We had a clothesline, but no washer or dryer. So the Laundromat was a weekly destination.
Today, most folks would find the absence of a laundry room in the home as foreign as no air conditioning or Wi-Fi. Fifty years ago, most folks in Ashdown, Arkansas, didn’t have the first two, and the only person who had the latter was Captain Kirk.
When I was a kid, a washing machine was a luxury. A dryer was something rich people had. But, we did have a clothesline. It sat in our backyard, behind our garage.
My grandfather was a blacksmith. He made the T-poles that sat at each end of the lines and were cemented in concrete. The lines were three metal wires that stretched between the poles.
Once a week my mom and her twin sister loaded my cousin, sister, and me in mom’s ‘60 model Buick or my Aunt Sarah’s ‘64 Chevrolet Impala, and off we would go to the Rockway Laundr-o-mat, which was located next to the Rockway Trailer Park.
The name Rockway was misleading, unless they were referring to the pea gravel that surrounded the entrance. There are no significant rock structures in southwest Arkansas. The outcroppings of mountainous rock for which Arkansas is known are relegated to the mid-and northern areas of the Natural State.
And the Laundromat in my hometown had no natural beauty, other than the Coke and vending machines near the front door.
Those two machines were about the only reasons to look forward to 2-to 3 hours a week of a non-air conditioned, humid-laden Laundromat.
That’s how you purchased obedience from children back then. You offered them a Coke and a bag of peanuts if they were good.
Cokes and peanuts were an excellent 20-cent investment for short-term civility. Trying to fold underwear in a public venue while also attempting to correct children with a flyswatter is not the ideal way to spend an afternoon.
Back to the Coke and peanuts.
To clarify, when I say, “Coke,” I mean, “soda.” In the South “Coke” is the universal name for the soda pop of your choice. Much like “Kleenex” refers to any tissue you elect to purchase.
Often, I would use my dime to purchase a Mountain Dew. I liked the bottle, which had hillbillies depicted on it, plus I enjoyed the drink. That’s no surprise now that I know Mountain Dew has one of the largest caffeine contents of just about any soft drink. Kids don’t need any help being hyper, but they seldom refuse it.
Once I dropped in my dime, I’d open the door of the Coke machine, roll the Mountain Dew into the opening, and extract it in one smooth move. Next, I’d raise the bottle to the opener in the door of the machine and pry off the cap, listening for it to drop on top of the others.
Once I helped my sister and cousin get their Cokes ready for consumption, we’d carefully open our bag of peanuts and then take a seat at an open section of the laundry table. The table was where we could set our sodas and then slowly pour in the peanuts.
If you’ve never heard of putting peanuts in your Coke, you’re obviously not from the South, and you’re not a Barbara Mandrell fan.
Pouring peanuts in your Coke is a Southern tradition that dates back to the time of trailer parks and Laundromats. Maybe even earlier.
As my mom and aunt washed clothes, we sipped our Cokes, snagging a few peanuts as we went. Sitting in chairs, swishing peanuts back and forth and swinging our legs, we’d talk to other kids whose moms were also doing laundry.
The moms would laugh and visit. Sometimes, someone would bring a transistor radio and set it in the window. I was always glad when whoever brought the radio was a pop music fan. I loved Mowtown and it seemed as if each hit and the DJ were there just for us.
The Rockway Laundr-o-mat was a weekly social outing for moms and kids, and we enjoyed it. At least, the kids did.
With clean, but wet clothes fresh from the washers, mom would load the laundry baskets and the children back in the car and we’d head home to hang everything, including the sheets, on the clothesline.
When my wife and I moved to the country, she wanted a clothesline to be able to dry sheets outside, so we installed one. Not using an electric clothes dryer does save money, but the biggest benefit to us both is the smell of sheets that are dried outside.
I don’t mind hanging them, and I take great pleasure in drawing in a deep breath from them after they’re ready to take in and put on the bed.
There’s not much that’s better than smelling sheets that are dried on a clothesline. Except maybe peanuts in my Coke. I mean, my Mountain Dew.
©2022 John Moore
John’s new book, Puns for Groan People, and his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.