Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hanging Out in Old Hoboken

In June of 2008 I posted on this blog some information from my correspondent from Old Hoboken, Bobby Slezak, about the perils of the clothesline brigade in the old days. Last week Slezak sent me a new picture of the clotheslines and I thought the whole post deserved a second look. Here it is, with the new picture.
Slezak remembers an aspect of Old Hoboken he'd probably rather forget:

MONDAY MORNING WASH DAY, and the daredevils who had the job of putting up the clotheslines, when one broke. Every block had one brave soul...and I was the chosen one for my block. My mom got me the job...THANKS MOM.

You carried a hammer and the line around your neck...and began your climb...hitting each spike to insure that it was safe to step on. It always seemed to be the one at the top that was broken. Most of the time and on a cold and windy day, freezing your hands till they were numb, as all the wives braving the cold on their fire escapes watched me as I made my climb...praying for me. I FELT LIKE A CIRCUS ACT WITH NO NET.

WASH DAY was when every one knew if you had a hole in your undies. IT WAS PUT OUT FOR ALL TO SEE. And you only got a dollar a climb. I SUPPOSE THEY DON'T DO THAT ANYMORE IN HOBOKEN, thanks to washers and dryers.

Now that you mention it, Slezak, I haven't seen any clotheslines in Hoboken since I moved here in December (2007). Call it progress. Call it 21st Century technology. Call it the avoidance of child abuse. But you must have been a nimble lad in your day, putting up those clotheslines for the local housewives, and surviving to tell the tale some sixty years later. As usual, you paint a vivid picture of days gone by. At least you could drop by Abel's for an ice cream with your dollar.

Slezak's comment, when he emailed me the new picture: Funny we never saw Alice Kramden hanging out the wash...


TomK said...

I grew up with laundry lines, and when Lynn and I were first married and living on the 3rd floor of 211 Jefferson, we had a little portable washing machine that we hooked up to the kitchen sink, and hung the clothes out of the bathroom window. Later, when bought our first house on Garden Street, we had a backyard and continued to hang our laundry, as did all of our neighbors. That was 1982-83. (It seems like yesterday, but I guess that was a few years ago.)

But somehow, we got out of the habit -- the convenience and affordability of dryers, I suppose. However, I was recently reminiscing about this when I began haranguing some friends about starting a "green" movement in Hoboken, encouraging people to return to this eco-friendly habit. Make it fashionable again... wouldn't that be cool?

hoboken kid said...

Glad to see tom k remembers the days of hanging out the wash in Hoboken. I lived at 924 garden street ...SINATRA'S mom hung out his wash on the next block, on 8th and Garden .OL BLUE EYES drawers were flying in da wind for all da girls to see. If the girls only knew back then that his drawers would be worth lots a money now on ebay.

Hanging out da wash does save on the electric bill.