Monday, June 16, 2008

Let's Face It: Brooklynites Of Yesteryear Were Greener Than We Are


Please do not laugh now, dear reader, if I tell you that I miss seeing laundry hanging from the clothes lines in the back yards of Brownstone Brooklyn. When I first moved to Carroll Gardens more than twenty years ago, it was still a usual sight. If the front stoop was reserved for polite chatter with the neighbors, the back yard was for airing one's clean ( and of course, sometimes, dirty) laundry.
But, these days, the poles stand unused, the clothes lines themselves have frayed in the wind long ago. I cannot remember the last time I saw clothes hung out to dry. A pity, really. Air drying is not only economical but better for the environment. It always reminds me of my childhood in Europe. I used to help my mother by handing her the clothes pins as she carefully hung first the sheets, then the shirts and lastly, socks and underwear. Of course, I also remember dashing out to rip everything off the line when an unexpected shower threatened to undo the sun's work.
Now everyone has a dryer or goes to the laundromat. Yes, it is much more convenient, but letting the wind dry the laundry was so much better for the much greener.
I am not suggesting that we go back to the old ways, but sometimes, when the sun is shining and a breeze is gently flowing through the back yards, I regret that I don't have a cloth line anymore. Maybe, I'll stop at Winn Discount on Court and buy myself a few yards of rope. And some wooden clothes pins, too. Of course, it better not rain. I think we have had quite enough of that after this week-end.

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BestViewInBrooklyn said...

I agree! Some town on Long Island banned hanging the wash a few years ago, but now they've rescinded that. If I had access to a clothes line or garden, I can guarantee I'd be hanging my wash. While birds may come along once in a while, it smells a lot better than chemically stuffs when it comes in from the outside.

Kelly said...

Hi Best View In Brooklyn,
Yes, I think you are right. It is the smell. It makes me laugh that one can buy linen spray that is supposed to mimic that "fresh air" scent.

Anonymous said...

I live on 2nd Place between Court and Clinton and there are still a few hold outs from the old days that hang their wash outside on that block - one being my upstairs neighbor who's mother was born in our building 80 years ago! I think it's a wonderful tradition.

Anonymous said...

My mother used to hang our laundry outside, as well. When I was a child, I thought it was the funniest thing to see her pull in my father's shirts one January day, and they had literally frozen stiff!

Guido said...

Hello Katia,

Here's a shot that I took late last summer in Bay Ridge. It reminds me of an Edward Hopper painting.

Too bad that there wasn't some woman leaning out the window reeling in/out the line.

You have a great blog going here.
Guido in Bay Ridge

Kelly said...

Now that's what I am talking about! That is exactly what it was like, but it has been years since I have seen this sight in the backyards on my block in Carroll Gardens. What a lovely picture.
Mind if I give it its own post? ( with full credit of course)

Guido said...

By all means, be my guest.

How sad that this sight has become a rarity. One would think that the sound of laundry fluttering in the warm backyard breezes would be a commonplace occurrence in Carroll Gardens. I guess we're too busy nowadays to take the time for this chore.

Or just maybe Winn Discount doesn't sell clothespins anymore (teehee).

Keep looking up.