Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Laundry Nights

In last week's post I wrote about the drought of 1960-61 where we learned to take a bath in a quart of water.

It soon became clear that we weren't going to get any rain in the immediate future, and that our 600 gallon cistern couldn't handle doing all the laundry for a family of four. That's when Steve and Nora Ellington stepped in and offered the use of their water, which was VERY generous.

They lived in a house they'd built on the hill above the Pond in Cruz Bay. It over-looked Frank Bay and St. Thomas.

"It's just the two of us," they said. "We have plenty of water. Why don't you come do your laundry at our house. We'll make an evening of it."

And we did.

On Wednesdays, after Dad got home from working at the garage (which you can read about here) and had gotten his greasy self cleaned up, we'd pile into the The Yellow Dragon (our jeep) with a week's worth of laundry. The road into Gifft Hill was still unpaved and required four wheel drive/low transfer to get over certain places which were a-kin to rock-climbing or crawling along a river-bed.

But we were used to it.

As we came through the door, the aroma of Nora's scrumptious spaghetti sauce titillated our noses . We were also met by three dogs: Freamus, the old man, Lollie, the rambunctious teen-ager and B.F. (Black Face) Barfington Van Woof, the pug.

Mom and Nora immediately got the laundry started. Erva and I set the table. Dad and Steve had a drink and discussed whatever it is men talk about when their women folk are busy with family work.

As soon as that first load was in we'd sit down to eat. Every Wednesday it was spaghetti with garlic bread and a salad. The three dogs would nose around the table and maybe if no one was looking they might get a nibble of bread. Barfington, with his smashed in black face snuffled and snorted the loudest and sometimes stood up on his hind legs and put his front paws on the chair. Lollie (named after the island Little Hans Lollik) had brown and white fur and long silky ears that got burrs in them. He'd moved from person to person like any hyper teen. Freamus, on the other hand, knew who the push-overs were and would patiently wait looking at you with those sad dog eyes. He had the Zen of begging down.

Freamus, or Frimfram as he was also called, was a sort of wire-haired dog, with longish white-blonde fur. He was plenty friendly enough except for one thing. We were not to touch the last few hairs on the tip of his tail. We could pat and pull his ears and rub his belly and play with his feet, but if we touched those last few hairs, well, we could expect to be roundly reprimanded with snarls and snaps. It was so weird. We could grab him by his tail, we could scratch it. Just not the tip. Of course we tried to sneak up him and see how lightly we could touch those hairs. But he couldn't be fooled. He must have had ten million nerve endings attached to those hairs because it didn't take anything for him to show his gums and cuss at us like we'd tromped on his tail.

When dinner was over, Mom and Nora did the dishes and continue with the laundry while Steve and Dad had another drink and talked man stuff. But for Erva and me the very best part of our evening had begun.

We would stretch out on the floor with the dogs and watch TV, a real treat for us as we had no TV. And Wednesday nights were the best because it was The Flintstones (the first prime-time cartoon series) followed by Gunsmoke. Stone Age man and a western. Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty. Matt, Miss Kitty, Doc and Chester.

By the time Gunsmoke was over, the laundry was washed, dried and folded and it was time to make the three mile drive back to Gifft Hill, which took a good 30 minutes or more. After all, it was a school night and by the time we got home it was long past our bed-time.

I don't know exactly how long we did our laundry at Steve and Nora's house, but I'd say it was probably four or five months. That's a lot of spaghetti and good times in front of the TV, not to mention trying to sneak up on the last three hairs of Frimfram's tail.

This is a picture of Mom (on the left) and Nora, midnight New Year's Day, 1960. That's Erva in the background. I slept through it.
And this is me and Nora about five years ago on a visit to St. Croix where she was living.
Here's to Wednesday nights. Dinner, laundry and a "movie."

P.S. Tomorrow, the 28th is my birthday.


  1. Happy Birthday to You,
    Happy Birthday to You,
    Happy Birthday dear Bi-ish,
    Happy Birthday to You!

    Real friends help you do housework when it needs doing. At one point during the Year from Hell, I had an editor coming to visit in conjunction with an event, and I realized I hadn't so much as swept the floor in three months. So I held a housecleaning party. All my friends showed up and did the jobs they felt needed doing most, I fixed dinner, everybody had a good time. And my house was tolerable.

  2. I loved this story and the great memories you shared with us.
    Tomorrow is your 16th birthday? I hope you have a wonderful celebration.

  3. Peni. I LOVE the idea of a housecleaning party!

    bybabyjohn, LOL. I'm not sure I'd want to be 16 much angst.

  4. Well, happy birthday, Bish! Another fun story. (Barfington! Heh.) Spaghetti, salad and garlic bread is such a great meal, and one we don't eat anymore. Maybe it's the carbs.

  5. I'll probably miss you tomorrow, so Happy Birthday Bish! I hope it's wonderful!

    What a lovely story!! Great photos too. Such a nice part of your life to read about.

  6. Happy Birthday! :)

    What a wonderful memory, Bish, and I love the photos.

  7. What great memories! And fantastic dog names - Barfington? What's better than that?!

    Happy Birthday! I hope it's FABULOUS! :)

  8. Thanks Mel. Spaghetti dinners, carbs or no, yum!

    Oh Colene, can't you be everywhere at once? :)

    Thanks Talli! I wish I had pictures of Steve and the dogs...

    Yup, Suzanne. Barfington was so cute. (I suspect he may have barfed a lot as a puppy, hence his name.)

  9. Happy Belated Birthday to you, Bish! I hope you're still celebrating!

    I loved this story and the photos. Such wonderful memories and friends.

  10. What wonderful memories and such good friends too. How strange that the dog's tail tip was so sensitive, poor little thing. Hope you had a lovely birthday.

  11. Happy birthday!

    I love the name Barfington. Great name for a dog.

  12. I so relate to your bath in a quart of water. We live where water is so expensive that I used to bathe all the kids in one tube--about two quarts of water to four kids.

    I earned the title Water Witch because I was always turning off the tap when people turned it on and looked like they might leave it running.

    It's the most wonderful solvent in the world and the most under appreciated one . . . until you don't have it.

    Loved your post. Have missed stopping in, but now that I've got my first draft of this next book done, I'll be by more often.

  13. Happy Birthday!

    This was a nice story. Such wonderful friends to have been there when your family really needed them most and to have provided such great memories of that time.

    Tossing It Out

  14. Happy Birthday! I've met soo many Junie's this week!

    That was a great story BTW. Funny how such a simple perfect moments come back to us so often - sometimes meaning more than the grandest of days.

  15. Happy belated birthday. I don't know why your posts aren't showing up in my Google reader unless I click on your blog and get all your posts. I really love the memoir. I remember those old shows and cartoons. And what wonderful people to have your family over for dinner and to do laundry. I love that you went back to visit Nora. That's awesome. I bet it was quite special to her that you came back to visit.


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