa B. June 17, 2009 at 3:36 PM

My husband and I dry a lot of our clothes on a pair of drying racks, even though we have a spiffy new dryer with steam and everything. Using the drying racks just feels better for most things – it’s free and it does less damage to the clothes (esp anything with elastic like socks and “dainties”). I don’t imagine I’ll move on to a washboard (I’m from the South and that’s all I’ve ever heard them called), but it’s a thought. It’s nice to be reminded of these low-tech and low-energy ways of doing our daily tasks.

Ev S June 17, 2009 at 5:32 PM

I have one too, but I use it as decoration. It belonged to my husband’s great grandmother.

Tamika S. June 18, 2009 at 11:31 AM

Jnai, I think you did a great job in tying it to the library, because libraries are “really useful, traditional and inexpensive to use”. Great post!

John s. June 18, 2009 at 4:16 PM

What a nice story you told, J’nai! I have fond memories of watching my grandmother use a washboard to clean clothes. She worked outdoors and used a number 3 washtub. Of course, she made her own lye soap, too. But a scrub-board? Where did that come from?

Lisa S. June 23, 2009 at 8:29 AM

Fascinating post. Self sufficiency is the common denominator if you ask me. Those of us who use the library are often interested in learning how to do things for ourselves.

Here’s a great website that deals with the other end of the equation: drying!

Kim H. July 2, 2009 at 12:42 PM

You go girl!! I love a do-it-yourself-er!

Back in the days when I was super-poor, (now I’m just somewhat poor…) I decided to try making my own laundry soap in order to save money. The recipe is simple with just a few ingredients: bar laundry soap shavings, powdered borax and water. I think I averaged a cost per load of about 0.001 cent using the stuff, which worked really well. I wish I had thought of using the washboard as well…

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