How many of my generation were scrubbed in the old tin bath? I would think many of us because here, as in England, an inside bathroom was a bit of a luxury when we were kids.
In Lancashire, Friday evening was always bath night. After dinner the copper boiler would be lit and the bathing would commence. The old zinc bathtub was kept in the back yard but on Friday night it was cleared of spiders, rinsed our with a bucket of water, then dragged into the house, in front of the fire.
Hot water would be ladled into the tub and buckets of cold water added from the kitchen sink. My grandma, like many other people we knew, had a sort of wire basket devise that had a handle attached. In this would be deposited all the slivers of soap that would be too small to hold any more. When a few of these were in the basket, it was sloshed up and down in the bathwater, till it made bubbles appear. Quite effective really.
I never heard of shampoo until I was in my teens so hair would be washed with whatever soap sat by the sink, usually red carbolic, with a very strong smell. My hair would be rinsed with clean water to which a little vinegar was added, not sure why and never thought to ask.
Once the hair washing was over I could play for a while as I was the only one to use the bathtub, however many of my friends came from large families and the whole tribe of them would be bathed in the same water, starting with the youngest.
Friday night was also collection night for various tradesmen. Window cleaner, coal delivery man, milkman and various others would call round for their weekly or by-weekly payment. Sitting in the bath while these people trooped in, were given money and then wrote out their receipt, was par for the course. I guess they got the same thing in every house they visited as people always bathed on Friday.
These callers were always invited in to receive their payment, never kept at the door, so
I never thought anything about it. However, when I was eleven and went back to live with my mother, I was acquiring some sense of dignity and wasn’t happy with the line up of voyeurs or the presence of my eighteen year old brother, so I demanded privacy. I did not like my brother, he was mean and a bully so I showed my displeasure of him by urinating in the water, which I knew he had to use after me.
If there were six in the family, they still all followed one another in the same water, with a bit more hot added each time, so |I am sure my brother was not the only person to have additives to his bathing routine.
Anyone who’s dad worked in a coal mine or had a similarly dirty job got used to seeing dad bathing in front of the fire. He would be too dirty too sit around and wait for the kids to go to bed so he would bathe in the early evening. Modesty was preserved by mother holding a towel while people got in and out of the tub.
I think it was this communal bathing habit that taught English people how to change into and out of swim gear, on a beach. It is amazing watching the performance of any English family go through the routine of putting in swimwear. Mother is usually in charge of doing screening duty, with a large towel. while underpants are removed and replaced with swim suit.
Our school used to take us to the local swim pool to teach us how to swim, there would be about thirty change rooms in a row for us to change in and two kids had to squeeze into each tiny room. Because all schools have uniforms, it was truly difficult to keep your clothes apart from the other girl. We were never given enough time to do a proper drying off job and I remember how difficult it was forcing clothes over wet skin while the teacher was shouting and complaining of the time taken.
When I first came to Canada I was truly appalled that women just stripped down at the local pool and changed clothes. I had never seem my mother or grandmother wearing anything less than a nightie or an underslip. Forty six years later, I still use a change room but now I do not share and can take my time.
I can honestly say that in my whole life, no stranger has seen me naked. Trouble is, these days, nobody wants to, it’s very sad!!!