Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Beating the carpets


This was one of the exhibits in the museum we went to the other day with our friends, and it really took me back to my childhood.

When I was a little girl - before I was twelve, when we moved to a much larger house - we lived in a bungalow in Durham Terrace in Edinburgh. For most of this time, like most people, we had no fitted carpets - they didn't really exist - so on the floor we had large carpet squares laid on polished linoleum. And when spring cleaning came along, the carpets and rugs were taken outside, hung on the clothes line and beaten with a carpet beater like these ones.

My dad never did any housework so it was my mother who did this, helped by me when I got big enough. It was very hard work, and though I expect it did wonders for our upper body strength. it also made us dirty. Thumping the rugs with a carpet beater brought clouds of dust out of them and on to us: not just the reasonably clean dust that we get nowadays but sooty dust engendered by a coal fire. Even though we only had the one coal fire, in the sitting room, the muck got into other rooms as well. I imagine that the air outside was much dirtier also, from our neighbours' chimneys. I remember window sills being gritty from this dust.

I must have been about ten when we first got a fitted carpet in the living room. By this time we had a vacuum cleaner. My mother was ecstatic at not having to polish the linoleum at the sides of the room and everything seemed much cosier. (This was of course a bit of an illusion because in winter, a house heated by one coal fire (and a couple of convector heaters in the very dead of winter) was very far from warm.)

My mother never understood the modern fashion for rugs on floorboards. It's interesting, isn't it, how styles come round again, though usually slightly altered? I can't see carpet beaters coming back into use, though.

5 comments:

  1. So you'll be glad I'm sure that you kept those antique carpet beaters----you did, didn't you?

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  2. I wouldn't have liked fitted carpets at all when I was small ! How would I have skated round the room in my socks , if not on the linoleum surround ?
    Clopping the dust of 1950s Glasgow out of the carpets , on the other hand , is definitely better left a thing of the past , as is cleaning the grate .

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  3. Oh you do bring back some memories for me at times! I vividly remember my Mum being ecstatic when we had wall to wall carpets installed throughout our house some time in the 1950's. I don't remember when we got a vacuum cleaner though; I think Mum used a carpet sweeper for a while. Don't remember anybody beating rugs outside, although my brothers might, being 10 years older than me.

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  4. Normally I love the old-fashioned way of doing things, but I have to say that with all of the things that get caught in a carpet (dust, dander, mites, mold spores) I'm really grateful for the hepa-filters of today! Old rugbeaters make nice wall art, though - they're beautiful.

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  5. Martha Willoughby8:09 pm

    The problem these days is more than coal though - there are more types of foods and chemicals and everything available! I recently needed to clean mine and I wish a good old beating would have sufficed! But no... I spent the same amount of time googling carpet cleaning solihull that it probably would have taken to use one of those antique carpet beating sticks to make it clean! Thanks for the enjoyable post :)

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