Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Mamaw’s Sprinkler

My life in appalachia mamaws sprinkler

We called Pap’s mother Mamaw. By the time I came along there were 7 grandchildren ahead of me so her moniker was already well established. Mamaw died when I was in 5th grade.

Even though I was so young, I have great memories of Mamaw. She babysat me for Granny so I spent lots of time with her. Some memories are sharp and clear, most are soft and hazy; but all my memories of Mamaw make me feel safe and loved.

One time Papaw told me he loved me because he remembered how Mamaw fell in love with me when I was born and that I was always her favorite. That made me feel so special…until I heard Papaw tell 2 other grandchildren the same thing! But that was Papaw and in reality the statement was true in his mind. He loved all his grandchildren and I’m sure each grandchild was Mamaw’s favorite as well.

Pap is a lot like Mamaw and I’d like to think I am too. She was quiet and reserved, but could laugh about stuff too. Mamaw never seemed to get excited even the time her bathroom door had to be taken down because Paul locked himself in there somehow-the little rat! Looking back, I can see Mamaw’s life wasn’t the easiest, but I think she enjoyed it.

Mamaw had heart problems. A week before she died (way to early at the age of 66), she told Granny she had had a good life, she’d lived to see her children grown and married and even lived to enjoy her grandchildren.

One of my sharp Mamaw memories:

I was standing on the couch looking out the big window where the black crouching panther set on the sill. I see Mamaw getting her ironing board out; hear the screech of sound; notice the dust motes dancing in the sunlit air and smell the scent of fresh brewed tea. I remember the drops of water that plopped on fabric as Mamaw used her sprinkler to dampen the clothes before she ironed them. I said “Why are you doing that?” Mamaw explained why and then let me turn the glass coke bottle upside down to sprinkle the clothes myself.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.

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  • Reply
    June 21, 2019 at 1:43 am

    Back in the late 50’s I recall my Mother using a Welches grape juice bottle-embossed with grape vines, tendril and grapes. I loved her gentle sprinkling of water on the sheets and pillowslips-yeah, back then Mother’s ironed sheets! She would leave the well water sitting out all night; in case it had any sediment in it.
    Thank you for sharing; my eyes are leaking now.

  • Reply
    Helen Gardner
    June 20, 2019 at 9:24 pm

    Mom had the same sprinkler! I used it growing up. Wish I still had it. Good memories. Thanks for this post, Tipper.

  • Reply
    June 24, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    B. – Yes it is mamaws sprinkler! I really don’t know how I ended up with it-but I’m so glad I did : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    June 21, 2013 at 7:15 am

    I hope my grandchildren have as sweet a memories of this old Mamaw! My memories of my own Mamaw are of playing on the floor under her quilt frame and eventually learning the art from her. She introduced me to the habit of hot tea and southern tea cakes.

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    June 21, 2013 at 6:22 am

    I remember those old sprinklers… And I remember a lot about my Mamaw. I could write a book on how much she meant to me. Mamaw was born in 1900, and could tell of the hard times she had seen,, she lived next to us when I was growing up, and was like a 2nd mother to me. She died at the age of 84. She had just a week or so got a clean bill of health from her doctor, and then the Lord called her home, goes to show who’s in charge. I still think about her a lot..

  • Reply
    June 21, 2013 at 2:11 am

    I loved sprinkling clothes before I ironed them.

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    June 21, 2013 at 1:08 am

    Tipper, your posts bring back so many memories. But I can’t remember my grandmas, not one, because I never knew them. I do remember using the sprinkler on blue jeans for my four brothers. My job was ironing on Saturday and I hated those jeans, but I struggled until I had done them all. Then Mother ironed the shirts because my teen aged brothers were particular about how they looked when they took their girls out on a date.
    Thanks again for the memories.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    June 20, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    I know what you’re talking about. I think our Mom used an old Vernor’s ginger ale bottle for sprinkling. I remember when she heard sprinkling clothes and putting them into the fridge a day ahead of ironing day made ironing go easier. I don’t know if it made ironing easier, but I do remember her doing that.
    Does anyone remember the old ironing machines called “mangles” that was used to iron flat items like sheets and tablecloths? I remember Mom having one of those in the city when I was little, but not once we moved to the country. Those manglers were dangerous things. The were like human sized pasta machines that had a scalding hot presser above a turning roller which you ran your flat items between to get them ironed crisp and wrinkle-free. Now, they did that well, but they were also good at catching little hands and fingers, and hurting them something awful.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    June 20, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I not only have fond memories of grandparents, I also remember my mother’s grandmother and my dad’s step grandmother. I trapped rabbits and shot rabbits and squirls for my step great grandmother. I remember helping mom’s grandmother sweep her yard. She said it was to keep the snakes away. If they had no place to hide they wouldn’t come in the yard.

  • Reply
    June 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    That’s a lovely tribute to your Mamaw! Our grandmothers teach us so much when we’re little, and when we get older we begin to understand the real lessons, like finding a way to be happy no matter what life dishes out. Now that I’m a grandmama myself, I take it as a sacred trust, and a living tribute to all I learned from my own loving grandmas!

  • Reply
    June 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    I remember my Mama and aunts using these sprinklers. I was a child and wanted to sprinkle the clothes too, but after getting them too wet in spots, they usually encouraged me to run along! Don’t know if they made the tops or got them at the store.Know they were thrilled when the steam irons came out.

  • Reply
    June 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Mom had one, it was a 7-Up bottle,I believe, as Coke bottles weren’t as big as the one she used. In later years, when we went shopping for new school clothes (the ones she didn’t make for us) she told us boys to watch for the word “Sanforized” on the tags so she would not have to iron them.

  • Reply
    Gina S
    June 20, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Mama’s mother, my grandmama, came from South Carolina to live in Lincoln County. She was such a lady. Her favorite psalm held the line, I lift up my eyes unto the hills… I know she greatly missed her family. I wonder if she looked toward the Blue Ridge seeking help in her daily life. She raised four children during the Depression. My favorite memory of her involves a sink on her back porch. An enamel bowl rested to one side of the sink while a bar of Ivory soap waited nearby. I see her apron clad body standing at the sink while she soaped her hands. Then cupping her palms together she would blow gently through the gap. Enchanted, we watched bubbles float in the air. Sometimes I reached out to pop one just to hear her laugh.

  • Reply
    June 20, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Don’t we all wish we could have
    spent more time with our grandma’s?
    I think both my grandmas died about
    the time I became a teenager. They
    had many grandchildren so by the
    time I came along, I was mostly
    just another rug rat in the way.
    The grandma on my mama’s side was
    soft and kind and cared what I’d
    have to say, even if I didn’t make
    much sense. Both of them smelled
    like Garrett or Bruton snuff, but
    how I’d like to have their counsel
    in today’s world. I’m just fortunate to have that love pass
    through my life with those
    wonderful memories…Ken

  • Reply
    June 20, 2013 at 10:38 am

    I can remember my Mother using a Pepsi bottle with a sprinkler on top to dampen clothes before ironing. In the winter months the clothes would be so stiff they could stand by themselves.

  • Reply
    judith rogers
    June 20, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Hi Tipper,
    Not too many people can understand sprinkling clothes. As I would help Mom, I considered the steps crazy. Clean, freshly washed, clothing was put in a pan of starch that we had made of Faultless starch, rung out and put on the line to dry. When dry, they would be sprinkled and rolled into a ball, ready for ironing. There were 5 kids so sometimes the ironing wasn’t finished, so the sprinkled shirts etc were wrapped in a cloth and put in the freezer to keep them from mildew. Later, they were pulled out and ironed. So it was wash, starch, dry , wet(sprinkle),and iron dry again. I started ironing at about age 8 and I hated it. Modern people wouldn’t go to so much trouble, but we always had nicely starched clothing to wear even if it wasn’t fine. I wish I had Mom’s sprinkling bottle. Thanks for the memory!

  • Reply
    June 20, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I remember using one of sprinklers. It was placed in a soda bottle of water. Todays irons do it all these days!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    June 20, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Ahhhhh – sweet memories. My Mamaw let me sprinkle, too.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    June 20, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Tipper: I loved all your tender recollections about your dear grandmother. My mother’s mother was ‘that kind of lady’ – so kind and loving to every grandchild. I got to spend ONE SUMMER with Grandma when she was failing and felt so grown up – that I was able to be with her and Grandpa – all by myself! That was rare to ‘be by myself’ with FIVE BROTHERS AND FIVE SISTERS. You can well imagine.
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    June 20, 2013 at 8:58 am

    The simple memories are the most special. I was six years old when my Mamaw died. All I can remember about her is how she laughed and giggled at everything I said and did.

  • Reply
    June 20, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Memories of the generations before us are precious, even if they are mixed. They tell us something about how we came to be the way we are. One great-grandfather (“Granddad”) was a very stern man – I don’t ever remember him smiling – but I do remember sitting on his lap (actually moving between his and my great-grandmother’s lap) to count dominoes for them. My great-grandmother (“Granny”) leaves me with the warmest memories – from threading needles for her quilting to folding rag strips for her to crochet into rugs to her 92 year old self crawling under the house to get a ball for me because that 10 year old (who became a science teacher) was terrified of spiders.
    So many more memories flooding back. I won’t bore y’all with them but must take time today to add them to my memory notes.
    My grandchildren should send you thank you notes for all the memories your blog has stimulated.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    June 20, 2013 at 8:43 am

    I loved this post! Isn’t it funny how such a simple thing can bring back the fondest memories.
    I suppose the picture is your Grandmothers sprinkler?
    My Mothers is here with some of her aluminum things. I don’t suppose most little girls will ever remember sprinkling clothes.
    That was my job, sprinkling, rolling up, putting in the basket for Mom to iron. It wasn’t long before I learned to iron without getting burned too…LOL
    Thanks Tipper for the memories!

  • Reply
    June 20, 2013 at 8:23 am

    My mom used one of those sprinklers whenever she ironed. I always thought it was cool and when I had to do the dishes, I tried to see how long it would take for all the water to drip out of the bottle. I had to shake the bottle to get the water out. When I got caught playing, I was told to get finished with the dishes.

  • Reply
    June 20, 2013 at 7:50 am

    OMG, as soon as I saw your photo of that sprinkler my mind drifted back to my grandma. She had the same kind. I remembered I got to sprinkle the clothes for her. WOW, that takes me back. She died in 1963 but I remember it like it was yesterday.
    Thanks for helping me recall that memory.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 20, 2013 at 7:36 am

    I have very fond memories of my grandmother, we called her Grannie. Grannie was my father’s mother. My mother’s mother was gone before I was born.
    I was a very picky eater as a child and Grannie knew just what I’d eat and what I wouldn’t. She always made sure there was mashed potatoes and spinach on the table when I came to visit and homogenized milk and margarine, cause I wouldn’t eat the raw stuff.
    It is so nice to have those beautiful memories. Wonder what Chitter and Chatter will remember about me!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 20, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Tipper–Your family tale and evocation of the sprinkler, complete with a photo, brought back powerful, poignant memories to me.
    Momma had a sprinkler that could have been a twin of the one you describe and depict–right down to the greenish Coke bottle. In my mind’s eye I can see her at the ironing board in the kitchen, patiently pressing shirts or pants while she kept a watchful eye on dinner (that was the mid-day meal, and normally our biggest meal in the summertime) cooking on the stove.
    Good stuff.
    Jim Casada
    P. S. A tip of the hat to you for the little piece a couple of days back on watermelon. It served as a catalyst for my next monthly newsletter (the July one) in that it offered openings to all sorts of other watermelon lore such as old-time varieties (Georgia Rattlesnake, Cannonball), watermelon rind pickles, a homemade knife (from a bandsaw blade) Grandpa Joe used to cut them, tales of watermelon vines growing out of one’s ear or obviously pregnant women having swallowed a watermelon seed, the indescribably wonderful sound of a really ripe melon splitting when first encountering a knife, plugging melons, and more. Thanks for setting my mind a-wandering.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 20, 2013 at 7:26 am

    I don’t remember Mommy using a sprinkler at all. She had a bowl of water in which she would dip her fingers and flick it onto her ironing.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 20, 2013 at 7:14 am

    I remember my mother using a sprinkler for ironing. a co-cola bottle with a cork bottomed sprinkler top. I wonder if they make those anymore. My mother quit ironing when I was in grade school and permanent press came out.

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