Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.

Mrs Enid Borowsky, interviewed in 1986, recalls washing laundry in coppers and kerosene tins in the early twentieth century

Mrs Enid Borowsky was interviewed, with her husband Carl Borowsky, in 1986 for the 'Looking Back at Liverpool: An Oral History of the Liverpool Region 1900-1960 ' project. They recall washing the household linen and clothing in coppers and kerosene tins in the early twentieth century.


INTERVIEWER: How did you do your washing Mrs Borowsky?

ENID: Well, we had a copper, the fuel with the copper, and then after that I got a gas copper.

INTERVIEWER: How big would the copper have been and what did it look like?

ENID: Well, it only had a bowl very much like the bowls you get in the washing machines today, and you used to use a stick to keep probing the clothes all the time while they're boiling, and you'd have to take them out and put them in cold water, and then just rinse them in cold water and then put them in the blue water, and rinse in the blue water and then wring them all out by hand; and then you hang them out on the line.

INTERVIEWER: And so you'd put wood under the copper is that idea?

ENID: Yes, that's right, wood under the copper and she'd boil away there, and I would say your clothes would be beautiful, they really were.

INTERVIEWER: What is blueing the clothes?

ENID: We used to put sticks of blue, in the cold water; what wanted blueing we used to put in that.

CARL: It makes your clothes white.

INTERVIEWER: Your mother's washing: how did she do that and where?

ENID: They used kerosene tins and they had a half a dozen bricks with a couple of bars across them, and they used to boil it. They never had a copper. That was the way they washed, in kerosene tins. And their washing was every bit as white as it is coming out of the washing machine today.

INTERVIEWER: What sort of wood would you put under the copper?

CARL: Apple cases, fruit cases, threepence each; smash them up and boil your washing with them.

Contributed By
(Detail from interview with Mr Carl Borowsky and the Borowsky family from the 'Looking back at Liverpool : an oral history of the Liverpool region 1900-1960' conducted in 1986 by Liverpool City Council, editor and project co-ordinator Catherine Johnson ; researchers Angela Imbrosciano, Verica Miiosavijevic, Kathleen Smith.)