On(the)line Communication

“The clothesline was the original newspaper of the community.” ~ Erma Bombeck


I’ve served my time in suburbia, in neighborhoods resembling a Monopoly board at the game’s final round. I’ve lived in communities that insisted you recycle, but if you attempted to conserve energy and money by daring to hang your laundry out to dry it was cause for controversy.

I know people who look at clotheslines with disdain, as an indicator of wealth or rather, the lack thereof; but for me a clothesline is something more, a long thread connecting to a sometimes dimly remembered past, filled with people I loved. I cannot see one without recalling my Gram or mother wearing an apron over a house dress, standing on a back porch near a laundry basket hanging wet clothes, towels, sheets and pillow cases.

You cannot find the scent of fresh air in a container no matter what the commercial promises. I know I am blessed to live in an age with modern conveniences that save time and energy, but somehow I can’t imagine anyone getting nostalgic gazing at a gas or electric dryer.

“The Clothesline Said So Much”
~ Marilyn K. Walker
A clothes line was a news forecast
To neighbors passing by.
There were no secrets you could keep
When clothes were hung to dry.
It also was a friendly link
For neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by
To spend a night or two.
For then you’d see the ‘fancy sheets’
And towels upon the line;
You’d see the ‘company table cloths’
With intricate design.
The line announced a baby’s birth
To folks who lived inside
As brand new infant clothes were hung
So carefully with pride.
The ages of the children could
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed
You’d know how much they’d grown.
It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,
Haphazardly were strung.
It said, ‘Gone on vacation now’
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told, ‘We’re back!’ when full lines sagged
With not an inch to spare.
New folks in town were scorned upon
If wash was dingy gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows,
And looked the other way.
But clotheslines now are of the past
For dryers make work less.
Now what goes on inside a home
Is anybody’s guess.
I really miss that way of life.
It was a friendly sign
When neighbors knew each other best
By what hung on the line!

Linking to Decor to Adore’s Friday’s Favorite Pin


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18 Responses to On(the)line Communication

  1. Kim August 19, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    I told my husband I wanted a clothesline and he looked at me like I was nuts. I guess I may have to do it myself. I remember my mom hanging out clothes and then when I was tall enough to reach the line I helped.

  2. Jane @ Cottage at the Crossroads August 19, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    I loved this post and poem! When I grew up, we hung our clothes on the clothesline. The underwear always went on the inside lines!

  3. Shannon Fox August 19, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    What a lovely post. My mom just started using one again, and she loves it!! I live in Oregon, so it’s too rainy 75% of the time… but the idea is nice :) I distinctly remember my grandmothers.

  4. Parsley August 20, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    Oh how this brings back memories. I loved the smell of my Nanny’s towels (granny) but they were stiff and scratchy from being out on the line. I can still smell them from my memory.

  5. Deb August 20, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    Very poignant. It’s amazing the memories associated with such mundane things. I experience it often in my restoration efforts.

    I have a clothesline and use it every chance I get. The scent of line dried cannot be replicated!

    Thanks for the poem!

  6. jean August 20, 2012 at 7:48 am #

    My Mom washed and dried clothes the old fashioned way while I grew up and I would help hang and take down the laundry for her. It never occurred to me that it was not fashionable. Drying by clothesline is one of my favorite things to do with laundry. I never want to go back to modern dryers. The poem is great.

  7. Rhonda @ BlueCreekHome August 20, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    Beautiful. I can’t imagine childhood without the ability to run in and out of white bed sheets hanging on the line! And, I loved the clothespin bag. Those were the days when a bagful of clothes pins could keep us entertained for hours!!!
    Thanks – and I hope your week is full of blessings and joy!

  8. Maggie August 20, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    I feel the same way as you about a clothesline. I love them. My husband on the other hand hates them! Love that poem! I think it says it all about clotheslines. Oh to live in simpler times without the hustle and bustle of modern day life!

  9. Sherry August 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    I so enjoyed this post and the poem was wonderful. I have been thinking about where a clothesline would work at our house for some time. I will have to get that figured out. I also have a clothes pin bag in mind that will need a place to hang. Thanks for this post.

  10. Nicole August 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    Perfectly said!! 😉 I live in that suburbia Monopoly, keeping up with the Jones neighborhood and it would be great to live a much simplier life. My mom recently started using a clotheline again. I too would like a clothes line and it would be to cut down my 300.00 electric bill, I’m not to proud to save money lol…. Great post!!

  11. Susan G August 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    LOVELY post!! Proud to say we still use a clothesline, as does my neighbor next door!

  12. Missy August 20, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    Hello lovely! What a precious post…I LOVE clotheslines! They take me back to my childhood…watching my mom and grandma carrying out those old clothes baskets to the line and standing there pinning away, wiping their brow every little while to get those loose strands of hair out of their eyes, as the winds whipped around. Those same winds made clothes smell so good when they were finally brought back in the house all warm from the sun. Ahh…what wonderful memories. :0) Our HOA won’t let us have clothes lines in our neighborhood…..I call them the Nazi Neighborhood Watch. :-/ We can’t have chickens either! Bahumbug!
    Have a blessed day my sweet friend!

  13. Stephenie from Decorating addiction August 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm #


    Are you on Pinterest? One of my friends has a board on this very topic. Images from people all over the world hanging clothes out to dry. It’s really fascinating! Great post. I think of you often!

    Your friend,

  14. Rita O'Dwyer August 20, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    I totally agree with yo! My daughter lives in a neighborhood where clotheslines are forbidden. When I told her I wouldn’t like that, her response was, “Well, we all have NICE homes and I don’t want to look at somebody’s clothes on a clothesline when I sit out on the deck. How disgusting!”
    I have wonderful memories too of my mom and I hanging clothes. Where I live now, we have a clothesline, and while I don’t hang out everything, much goes out to dry and absorb that wonderful fresh scent. In celebration of the humble clothesline!!!!!

  15. Laura Ingalls Gunn August 21, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    I grew up with a clothesline. One of the few endearments i can find about AZ is that the clothes are done within an hour in the summer. Dryers are horrendous on clothes and consume too much energy. Yes, a clothes drying rack for me. :)

  16. Margaret August 21, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    for those of you with neighbors who comment on your clothesline, there are retractable ones so you use it and then put it away. Just a box on the side of the house and a pole in the yard. I use mine for sheets and blankets when the sun is shining and the weather isn’t hot enough to dry the sheets in the basket.

  17. Gina September 1, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    Charming poem!

    I love clotheslines, too, and I have them indoors and out.

    Just wanted to point out several options for those who can’t have them outside:

    old-fashioned folding accordion-style wooden or metal dowel-type racks

    retractable (or not) lines in the attic, garage, or laundry room

    any of the above on a porch or lanai if somehow very private and obscured from view (not advocating breaking any rules or asking for trouble, but a careful reading of the fine print might suggest something permissible). For instance, might a couple of accordion-style folding racks on a screened porch be OK?

    shower curtain rods where they already are in your home (can hold a sheet or a bunch of hangers with clothes)

    IKEA clothes drying racks in various forms

    Not as romantic, but practical, at least…

  18. brenda November 15, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    I use a clothesline in the spring and summer it saves me using electricity and the heat from the dryer. Plus the clothes smell so fresh.

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