Delivery mistake creates wrinkle for surprise clothes-drying gift

Going to share a Christmas story from 1964. I need to premise this story with the following: As a boy growing up in the 1940s and ’50s in the great Northwest, clothes drying was a major task in the household. I grew up with a Maytag ringer washing machine. It filled with a hose from the faucet and drained with another hose, either out to the yard or to the laundry tub.

The washing machine was a round tub, agitator with four legs with wheels, and the ringer was attached to the side. People got their hand caught while feeding clothes into the ringer. The Maytag had an emergency latch that you could hit with your free hand to release the rolls.

To dry the clothes, there were three major outdoor-type clothes lines. While living on the farm, my mothers’ clothes line went off the back porch with a pully and a cable of about 75 feet, out to the service pile that fed electricity into the house. The pully clothes line was like a line on a flagpole. You attach the clothes with clothes pin to the bottom line of the cable, and pull the top line which ran the clothes out, allowing space for the next clothing item. And so on until your wash was all hanging or the line was full.

The second type that my mother had when we moved to the city was the inverted umbrella. It looked like an umbrella that had been blown inside out with the wind. The handle, or pole, stuck in the ground, and you hung clothes around the frame on lines, again, attaching clothes to the line with clothespins.

The third outdoor drying rack was the T type, which you still see occasionally today. Two poles, with a crossarm, with lines spread – usually four lines. As a general rule, these poles are about 12 feet apart. These lines were very efficient, in good weather. But in the NW, eight months out of the year, you had to dry your wash inside. This brought about the wood collapsible, accordion-like clothes dryer. This is what my mother used, and my wife Jean used when we were first married.

The rack would take up space in the front room, or, on Monday (wash day), it could be found in the bathtub draped with clothes.

Early on, Jean and I had a small two-bedroom home, with my folks’ old Maytag washer, and the wooden drying rack. In the yard we had the umbrella-type clothes dryer. We bought an automatic washer, installed it in a small utility room off the kitchen. When the kids came along, I bought Jean, for a Christmas present in 1964, a General Electric clothes dryer. We were renting my father’s house, and he had built an extension over the back porch. On the right side was a wood box, but we had switched to natural gas for heat, so that was a logical place to put an electric dryer, in an enclosed area in a small house.

The plan was to surprise Jean on Christmas Eve with this modern purchase. Remember, in 1964, electric dryers were not as prominent as they are today, where they are accepted as standard equipment.

The appliance store was to deliver the dryer Christmas Eve, with the family gathered. The owners of the appliance store were good friends of Jean’s family long before she and I were married, and my folks also knew them.

Our address was 1714, but it was delivered to 1814, one block up the hill! The folks were not home at 1814 at time of delivery. But there was, on the machine, an invoice. 

While I’m waiting for the delivery driver’s knock at the door, the phone rings, and the lady on the other end says, “I think I have your dryer!”

You can guess the rest of the story. There was a slight skiff of snow – so now we had to get the dryer from 1814 to 1714, and still surprise Jean.

It all worked out. That dryer lasted through two kids, and we brought it with us when we moved to Cottage Grove in 1975. It finally gave up, and Jean bought, from Creswell Appliance in the early 1980s, a Whirlpool replacement.

And a “Happy, Happy New Year” to one and all!



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos