The Roller Towel

By Staff

1408 N. Van Buren, Ottumwa, Iowa 52501-2141

Seventy years ago the Roller Towel was a standard part of the
farm kitchen. It was a wooden bracket with a roller to hold an
endless towel made of rough grey csotton material. This material
was eighteen inches wide with a red or blue stripe on each side.
Six feet of this material with the ends sewed together made a towel
three feet long. Our towel holder was on the back of the kitchen
door next to the wash stand. These wash stands were just small
tables or a cabinet with doors on the lower part.

Our wash stand was a table with one drawer to hold Dad’s
straight razor, a toothbrush and toothpaste. Above the stand was a
shelf for Dad’s shaving mug and a small carved wooden box for a
comb and brush. Above this shelf was a mirror. The stand was large
enough for a water bucket with a dipper to drink from or to dip
water into the enamel wash pan. Under the stand was a bucket for
used wash water that had to be emptied just before it ‘ran
over.’ Over on the door were two razor strops, one for
Dad’s razor and the other one for mother to use on me on rare
occasions. Warm water to wash with was in the reservoir in the cook
stove. We had a copper cup that held about a quart of water to dip
this warm water with. It was used in a brewery in Keokuk, Iowa, to
skim the beer in the vats. This copper cup is one of my prized
antiques. The Saturday night bath was taken in a tin tub in the
kitchen after the kitchen stove was fired up to warm the room. In
the summertime these baths were taken in the backyard. Not much
privacy, but the nearest neighbor was half mile away.

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