Frances Hecht on Early Housework in the Bighorn Basin

Frances Hecht, born in 1904, was interviewed in April 1994 by volunteers from the Washakie Museum in Worland, Wyo. This excerpt was prepared for the museum’s summer 2012 exhibit about early settlers in Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin, Voices of the Basin: History in their Own Words. Hecht recalls her work curing meat, keeping milk cool, and washing and ironing clothes.


We used to cure our own meat.   We canned some of the meat, before we had refrigeration or freezers.  Course we didn’t have electricity but until then we just had ice that we put in an ice box.  One year we didn’t have any ice, the river didn’t freeze over good I guess.  So that year I had to make a cooler out of a peach or apple crate, or something like that.  And put it in a pan and put gunny sacks over this crate.  And keep water in that pan, wet the sacks down.  It would keep cool enough to keep the milk from spoiling.  It was in a wash house I had that was shaded.

I never did do too much laundry on a washboard.  We always managed to have a washing machine that would run with a motor of some sort.  One time Roy fixed up an old car motor I think it was, and put a belt on it and ran an old Maytag washing machine with that but I had to get the water out of the river, and sometimes it was muddy.  You would have to settle it first.  Of course you always boiled all the white clothes in the boiler for a while.  You didn’t change water every time you changed the clothes, you started with white clothes and went on down to the colored clothes.

On the back of the iron it had a little tank like, and it had a little pump on the top of that, you would pump that up and then you’d light this flame somewhere, I can’t even remember how it heated that iron.  Course you ironed everything then, you starched the clothes.  You had to do all that ironing because there wasn’t any of this no-iron clothes those days…”

Transcription by Washakie Museum and Cultural Center, Worland, Wyo.