Did your mom have a rag bag? A cloth bag with a draw string? It hung in the cellar way. There was never any shortage of rags for cleaning,
washing or working on the car, for bandages, even for dish rags. When I was a kid it was never called “dish cloth,” it was a “dish rag.” Mom never used paper towels or sponges. I don’t remember my mother ever using rags to make rugs, but others did.
My husband’s grandmother had a rag barrel. There’s quite a story behind that barrel. She would save any old dresses, shirts, even pants. Some of these were tediously cut into squares for use in making patchwork quilts. Strips for making braided rugs were also a product from
the rag barrel.
What’s the barrel story? My husband and I found the barrel when we purchased his grandmother’s house. Years earlier, an indoor bathroom had been constructed upstairs which required the building of a dormer to give enough headroom. A small door in the room opened into a cubby hole and there stood this big, old wooden barrel. It had been built-in, and it then was too large to get through the door. It was there for years and years until during a later remodeling of the bathroom the door was removed and the barrel was brought out.
No, it’s not a wine barrel. Today, there is much talk about oak wine barrels. This one is a merchant barrel. What was once inside, we don’t know, because we cannot read the stenciling on the outside of the barrel. My husband thinks the staves are made of ash and probably the hoops also. What was shipped in it and how his grandparents got it is a mystery. However it is very old, and yet, looks rather new. It must have always been in the protection of the indoors, trapped in a cubby hole, perhaps, and It must have held dry goods.
All this talk about barrels makes me think of rain barrels. I don’t remember having one at home, but many families did have them and some still do
today, although now they are plastic. The old rain barrel was for the maintenance of gardens and plants, without drawing on the home’s supply.
Well, so much for barrels. Let’s change the subject to cellar doors. Grandmother’s house came with old, wooden, outdoor cellar doors that led into a cellar that we called an apple cellar. Because an apple orchard was part of the property, big bins had been constructed in this dirt-floored cellar and apples, potatoes and such were stored there. Today when kids think of a cellar door it’s one that stands upright,
indoors. This wasn’t always the case and there’s an old kid’s song to prove it.
Do you remember singing, “The Playmate Song?” It was written in 1940 by Saxie Dowell and it went like this:
Hey, Hey, Oh Playmate, Come out and play with me,
And bring your dollies three,
Climb up my apple tree,
Holler down my rain barrel,
Slide down my cellar door,
And we’ll be jolly friends forever more.
Barrels and cellar doors served dual purposes back then. We may not want to go back, but Isn’t it fun looking back?
P.S. We actually carried the old barrel outdoors, it probably hadn’t been outside of the homestead in 100 years. Although we still couldn’t read everything stenciled on its side, we did make out that its ingredients had originally been ” roasted coffee.” Any rain barrels or sliding cellar doors in your past? I’d love to hear about them.