Scrapbooking Senior Style

Taking Care of Elderly Parents, Affordable Home Care, Private Pay Home Care, Eldercare at Home, Caregiving at Home, Caring Elderly, Help for Senior CaregiversLife growing up was very different for today’s seniors than it was for the younger people who are now caring for them.  Grandma at 80 today would have been born in 1932.  She might have early memories of life during the Great Depression, planting victory gardens during WWII, or watching the debut of I Love Lucy with a TV tray before her.  She might have been part of the great suburban sprawl as people rushed out of the cities, or she might have been rushing out of the country to form a new life away from the farm.

Many elders love revisiting the past, and it’s a great way for family and friends to connect with them.  If you need something to do with the seniors in your life, pour a cup of tea and just get them on a stroll down memory lane.  Even those in the early stages of dementia can probably pull information from their past to reminisce, though they may need a little help to get there.

Like many seniors I meet, I was a small-town and a farm girl for a significant portion of my life, and I can enthusiastically relate to “The Basic Rules for Clotheslines.”  Reading this brought back a lot of memories for me, and I’m sure it will for many seniors who are now in the upper 80s, 90s, and even over 100 years of age.  Need a conversation-starter when caring for your elderly parents?  Try “The Basic Rules for Clotheslines” and the list of topics below:


The Basic Rules for Clotheslines

You had to hang the socks by the toes, NOT the tops.  You hung pants by the bottom cuffs, NOT the waistbands.  You had to WASH the clothesline(s) before hanging any clothes—this meant walking the entire length of each line with a damp cloth around the lines.  You had to hang the clothes in a certain order and always hang “whites” with “whites” and hang them first.  You NEVER hung a shirt by the shoulders, always by the tail!  What would the neighbors think?  Wash day was Monday.  Never hang clothes on the weekend, or on Sunday, for Heaven’s sake!  Hang the sheets and towels on the OUTSIDE lines so you could hide your “unmentionables” in the middle (perverts and busybodies, you know!).

It didn’t matter if it was sub-zero weather . . . clothes would “freeze-dry.”  ALWAYS gather the clothes pins when taking down dry clothes.  Pins left on the lines were “tacky”!  If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothes pins but shared one of the clothespins with the next item.  Clothes off the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the basket and ready to be ironed.  IRONED???  Well, that’s a whole OTHER subject!


A clotheslines was a news forecast to neighbors passing by,
There were no secrets you could keep, when clothes were hung to dry.
It was also a friendly link, for neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by to spend a night or two.
For then you’d see the “fancy sheets,” and towels upon the line;
You’d see the “company tablecloths” with intricate designs.
The line announced a baby’s birth from folks who lived inside
As brand new infant clothes (and diapers) were hung, so carefully with pride!
The ages of the children could so readily be known,
By watching how the sizes changed, you’d know how much they’d grown!
It also told when illness struck, as extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes and a bathrobe too, haphazardly were strung.
It also said, “On vacation now,” when lines hung limp and bare.
It told, “We’re back!” when full lines sagged with not an inch to spare!
New folks in town were scorned upon if wash was dingy gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows and looked the other way.
But clotheslines now are of the past for dryers make work less
And what goes on inside a home is anybody’s guess!
I really miss that way of life, it was a friendly sign
When neighbors’ knew each other best by what hung on the line.

—Author Unknown


Other great topics for reminiscing:

What sacrifices did you have to make during WWII?

Where were you when the war ended?

What did people think when the A-Bomb was dropped?

Tell me about your first television?

What music did you like growing up?

How do the movies today compare to the movies you watched growing up?

How did you feel about rock ‘n roll when you first heard it?

What was school like when you were young?

What trouble did you get into at school?

Who was your first love?

What was it like watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon?

Where were you when you learned President Kennedy was assassinated?


What other subjects can you think of that would be fun to use as conversation starters with your aged loved ones?


Julie Ellingson, LSW



February 6, 2012

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