Barrels and Cellar Doors!!

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,

The old rag bag hung in the cellar way.

The old rag bag hung in the cellar way.

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

This looks very much like grandmother's old rag barrel.

This looks very much like grandmother’s old rag barrel.

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

You may have an old rain barrel at your house.

You may have an old rain barrel at your house.

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,

The old cellar door became a sliding board for the kids.

The old cellar door became a sliding board for the kids.

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.

The stenciling shows up better in the daylight.

Here I am with grandmother’s old rag barrel. It leans against a locust tree that is probably as old as the barrel is. The stenciling shows up better outdoors.

8 thoughts on “Barrels and Cellar Doors!!

  1. Rag bags, barrels and cellar doors… always come up with such unusual and interesting subjects for your blogs. đŸ™‚ It is funny that you bring up the subject of barrels. We just purchased a “wine barrel” kitchen table set. The base of it is made out of a wine barrel and the stools are made out of wine barrel staves. I had admired this set several times, and I finally decided to purchase it. I really like how it looks, but since the chairs are actually stools, they don’t have backs on them. We’ve already had the discussion of how one day the set will probably be given to our son…..because I don’t know how long we are going to like sitting on chairs without backs. LOL I don’t have a rag bag, but my mother had one. When I have clothing that I no longer want, I donate it to the salvation army or I pass it on to someone that I think might be able to use it. I try to recycle as much as I can…..even clothing. Thank you for another interesting blog!!


    • It is such fun hearing from you every week, Colleen. Sounds as if you purchased an interesting kitchen set. I’m sure it wouldn’t take me long to decide I missed backs on the seats. I also recycle clothing, etc. I know there must be lots of others who remember “rag bags, barrels and cellar doors.” Hoping to hear from them, too.Thanks for” writing.


  2. I love the photo of you with the barrel! Is it still outside or are you preserving it? I remember my mom had rags on a shelf in a cupboard and guess what, I do too! lol. I do a lot of things just like my mom!


    • That’s why it’s so important what kind of an example a mother sets before her children. Everyone should have as wonderful a daughter as I do.That makes the whole child rearing situation easier. Thanks for writing, Janine.


  3. I love you guys…!! Yes…we had a rag bag. I still use rags instead of paper towels. Our old wooden cellar door looked similar to the one in your pic. Ours was upgrated to a metal one at the Sweet Valley house.


  4. My husband cut a whiskey barrel in half once and made a grill out of it. Talk about some good grilling! The food was all flavored with the smoke from the barrel. We had a cellar door on the house I grew up in similar to the one in your picture. We had a screen door that fit in the bottom of the hole, so usually the doors were open most of the summer to let air into the cellar. My mom never had a clothes dryer, so she could have clothes hanging in the cellar on clotheslines even when it was raining and the breeze coming through the screen door would help dry the clothes.


    • What fun hearing from you Debbie. Looks like your mom proved we can make it without clothes dryers. But I’d hate to have to do it. And, the old homes weren’t all that bad. Thanks for writing. It pleases me that you are reading ShirlandYou.


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