Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How Ironic

by Connie Cortright

Here's another re-run article about our house that we are selling. We heard that new owners these days are re-installing the doors that covered similar spaces and use the shelves for spices. Good idea.

Since we're on a roll with mystery items, I'm going to continue with a mystery posting today. The mystery was in our 1926 house when we moved in a couple years ago.

In our kitchen located between the stairs going up and the stairs going down was a little knick-knack shelf about a foot wide and three inches deep. It worked well for my bell collection, so I didn't think much about it when we moved in.

After we were in our house for a couple months, we noticed that on one side of the shelf was a metal bracket matching the door closure found on our pantry cabinets. This little shelf previously had a door on it. A couple weeks later when cleaning out our garage, we found the door that fit on this former cabinet space. Why would there be a three-inch deep cabinet with a door in our kitchen built in 1926? Did they have miniature kettles back then? Was this for storage of beer mugs?  Thus, our mystery.

My mother solved the mystery for us when we explained it all to her. She immediately said it used to be used for a built-in ironing board. But why would the original owner want an ironing board located in the kitchen? After a bit of research, the most logical explanation was because irons were heated on the stove, so it was normal to do the ironing in the kitchen close to the stove.

Built-in ironing boards were the latest innovation in newly constructed homes back then. These ironing boards were made to fold up and fit into the three to four inch cupboard. This way the lady of the house could open the door, pull down the ironing board and accomplish her task in no time. And then just as easily fold it up and close the door to hide the necessary equipment. I only wish I could shut a door and make my ironing board disappear today.

Electric irons were also a new innovation around this time.  Prior to the early 20th century flat irons had to be reheated on the stove after only a few ironing strokes. Many women had three flat irons in rotation  when ironing --two heating on the stove and one pressing out the wrinkles of a shirt. After a stroke or two, the iron would be switched out for the hottest one on the burner. The task of ironing was not so unbearably hot when the new electric irons were used.

Which leaves the biggest problem that women faced back then. When homes were finally wired for electricity, they only had electricity running to the light bulb in the center of the ceiling. Pictures of women using electric irons have the cord running straight up to the ceiling where it was plugged into the outlet sharing the light bulb socket. (Our house must have been built with very high standards since it has the original wall outlet still gracing our kitchen.)

What good did all the new electric appliances do for a wife at home if there was no place to plug them in? Can you imagine asking your hubby to spend lots of money to have an electrician come to your house and rewire it for outlets in the walls, just so you could use the modern conveniences - iron, vacuum cleaner, refrigerator, waffle iron, or toaster-- in your housework? I don't know if I'd have had the courage to suggest it.

I wonder how fast this really happened in most homes.

Information taken from Old & Interesting

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