What a Drying Shame

June 13th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »


In this era of home-owners associations and other not-in-your-own-backyard types, it has come to this. A MA legislator sponsored a bill to ensure people can dry their laundry on clotheslines.

Third-term Sen. Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield) filed S01014. That would let common areas in condos have their own rules, but forbid cities and towns from banning, clotheslines and racks and or other solar clothes-drying device on private property.

For us boomers and older, the responses are 1) of course, and 2) wow, it has come to this?  Moreover, when we are all allegedly savvy to energy waste, using sun and wind instead of gas and electricity to try laundry is obvious…to most.

While privileged types like the Herald’s Michele McPhee write, “And we don’t want to look at them,” to me, clotheslines are about as organic and honest as you get. Growing up with them, I only had one problem and in my teens. My grandmother dried trousers of all types, including my blue jeans, on frames, one per leg. That put a firm crease front and back. Oh no!

I’d wash and dry my own. She never understood that, but unlike her daughter, my mother, she also ironed all underpants and even permanent press sheets. Mable was a laundry factory herself.

Another childhood clothesline memory involved a neighbor older than my grandmother. When I was 8, we moved to Danville, Virginia, next to Mrs. Kidd, whose property abutted that of the YWCA. There, hanging clothes scandalized her, and she complained to little effect to the Y.

Even though the side porches of the Y were visible only to Mrs. Kidd and not from the street, she told us all how dreadful and shameful it was that the young women would “display their unmentionables for everyone to see.”

The Widow Kidd was not concerned with property values or class issues. She simply found underwear visible in public, even without a body, lewd.

Put me in Downing’s camp. Forbidding visible clotheslines seems like requiring people to hide their grocery shopping and banning eating at backyard or deck tables. People cook and eat. People dress in and wash…and dry…their clothes.

There can be a soothing beauty in billowing clothes on a line. Plus, a sun dried towel feels ever so much better.

Cross-post: This seems both political and personal. I’ll put in also on Marry in Massachusetts.



2 Responses

  1. BB from Dot says:

    I remember pants-drying frames. My mother used them on the pants my father wore to work at the factory.

  2. Harrumpher says:

    Indeed. Join me in the WABAC machine (which you may remember too).

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