It was 1947; the war had been over, going on two years. The family, then, consisted of my parents, Ray Sr. and Audrey, myself, my sister Renee and my mother’s younger brother, Delano. I was four going on five, Renee was two years younger. We lived in a third floor, cold-water tenement rear, on North side of the 1700 west block of 21st street. Our “front door” opened onto the kitchen. Right next to that door was the bathroom. The kitchen flowed into the rear parlor. Off both the kitchen and the parlor was a bedroom. I only ever knew the building as Elmer’s building. In the year I remember living there, the only fuel for both heating and cooking was coal. Perishable food items were kept in an ice box for which a block had to be purchased every day. We did have the extra amenity of the back porch.
The kitchen was the center of the house. To wash clothes, my mother had a stainless steel pot that, maybe, held eight gallons of liquid; it came with attachable hand-cranked paddles and a wringer. She washed clothes on the kitchen stove, letting the water heat, adding clothes and American Family flakes into the tub and cranked away until the clothes were clean (sheets and blankets were picked up by a laundry); she had to do this every day. Every two days, she ironed, putting the iron on the stove to keep it hot.
Every Saturday night was bath night. A tin tub was taken down off a peg on the back porch and dragged into the center of the kitchen. Water was heated on the stove and poured into the tub. First bathed were my sister and I, followed by my mother’s bath and ending with my father’s. Uncle Delano went to the bathhouse next to the Gad’s Hill settlement house located one block North and almost three blocks West. I’m imagining the trip was more of bitch in the Winter.