Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Spring Cleaning

spring cleaningHave you started your spring cleaning yet? Chances are, if you grew up in Youngstown cleaning wasn’t just something you did when the fancy struck you. There was spring cleaning and fall cleaning, with routines for each time of the year marked by the transition from cold weather to hot, or hot weather to cold.

One of the basic tasks of the spring was windows. Most of us grew up with old fashion storm windows that had to be removed to put in screens. So you washed windows, put away the storms and got those screens in so you could get some ventilation in the house on those hot summer days before air conditioning.

Then there was the putting away of all those winter clothes — with mothballs or cedar blocks, or in cedar chests — and pulling out your summer things to see if they still fit. Those mothballs probably weren’t good for us, but at least our clothes weren’t moth-eaten.

Of course, this was the time when the house was scrubbed from top to bottom. Drapes were washed and rehung, walls cleaned, furniture shampooed, everything given a good dusting and vacuuming, and all the dishes that weren’t used regularly pulled out and washed. In some cases, this would be the time to re-paint before the hot summer weather.

Mom did most of this indoor work, and it was a lot! This was still in the days when many women stayed home and work around the home occurred along pretty strict gender lines–inside work was mom’s, outside work was dad’s and we helped as needed–girls inside, boys outside.

There was outdoor cleanup as well. You cleaned up all the debris from the winter. I remember dad “rolling” the yard with a heavy roller to even out the high spots so it would be easier to mow. Before there were all-season radials, there were snow tires to pull off the car, replacing them with regular tires. We’d clean and sweep out the garage. And we would get the beds around the house ready for planting flowers and vegetables, clearing out any weeds, turning over the soil, maybe working in some humus or sand to break up Youngstown’s clay soils. You pulled out the lawn mower and sharpened the blade and tuned it up.

As a small kid, I always looked forward to dad getting the swing set out of storage. It was metal and he didn’t leave it out to rust. I also remember as I got older carrying our heavy porch chairs and porch swing from the basement coal cellar where we stored them for the winter to our front porch. For many years, dad hung green awnings to keep out the afternoon sun from the porch and the front part of the house.

These routines of spring cleaning reflected the pride of ownership our parents felt about our homes. For many, they were the first generation to own a home and they had worked hard to reach that goal. So it was a matter of self-respect to take good care of that investment–and if you didn’t the relatives let you know!

What are your memories of spring cleaning?

Want to read more “Growing up in Working Class Youngstown” posts? You can find all of them by going to my home page and clicking “On Youngstown” under categories.

8 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Spring Cleaning

  1. What a great memory. I remember Mom washing every wall and even cleaned the wallpaper with a special cleaner that looked like clay :). She worked so hard and said she always lost a few pounds! Michelle

    • Michelle, thanks for sharing your memories. Several people wrote on Facebook about washing walls or using that clay-like cleaner. I discovered that washing walls was a Youngstown thing.

  2. My gram used vinegar and newspaper to clean the windows. I remember she even had my boyfriend (now husband) clean her windows for her this way. 🙂 She used Murphys Oil Soap to clean the walls.

  3. My gram used vinegar and newspapers to clean her windows. I remember that she even had my boyfriend (husband now) clean them for her this way. 🙂
    She used Murphys Oil Soap to clean the walls.

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