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Pat Carrigan Rustad Memories


Saturday Night Was Bath Night


Pat Carrigan Rustad

Written January 1975


Back in the Depression Days we had sponge baths duringthe week, but on Saturday nights we got the works. We usually had supperearly on Saturday so the cook stove could be cleared off for heating bathwater. The reservoir on the side of the range was filled with water duringthe afternoon and was already steaming by supper time. It took a lot ofhot water to bathe five children.

As soon as supper was over my father brought up the bigcopper boiler from the basement, filled it full of water and put it on thestove to heat. After the dishes were done, the kitchen was closed off fromhe rest of the house for warmth and privacy and a big scatter rug was placedon the floor in one corner of the room. Then the big wash tub was to doubleas our bathtub was brought in, placed on the rug and filled with warm waterfrom the reservoir or boiler.

Mother bathed the two youngest children first. There wasalways wriggling, screaming and splashing of water when soap got in theireyes. We couldn't afford commercial shampoo in those days so our hair waswashed with the same soap that we bathed in.

Sometimes the same bath water was used for two or threeof us and when my mother thought it was getting a little too cloudy shecalled my father and the two of them hauled the big wash tub outside todump it.

We older children were allowed to bathe ourselves up toa point. We tended to dawdle while the water got cold and the soap gotwasted, so mother had to give us a time limit. When our bodies and hairhad been well lathered with soap, she filled a large kettle with warm water,wrist tested it for temperature and slowly poured it over our heads untilthe hair was squeaky clean.

When the last child was bathed and in clean pajamas, welined up while mother brushed the snarls out of our hair. My brothers gotoff easy. As soon as their hair was neatly combed they were allowed to goout and play. But my two sisters and I had to go through he ordeal of havingour hair set for Sunday.

Of course, electric curlers, styler dryers, and all themodern methods of beautifying hair were unheard of in those days so theprocess was a tedious and sometimes ungratifying one.

If mother was in a hurry and our hair was dry enough, sheused the curling iron on it. This gadget had wooden handles and round metaltongs. It was heated by placing the metal part on top of the cook stove.While the curling iron was heating, Mom parted our hair in sections, thenwhen the iron was hot enough, each section was wound up on the tongs andheld for a moment till the hair was curled.

The curling iron wasn't always dependable. If it weren'thot enough, the hair didn't curl. If it was too hot, our hair would frizzleand sometimes break off in small hunks. The iron could be dangerous too.If one happened to move at the wrong moment, there would be singed ears,necks or scalps.


Jamie Rustad Meagher, 16 Apr 99


Jamie Rustad Meagher, 16 Apr 99