In my youth, my mother cooked on a "wood-fired" cast iron stove, although in England ours was generally fired with coal or coke. When we came to Australia, briquettes were popular,
although we used wood quite often as we had a plentiful supply from the nearby bush.
Later, we graduated to a gas-fired stove, which had an oven. Gas allowed much better control of the temperature of the oven and hot-plates, so the variety and quality of our food was improved, and our various work-loads reduced. We still had to chop wood for the hearth fire, since we had no air-conditioning and this was the cheapest of the three options - wood, gas or electric heating.
Later again, we bought a stove that had an electric oven and gas stove-top burners. The gas gave us instant heat for general heating and cooking, while the electric oven allowed accurate, dry and finely-controlled cooking for baking, roasting etc. so Mum could really shine!
Modern stoves have a fan-forced oven function to better distribute the heat, electronic timing and control of start/stop/duration of cooking, as well as other nifty features.
When I was a boy my mother used to do the washing every Monday. Why? because Monday was washday in England - everybody knew that!
While in the hot water the washing was prodded and poked with a special wooden stick called a "dolly", to remove stubborn stains. Some were given further attention by rubbing on the scrubbing-board - a piece of corrugated steel sheet mounted on a small wooden frame.
Later Washing Machines
When electric washing machines were introduced, they were of course quite primitive by today's standards.
Our "wireless" was of a reasonable quality, for the time... it had, I think three valves so was fairly powerful. We could hear the BBC
quite clearly, most of the time, although occasionally it would develop a whistle that made listening a bit more difficult.
Later on of course, more elaborate models were made that performed much better, but valve radios have become very much a thing of the past, with the advent of solid-state circuitry that not only performs much better, but uses only a fraction of the power and has much longer life.
A telephone used to be for contacting and talking to someone else who had a telephone - end of story; but now it seems this is one of its less-important
Our record player, or gramophone player as it was known, was a wind-up one with a horn speaker on top next to the turntable. It was built into a box
about 450mm by 450mm and, because we liked to keep up with the times, it could play both 78rpm and 45rpm records (there were no 33 1/3 or 16 2/3 then), either 8 inch or 11 inch sizes.
Ginger beer was very popular as a home-made drink. Ginger was placed in a jar with water, sugar and yeast, and more sugar and ginger added for about a week. It grew and in about a week it was ready to make the brew. The mixture was strained and the liquid placed in bottles with more sugar and water, and started to ferment, while the solid part was returned to the jar and continued to be fed. In about one more week the bottles of ginger beer were ready. Often they would explode while the brew was fermenting.
Because the preparation of hot water took quite some time, being heated in the kettle on the stove, we had "bath-night" once a week on Saturday, so as to be clean for church on Sunday. The same water was re-used by several members of the family.
When clothes in the washtub were considered clean, each piece was passed between the rollers of a "mangle", otherwise known as a wringer,
that was mounted on either the sink or the floor nearby.
Hot Water Bottles
It sometimes got very cold in England, and we had earthenware bottles that would be partially filled with hot water to warm up the bed. They had a strong plastic screw-in stopper. New ones could sometimes be obtained from the Rag and Bone Man in exchange for rags or glass bottles.
After the war, there were limited supplies of some goods in England (and many other places) and "rationing" was introduced, to ensure everyone had a fair chance
of obtaining some of the scarcer items.
There was a "bounty" on soft-drink bottles ("pop" bottles) of up to thruppence (three pence) a bottle, and it was common for kids - and sometimes adults - to collect these to return to the shop for their deposit. In fact, it was the major or sole source of pocket money for many kids at the time. I've heard that some children (?) actually snuck into the yards at the rear of the drink shops, stole the empty bottles from the crates, and returned them to the shop, or another one for a second deposit.
To keep food fresh, it was necessary to keep it in the icebox. This was a large, upright insulated box, usually about the size of a small modern-day
refrigerator. About a quarter of its volume (at the top) was used to hold a large block of ice that was the cooling agent.
Our medicines and pharmaceuticals have changed drastically.
I recall that my parents firmly believed in the benefits of a regular dose of castor oil. Maybe as a lubricant?
When the washed clothes were dry (or sometimes nearly dry) they were brought in in the cane laundry basket for ironing. There were a lot more
things ironed then than are now - even underwear would be given a quick "once-over" with the iron to make it nice and wrinkle-free.
My mother often sewed by hand, for small jobs like clothing repairs. Her "tools of trade" were sewing needles, cotton, and a thimble. But for making clothes, hemming and such, she would use the trusted Singer sewing machine. This was a "treadle" meaning it was operated by treading on a footplate and rocking it back and forth. This turned the mechanism that moved the needle, with the cotton in its eye, up and down. There was a kind of "flywheel" at the top which she would have to turn to start the machine's rotation.
Since our ancestos used strips of bark and animal skin to bind things together, we've come a long way, and found some quite ingenious ways to accomplish this more securely, simply and quickly with buttons, braces, belts, zips, velcro, superglue and many other devices. Some of these are obvious, while others I feel deserve a bit of comment.
Buttons were first made about 5000BC, probably for decorative purposes, but functional buttons with buttonholes for fastening or closing clothes appeared first in Germany in the 13th century. They may be made of plastic, wood, leather, shell or several other materials, and are used for clothing, bags and cases.
Zip fasteners were invented by Whitcomb L. Judson, an American inventor in 1893. The method, still in use today, is based on interlocking teeth, that are meshed together and unmeshed by moving a slider with a V-shaped groove between them.
Velcro is a "hook-and-loop" fastener invented by Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral in 1941, and patented by him in 1955. The fastener consisted of a fabric strip with tiny hooks and another with small loops. When pressed together, the hooks were caught by the loops, attaching temporarily, until pulled apart. They were first made with cotton but this was soon replaced with nylon and polyester. The word Velcro comes from the french words "velours" (velvet) and "crochet".
Superglues are made from strong, fast-curing bonding adhesives of the cyanoacrylates group. The chemicals are mildly toxic. The glue typically has a shelf life of about a year unopened, or about one month once exposed to air. The original patent for cyanoacrylate was filed in 1942 by Goodrich Company while searching for materials for clear plastic gun sights for the war effort. It was considered unsuitable for the wartime application, but in 1951, researchers for Eastman Kodak rediscovered cyanoacrylates and a form of the adhesive was first sold in 1958. During the 1960s, Eastman Kodak sold cyanoacrylate to Loctite, which in turn repackaged and distributed it under the name "Loctite Quick Set 404".Construction fasteners have also surged ahead. From the original nails, screws and bolts, there has emerged a huge array of specialised fasteners. From simple rawlplugs to loxins and dynabolts for super-secure brick and masonry fixing, there seems to be a fastener designed for every type of application. Circlips, split pins, security-screws, non-removable screws, rivets, lock-washers and other smaller components add to the array of hardware now available for securely fastening items of all shapes, sizes and materials.