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Feather Dusters and Rug Beaters

Feather Dusters and Rug Beaters
By Joe Phillips Dear Me
Feather Dusters and Rug Beaters
By Joe Phillips Dear Me

Wham. I “came to” in Richland, Georgia, my family having moved there when I was nineteen months old. Richland was a wonderful shaded railroad town with five lines passing through. The railroads were good for the economy and a source of jobs.

There were downsides to the stream of steam-powered locomotives chugging through. Some street was always blocked, and housewives had to be hip to the schedule.

Locomotives produced black smoke and ash. The women had to time their laundry day to the train schedules. Wet laundry hanging on clothes lines was exposed to the belching black residue.

By some unspoken signal a springtime ritual began.

Windows and doors were flung open and stayed open until fall. Whatever was floating around in the air passed through homes and businesses and settled.

Feather dusters were supposed to capture dust via static electricity until it was shaken from the duster outside. They just moved dust from one place to another. Store clerks walked around with longhandled feather dusters. During summer, businesses had widely opened screened doors and were shaded with awnings. Many businesses had an opening in the roof to allow hot air to exit.

Homes enjoyed shade of large trees, often pecan trees. Castor bean seeds were planted in double rows to shade windows.

People took down their screen doors and cleaned them with a brush dipped in laundry soap.

Vacuum cleaners were yet to become common household appliances, but most homes had rug beaters. They were made of rolled steel bent into a butterfly shape and had wooden handles.

Rugs and carpets were kept in place by “carpet tacks,” sharpened little half-inch tacks with a round head.

In early spring the rugs and carpets were hauled outside, spread over the clothes line or a fence and the accumulated dirt beaten out of them.

While floor covering was airing out, stiff brushes were used to clean floors then mopped dry.

Before manufactured mops, the homemade variety were made of dried corn husks.

The neighborhood was a dust bowl with the sound of women wailing the daylights out of the rugs and dust flying in time with the chug of locomotives. Dust flew everywhere.

Every spring while thinking about a garden or developing an excuse for not having one, I think of rug beaters and I’m glad I don’t need one.

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