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 - Copyright Tweed Shire Council

Uki Primary School, 1926 No uniforms or shoes were required.

Tweed Regional Museum Collection. No: UXS000085

Farming families in the Tweed Valley in the first half of the 20th century were often isolated by the terrain, environmental factors such as the frequent floods that could make travel impossible and cut people off for days and weeks at a time, and the sheer distance between their homes and commercial and civic centres. Children were expected to work alongside their parents on the farm. There were very few luxuries to be had and children often only had homemade toys or none at all. Life on the land was characterized by hard manual labour, and the work in the home could be as difficult as the farming itself.

In the 1920s and 30s washing was women’s work and according to tradition it was always done on a Monday. Clothes and other items were cleaned by scrubbing them with soap in a wash tub and then boiling them in a large metal tub called a copper, and stirring them with the wooden copper stick. The copper stick was also used to lift the steaming hot clothes out of the water and into the final rinse. Some items, like corsets and woolens couldn’t be boiled and were washed by hand only.

 - Copyright Tweed Shire Council

Electric Copper, c.1950. Clothes were placed inside the copper and stirred with a wooden stick while they boiled.

Tweed Regional Museum Collection. No: MUS2004.1.2

Before electric coppers were available the water was boiled by lighting a fire underneath the copper, which had to be kept burning throughout the process. The water in the copper had to be constantly replenished as well, and once the washing was done the remaining hot water was used to scrub floors and verandahs. Often the ironing was done on Tuesday but some women preferred to do the ironing on the same day as the washing, and other chores around the house and the farm needed to be completed as well. Although the men knew better than to expect a hot lunch their wives and mothers still prepared their midday meal as well as cooking a hot dinner and helping with the milking on dairy farms.

Alice's Story

“Monday was wash day, Tuesday was ironing day. Wednesday, Mother used to sew. Friday was clean up day and Saturday we had to scrub all the tank stands and the steps and polish all the door knobs. We had those iron beds and we used to have to Brasso all the little tops and get everything ready for church on Sunday.”

Recalled by Alice Lange

Mena's Story

 - Copyright Tweed Shire Council

Child's Toy. “Jumbo”, made in England was given as a Christmas gift to Ken Mack in 1923.

Tweed Regional Museum Collection. No: MUS1987.29

“Their few toys were all homemade…Their father decided his daughters should have beautiful dolls so he commissioned a schooner captain to fetch two from Sydney. The captain purchased them as arranged but had a few drinks on his way back to his boat. On coming aboard he dumped the parcel on a seat & left it there until he reached the Tweed. One's head was smashed and the limbs of the other were smashed also, so two girls shared one slightly out of proportion doll their mother made from the remains.”

Mena Stewart recounting her grandmother’s experiences in the 1870s.

Did you know?

 - Copyright Tweed Shire Council

  • In 1927 the most popular electrical appliance in Australian homes was the clothes iron, but at this time only 34% of homes in Australia were electrically wired so most people were still ironing the old way! To find out more interesting facts about electricity go to the Energy Networks Association website:
  • White clothing and textiles like sheets and tablecloths were kept white by adding a trace of blue dye to the wash. This dye was known as washing or laundry blue, or sometimes as bluing. Because white fabrics over time start to lose their whiteness adding a small amount of blue dye to the washing would make them appear whiter by contrasting with the yellow or grey tones in the fabric. The dye in washing blue was known as “Prussian Blue”. Today we use bleach to whiten our fabrics.

    • Last Updated: 18 September 2015