Many of us today type with ease, whether on our sleek computer keyboards or with our thumbs on our touchscreen phones. Back in the day, heavy, clunky typewriters were the latest and greatest, giving those digits a good workout to ensure legibility. (Submitted photo)

Valley Voice: Remembering the tools of yesteryear

Barriere and District Heritage Society talks about a few mundane modern tasks that were once laborous and time consuming

Since 1974, the third week of February has been designated as Heritage Week in Canada. Heritage Week is an opportunity to celebrate our shared heritage, natural and cultural, tangible and intangible. The theme this year is “Bringing the Past into the Future.”

As our society has progressed, some things have stayed the same and some have changed for the “better.”

From hand-wrung to high spin

Today, when we need to wash our clothes we put them in the washer, put some soap in the machine, turn a dial, water fills the tub and the clothes are scrubbed clean, rinsed, spun to get the excess water out and ready to go into the dryer to be dried. This is all done within an hour or so.

Imagine doing laundry with a scrub board – but before you can do that the cold water needs to be heated up and before you can do that you need to haul the water from the creek or well.

If you were lucky, maybe there was cold running water into the house.

Hopefully, you had saved the ashes, rendered the fat and had been able to make some soap.

With any luck you had a clothes line that was out of the way of animals, strung high enough so that the clean clothes would not drag in the dirt. This line was used spring, summer, winter and fall. Clothes (remember cloth diapers) were freeze dried in the winter.

When all the clothes were dried the task of ironing was to begin. You had to make sure you got a good fire going so you could heat up the iron on the stove, or maybe you had a more modern day iron, and coals were put into the iron to keep the heat.

Typing made easy

How communication and letter writing has changed through the years. Manual typewriters sure gave your fingers a work out. Each key had to be pressed hard to make sure the letter was legible on the paper. Make an error, no white out, no deleting. The error was there to stay.

Carbon copies make more than one copy but I would assume that some letters were typed, retyped and retyped again if there were a number of copies needed. Now there is spell check, delete, print one or a million copies – all with a single button. Can’t type very fast? Well, now there is voice typing.

Working for your ice cream

Want a treat on a nice hot summer day? Then get busy. Make sure you have some ice and salt. Hopefully the ice in the icehouse had not melted and you still had some that had been gathered the previous winter. Usually there was a cow around so cream was at hand. Mix cream with some sugar and start turning – and turning and turning – and finally you would have a quart (four cups) of ice cream to enjoy.

Find more local heritage at or check out the Barriere History page on Facebook.

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The washboard was used to get the dirt and grit out of clothes before washing machines gave us the ability to “set it and forget it.” (Submitted photo)

Craving a sweet, ice cold dessert? You many be able to reach into the freezer for a scoop today, but that craving may have been long gone after spending a few hours with this old-school ice cream maker. (Submitted photo)

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