Friday, September 18, 2015

Sepia Saturday 297: Washing Lines

Sepia Saturday - A weekly meme providing a visual prompt for participants to share their own photographs. (I'm going to share some poetry as well. Follow the links for the complete poems.)

From "The World Transformed"
by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

UNWARMED by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro,
Crossed and recrossed the wing√ęd snow:
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.

From "Jerusalem" by Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000)

On a roof in the Old City
laundry hanging in the late afternoon sunlight

***
I noticed this week's image comes from the Missouri State Archives. I also recalled seeing washing lines in photographs from the 1908 report bythe Civic League of St. Louis on the housing conditions in the Carr Square tenements.

I have several ancestors who lived in or very near to the neighborhood, before and after the report.

Here's one of the said images:

I'm not entirely sure how the washing lines between the buildings worked. I'm guessing there was a pulley system.

Here's a photograph of my great grandmother, Margaret (Denyer) Vanevery. She is outside of her El Paso, Texas home. I believe a washboard can be seen leaning against the house. It was probably taken in the early 1920s. Evva (or Evelyn), the photographer, mailed it to her sister, Myrtle, my grandmother. Myrtle moved to St. Louis in 1920. Margaret died in 1923.



13 comments:

Postcardy said...

Seeing wash hanging between the tenement buildings makes them seem more interesting and livable.

Wendy said...

Leaning out the window to hang laundry could not have been much fun -- let the bugs in in summer and cold in in winter. I guess the lines were connected to opposite buildings, so did people share the lines?

Karen S. said...

Oh my such grand poetry to accompany the clean laundry hung out to dry. I really enjoyed this.

Little Nell said...

A few lines.....both of poetry and washing! We love it when people add poetry, artwork - anything which has been inspired by the prompt. “Tall and sheeted ghosts’ is a wonderful image.

John said...

Thanks for the comments.

My guess is that the clotheslines were shared. From other photographs in the housing report, it was clear multiple buildings shared outhouses, so the families weren't strangers to each other.

I hope to find (or write) poetry to include with upcoming Sepia posts.

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

I too enjoyed the poetry accompaniment to your post. More than a good bit of cooperation was required to live together in such close quarters! I guess laundry got mixed up and had to be sorted out from time to time.

Deb Gould said...

I've always loved those shots of laundry lines between city buildings -- such amazing cooperation between/among neighbors! And geometrically, they're fascinating!

Alex Daw said...

Thank you for the beautiful poetry. I really enjoyed the first one.

Mike Brubaker said...

Poetry is like music, there are always appropriate melodic words suitable for every image. I imagine that tenements with only north facing windows were at a disadvantage on laundry day.

Jo Featherston said...

I agree, great poetry accompanying wonderful photographs both. I remember the furst time we visited Hong Kong, hiw amazing it was to see everyone's washing hanging out of the multistorey apartment block windows on sticks, like flags almost.

anyjazz said...

A lovely and thoughtful post with some fine old photographs. The photograph of your great grandmother is a treat. I wonder if our great grandchildren will have photographs of us to look at and hold and share.

John said...

I have a feeling my great grandchildren may be buried in billions of digital bits containing images of me - they won't have to treasure a mere handful of moments captured, but they also may not care to sort through the avalanche of images to find truly meaningful shots.

Tattered and Lost said...

Can you imagine what it must have been like during the days of the dust bowl knowing there wasn't enough water to even wash the clothes, let alone where to hang them?

For the women who hung laundry between buildings on pulleys, I can only imagine the conversations that echoed in those city canyons.