Untours Cafe

Clotheslines, Kovers, and ties that bind

El Kover and her husband Bill, some well-loved Untourists, recently spent a couple of days in Media, PA where our offices are. We had invited them to come to witness The Today Show filming (which we need not discuss in this space.) Rather today, I want to thank El for being such an observant and thoughtful person. On her first visit to our house she noticed the clothesline running from our second floor balcony. Later she showed up with two thoughtful presents: 50 feet of brand new clothesline and enough clothespins to last until we’re 100 years old. There was immediate simpatico, for El, too, hangs her clothes out to dry.

About our clothesline, until April this year it ran to a tree. The back side of the houses on our street borders an un-kept park, really a jungle of trees on steep ground sloping to the creek below. In the summer from our balcony we can't see the suburban houses on the opposite side of valley, houses less than a city block away.

About our neighborhood it's composed of narrow houses which were built for mill workers.

In a bit of gentrification rooms were added on the back end. But the narrowness, not the length is apparent to passersby. I think this re-enforces our own community's vision of itself; it's my impression that most of my neighbors share a desire to live simple lives. We like the appearance of days of yore. There is a feeling of neighborliness which neither Norma nor I have experienced anywhere else in our eighty-some years.

Let's go back to the clothesline and at the same time let's forge ahead into the issue of neighborliness—beginning with our next-door neighbors: Dale and Ellen who have turned their attic into a one-bedroom apartment, occupied by our friend, Tina, who occasionally is Norma's caregiver at night when I travel for Untours or the Foundation. Until recently three clotheslines ran to a nearby tree from three balconies: Norma's, Ellen's and Tina's. The tree swayed in the wind, sometimes breaking the line, or de-arranging the pulleys.

Dale is a professional builder, who keeps long ladders on hanging on his house—ladders I could borrow (without asking—neighbors being neighborly) to fix the clothesline. But after I passed my eightieth birthday Norma and Marilee (who lives across the street from us) issued an edict: no more climbing of 50-foot ladders propped against trees.

Six months ago, our clothesline came off the pulley but was running (not smoothly).on the axel. Ellen's and Dale's line was broken. My next door neighbor to the rescue: Dale would make the cloths-line problem go away. If Norma and I would allow him to attach Ellen's and Tina's line to our balcony he would run our clothesline to his balcony. No more problems with swaying trees, broken lines, derailed pulleys.

Our values had been tying us together. We all hated to waste electricity on dryers; and we loved the smell of freshly aired laundry. Now we had a symbol of these shared values: two houses (three dwellings) tied physically together with clotheslines. Tying these three neighbors together physically speaks a word about our neighborhood's community goals.

But I must close with a word to El. A word about a different kind of neighborliness:…the spirit of "Untours Café"… the spirit which made Bill contact NBC on Untours behalf… the intangible force which made El want to give Norma and me cloths pins and a clothesline.

Now there's a small problem: Dale tied us together with a line which has a core of wire wrapped by canvas—clothesline which will last longer than our houses.

I want to mail the clothesline El gave me to someone on Untours Café. This will keep the sense of community discussed in this blog—keep it growing.

Anyone in the market for a clothesline? Leave me a comment on my page and you may be the lucky one1.


Views: 173

Comment by Bill Kover on July 25, 2007 at 10:35am
I know about climbing trees. A few years ago, I decided to try Radio Control airplanes. You can buy them ready-to-fly. They run on a tiny electric motor. All I had to do was charge the battery. There's a park with a big open field behind our house. The edges of the field is populated with trees, trees and more trees. Let me tell you that although I hadn't climbed a tree since I was a kid, I was climbing trees so often to retrieve my airplane that I started carrying a collapsible ladder every time I went out back to "fly" my airplanes. The airplanes are down in the cellar for now until I get up the nerve to "fly" them again. In the meantime I launch homemade rockets in the field. I don't have to worry about climbing trees with those rockets. I make them for one time use and say goodbye to them at launch time.
Comment by Mary Lou Grier on July 25, 2007 at 10:45am
Sure enjoyed your story about the clothesline - it
aptly describes the joy of having neighbors who care about each other, one of the many attributes
of living in a small country town, like I do.
P.S. Can't use another clothesline!
Comment by Eleanor - 'El' on July 25, 2007 at 10:48am
Eleanor - 'El' said…
By all means, Hal and Norma, feel free to share (The clothesline rope was actually 150' long -- enough for at least three households.) to anyone willing to enhance the environment by employing solar energy to dry their clothes. Additonal bonuses, in case someone is wondering whether to follow our suit, there's less ironing involved; clothes will be whiter, and smell fresher. Okay, if you need to have "softer" towels, do what I do when we're having company. I dry the towels on the line, and remove them just before they're completely dry. They're tossed into the dryer for that "softer" feeling. In our household, once the temperature reaches 55ºF. or higher, out go the clothes. I wait for this temperature high because I do not wish to repeat childhood experiences, whereby my mother insisted the clothes be hung on the line, even when temperatures were near or at freezing. It was tough prying off the clothes, carrying the "stiff like-a-board" clothes down three or four flights of stairs to re- hang in the basement to dry. When they thawed there was enough water on the floor to bathe the dogs. Of course, this resulted in a sweep job to rid the floor of water. My mother's response as to why we continued to hang out the clothes, even during winter time, "The clothes smelled fresher."
Comment by Cathrin Baumbach on July 25, 2007 at 12:36pm
Having grown up in East Germany, we did not have dryers, in fact doing laundry was a time-consuming affair because the washing machine and the spinner were two separate devices, and one had to rinse the clothes in the bathtub in between.
Although my husband and I own a clothes dryer, we hardly ever use it. I love the smell of the laundry when it dries in the wind, and in the winter we dry it inside the house on a rack, which nicely humidifies the dry indoor air (also for free).
In my neighborhood, our Irish neighbor and we are the only people that hang out our clothes, probably to the dislike of other neighbors. Occassionally, neighborhood children who see me hang out the laundry ask whether our dryer is broken...and then I enjoy telling them the way we dry our clothes does not cost a dime and helps save the environment. Deep inside, I am hoping they run home to their parents and tell them their newfound wisdom...
Comment by Jean and Fred Agneta on July 25, 2007 at 2:44pm
Not in the market right now for a super clothes line, but know you will get many people who want your clothes line--- have fun!!
Comment by Hal Taussig on July 25, 2007 at 5:29pm
Thanks for your encouraging words. Rather than trying to keep up with an exchange about clothes lines, Im going to narrow the subject to saving electricity. Re-read Els comments about the occasional inconvenience of using cloths lines. How do the rest of you make trade-offs of this nature. Most of our contemporary use of energy is because it makes life a bit easier. How does our environmental stance adjust to being inconvenienced? I'm going to hang the cloths out myself this coming winter, because Norma and Jeanette (Norma's aide) think it's to cold--better to take the cloths out to a dryer in winter. Note: We do not own a dryer. And on a related topic: balancing cost and environmentalism. Untours pays considerably more money to use re-cycled paper.This is especially true in the printing of our annual catalogue. We can't get top quality re-cycled paper without importing it from Denmark. It must be ordered in April for it comes by ship--takes 3 months. And it costs a lot more (sorry don't know the amount). But we save 1700 trees--a small forest--in one year...in one publication! I'm late. Gotta mount my trusty steed and ride south.
Comment by Sallymp on July 25, 2007 at 9:08pm
Love your blog so far. I do dry some clothes outside but don't have enough room to do sheets or big items. As far as your catelogue, you might be surprised how many of your subscribers might be willing to either kick in some change to remain on the list or perhaps some carbon neutral exchange which seems to be the rage now. I for one would have no problem in you charging a fee for your catelogue.
Comment by Marlene Hench on July 26, 2007 at 2:55am
Way to go, Hal! Loved your Blog and pictures to boot!
We live in the country so our neighbors are too far to care about my laundry. I used to hang it outside until my spine said no way are you dragging it outside any more. Now my dining room becomes my drying room every two weeks. It has large sunny windows. I hang them on hangers on clothes racks. When they are dry, I remove them to the closet and return the racks to the garage. I do have a dryer but only use it for towels and sheets. No wonder my first dryer lasted me 35 years.
Growing up in Baltimore, we had no dryer. In the winter, laundry hung on clotheslines stretched across the basement where it was dried by the furnace located there.
Comment by Eleanor - 'El' on July 26, 2007 at 6:23am
After my husband spent five days, each day with a different color, stenciling a pineapple design as an edging around the entire utility room wall, I had suggested that we place three brass shirt hangers onto the side walls. During the winter months, I hang the majority of the clothes on those hangers, as well as on an old poster rack I had used at work. Then, we purchased a few more clothes racks, so that I could sort the clothes easily, iron or not to iron. The dryer is used solely for the bath towels and our bedding, as well as the dogs' bedding during the winter months. Like you, we grew up employing the use of the deep kitchen sink, or large enameled basement tub, or while at college, the bathtub. The good old scrubbing board got a lot of use, especially with those white socks. There were four males in our household. When I go swimming, and the Volunteers assist with the dressing, someone always seems to ask, "Do I iron my clothes, even my underwear?" "No, there's no need to iron my underwear. They were hung out on the clothesline to dry." We're fortunate in our neighborhood because our neighbors have been enlightened from the very beginning. We were in this area before many of them. They're accustomed to seeing clothes out on the line, so they do the same. Unfortunately, many developments or high priced areas today have a "Do not do list" and clotheslines may be found among the other Don'ts.
Comment by Jean and Fred Agneta on July 28, 2007 at 10:33am
Hal, we loved the pictures of your neighborhood.
The story of your neighbors being so thoughtful, neighbor helping neighbor--- that is one reason we don't want to move-- the neighbors make our home special.


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