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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE NEW EMPIRE STATE EXPRESS: 1941

Ironed Out: 1941

Ironed Out: 1941

June 1941. "Wife of defense worker ironing clothes in utility building at FSA trailer camp. Erie, Pennsylvania." Photo by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

 

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Let's iron this out

I own an ironing board and a couple of irons. However, someplace hot is going to freeze over before I again voluntarily employ any of these objects.

That's because a couple of years ago, after ironing piles of my husband's 36-inch-sleeve white shirts (at that time he used six per week) for approximately 37 years, standing in front of the TV trying to pretend I was distracted enough by an old movie not to care that my back and legs were killing me after the third shirt, one fine day I said NO MORE. He now takes his shirts to the cleaners. If something I own needs freshening, I use a handheld steamer.

This picture makes my heart hurt for those lovely ladies, although I know they took pride in making the clothes look nice and I suspect they wouldn't want my pity. But still. I wish they could have ironed fewer clothes and had more carefree moments. Life is too short.

Ironing - not so different in 2020

Much has changed since the days of the icebox and the streetcar, running boards and tube radios. But ironing still involves standing at the ironing board and drawing hot metal across wrinkled fabric.

Sure, today's so-called no-iron clothes need less ironing than this lady's cotton, but great grandma would know exactly what to do.

Where's the brown paper bag?

Like my mom used to do to get the perfect crease in a pair of my Dad's RAF pants. Worked every time. Split bag seams, open flat, place on top of pants leg, iron.

I also loved the smell. And she never once burned the paper.

High-impedance air gap

That iron would probably work a little better if it were plugged in.

[On old electric irons without an off switch or rheostat, you regulate the temperature by unplugging it. - Dave]

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