Whiter Than Snow

Not the song, but the verse from King David’s plea: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7) 

There are places in the world today that still know the ritual of wash day as I knew it as a child.  They perhaps have it more primitive than I did. One thing is for certain, wash day in a spiritual sense is as easy as admitting one’s sinful condition, asking for forgiveness by faith in the price paid on Calvary, and accepting the gift of salvation.  It is as Ephesians 2:8 expresses it:  “for by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast.”

My mom told me that when I was a baby, she scrubbed the family laundry, including my diapers, on a washboard.  Then the happy day came when my dad bought her a wringer washing machine.  She recalls that it cost $35 (a lot of money in 1946).  I remember that old Maytag washing machine.  We didn’t have electricity running past our farmhouse until I was ten years old.  The machine was powered with a Briggs and Stratton gas engine.  She would get the machine filled with boiling water which she heated on a wood stove—yes, even in the summer—and Dad would start the engine for her just the same as we start a push lawn mower today.  While the first load, all whites, was washing, Mom and I filled the rinse tubs with warm water.  The washer had a wringer with rollers the clothes passed between.  Once in a while a shirt or sheet would get a bubble in it and it would squirt water all over the place!  After the last rinse, the clothes landed in a bushel peach basket. One of my jobs was watching the basket so that no clean clothes fell on the floor (or ground).  Oh what a happy day it was when Mom began to let me feed the clothes through the wringer!

It took great coordination to keep things moving smoothly.  What would get behind was hanging the clothes out on the lines to dry.  I was about nine or ten years old when that job became mine.  I was too short to reach the lines and used a potato box to stand on. In mercy and sensibility, Mom always hung the sheets. By that time Mom upgraded to an electric washing machine and we could use the kitchen as a laundry room instead of doing it outside.  We also had a gas stove on which to heat the water.  We still used a Briggs & Stratton engine to pump the water and my grandfather usually carried it into the house.  Everyone had a part in doing laundry. We did use the windmill to pump the water for the stock tank.

Someday we will talk about ironing.  That was the last step.  You know what?  I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for a million dollars.  There is nothing like growing up in a close-knit family on the family farm in central Wisconsin.  Yes, Wisconsin—where the winters are long and frigid.  Do I enjoy my automatic washer and dryer?  You betcha! (That is an upper-Midwest term, by the way.)

I am washed, and Jesus can come and get me just anytime, and I will be part of that “glorious church, without spot or wrinkle.” (Ephesians 5:27)



  1. Glenda

    Oh, what memories you have conjured up for me!! We had a 50-gallon copper drum that we filled with water which we pumped, bucket by bucket, from the cistern, then carried up the hill and up the back steps to get it into the house. This was a chore for Sunday nights after church, as the laundry was done on Monday. Oh, how I hated carrying all those buckets of water, but that was what we had, so we did it! We did have electricity, so that was a great convenience. First the whites, then adding a bit more hot water and some more detergent for the next load, then the next, till all the clothes were done. That clothesline was a bit high on the ends, but drooped in the middle, so we would hang the clothes before propping the lines up with a stick that Daddy had found, with a fork in one end to hook onto the line! In the cold weather, his overalls would freeze, and we would bring them inside and stand them up on their own to thaw and dry beside the coal stove.

    I wonder how many times our Savior looks at us and sees cold/frozen hearts as we react to our circumstances rather than living above them. Now, you’ve given me another object lesson! 🙂

    • No doubt about it, we are only 33 days apart in age. We had wonderful well water, and a rain barrel, but not a cistern. Our neighbors, the Olsons, had a cistern and a hand pump INSIDE the house. Of course, that was the extent of the plumbing though. No wonder I have it so ingrained in me: Simple. I like simple. Our neighbors to the east of us had electricity in the barn FIRST, so he could have electric milking machines. THEN they put electricity in the house. My Dad put both in at the same time.

      • Glenda

        When people talk about the “good old days,” I can think of many things that I enjoyed as a child, but now I realize that life was far from simple for my parents. I fully appreciate all our modern conveniences, like an indoor bathroom, washer/dryer, and the technologies that make this conversation possible! It does seem that people relied on God more “back then,” too, but that is an individual choice, even now. Some people have become “too good for their own good!”

  2. Great memories. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I remember the wringer washer my mom used in the basement of the apartment building we lived in when Dad was in Bible college. Later, I had my own. It was wonderful to get an automatic washer and dryer, but I do think something was lost in the hands-on process of getting the clothes clean. Great analogy, as always.

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