Historically Speaking: No running water in old days
I many times would like to go back to the good old days again, but I would certainly want to avoid the discomfort and inconvenience of the lack of the niceties of indoor plumbing and running water. Life was good on the farm; we did not know any other life, so enjoyed our days as they were. This is going to be a look back into some of the modern conveniences we didn’t have years ago, and still managed to survive and enjoy life.
We used to joke that we did have “running water” at our country home on the farm…and we did-the Wisconsin River ran in front of our home, just down from our front yard! However, we didn’t have running water, but we did have a driven point well located in our kitchen. It was a pitcher pump, and drained out into the yard. At times the pump had to be primed-pouring water into the top of the pump as we worked the handle up and down. If we were lucky, the water came up and gushed out! I have heard an old saying that “it’s as cold as a pump handle in January!” The water from our pump was cold, pure and clean. There is nothing to compare with a cold glass of well water!
As a young child, I and my brother were recruited to pump water, buckets of it-I guess it didn’t take much responsibility and know-how to pump water. I did learn, however, that every bucket of water carried into the house had to be carried our again. Several times I remember when the old pump needed repairs, taking a day or two, and during that time my brother and I had the task of carrying covered pails of water for drinking purposes from our closest neighbor (about 3/4 of a mile from our home). The pails got very heavy before getting home, and you can be sure the next time I had to pump water for whatever cause, I was just a little bit thankful that at least I didn’t have to carry the water such a long distance. To keep the water safe and pure, I do remember that bleach was poured into the pump several times a year.
We lived along the Wisconsin River, so river water was used for watering the garden and flowers during dry spells. Rain water was caught in a rain barrel from a spout under the eaves, and the rainwater had many uses, especially for shampooing our hair (as the natural chemicals made it soft).
In the winter a hole was chopped through the ice as the edge of the river for the cows to get their daily water (and they drank a lot of water).
During the hot summer days we would place a large tub or two of well water in the sun, and by evening it would be comfortably warm. This was used for bathing at night (we had to take a bath after wading and swimming in the river, my mother said.) Every Saturday night in the winter we heated water on top of the kitchen range and also used the nice warm water from the reservoir (our hot water tank) for our baths in front of the open oven door of the kitchen range.
There was a lot of pumping on Saturdays and also on Mondays when mother did the family wash. As we ate our meals, a large dishpan of water was set on the stove to get real hot, then was cooled down with a bit of cold water, and it became the wash and rinse water for our dishes. When it was time for floor scrubbing, the water was first used to wash windows inside and out (in summer); then the water went into the scrub pail to do the kitchen and porch floors; then more strong soap was added and it was further used to scrub the outhouse with a good stiff broom or brush. That was the end of that water’s use!
How wonderful it is today in our modern houses to have hot and cold running water at our kitchen sink, lavatories, bath tubs; a hot water heater; a water softener; Jacuzzi or hit tub inside, and outside faucets and hoses for watering the flowers and lawn. Let’s not forget our automatic washers connected to a ready hot and cold water supply.