Spring cleaning was a ritual

Published 7:48 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2016

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    Springtime on the farm in the 1950s meant lots of activity, including spring cleaning.

    Spring cleaning isn’t the tradition it once was. People today may tidy up the patio and porches after a hard winter, but with year round climate control, made possible with air conditioning, and the better insulated windows and walls of modern homes, the spring “airing out” just doesn’t seems as critically needed as it once was.

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    Out on Red Point Road (Now Benn’s Church Boulevard) where we grew up, there were large stretches of sandy fields to the west, and in March, a virtual dust storm could rage for days, drifting onto the shoulders of the road and coating everything in sight, including our farmhouse.

    When it ended, and it always did, it was time for the annual deep cleaning of the house. Window were opened, the old Electrolux was fired up and everything got a good scrubbing.


    It was then that the winter drapes in the living room were taken down and the wool rug rolled up. The heavy, lined winter drapes served their purpose when winter winds blew against a house with no storm windows. They would be drawn at night and helped hold the drafts to a manageable level.

    The thick, wool rug served the same purpose, covering an un-insulated floor and making a room heated by a kerosene stove downright cozy.

    But in spring, all that changed. The heavy drapes were replaced with thin cotton curtains with frilly edges that would blow in the breeze that came through open windows. And the wool rug was replaced with a woven straw mat that would be much cooler to the touch on sultry summer evenings.

    Hall doors — there were two of them — were opened to allow clean fresh air, scrubbed by the new foliage on ancient oak trees in the yard, to find its way in the front of the house and out the back, carrying away the musty smell of late winter and replacing it with the new, refreshing scents of spring.

    Spring brought lots of changes on the farm, of course, including plowing, disking, planting and preparing for baby chicks that were just as cute as a button for about two weeks before they starting rapidly growing, on their way to the hen house or the frying pan. But nothing heralded spring more dramatically than the ritual of spring cleaning.

    And few things were more delightful or more memorable today than that first Sunday dinner on a warm spring day, with the windows and doors open, the summer curtains gently rustling and a baked chicken on the table.