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The Steamie

The Steamie was one of the centres of my family's life when we were growing up in Govan in the early 1960s.

The "steamie" was a public wash-house provided by Glasgow Corporation to let working classes have access to hot water and washing and drying facilities that were beyond their normal means.

For a few pennies my mum could take a big pram (and they were big in those days!!) loaded with all the household washing including sheets etc AND me, and my sister Maggie (and later my wee brother Bernie) and get them all cleaned (including us).

For your few pennies you got a sink all to yourself for a morning or afternoon, a big wringer and a dryer. For me as a wee 6 year old boy it was a magic place full of women and their weans (kids) working themselves stupid washing then drying their clothes, whilst keeping an eye on their weans.

steamie1

The way I remember it the sink was stainless steel or something similar and was enormous.. It had a massive Wringer attached to let you get most of the water out of your clothes after you washed and rinsed them and a big washboard like the ones Lonnie Donnegan used on the TV to make music.

steamie2

The dryer was a massive contraption of separate pull out drying shelves that went from floor to ceiling and came out of a covered space that was kept at a very high temperature that dried the clothes - it was in effect an early days tumble drier without the tumble! In the picture above (stolen from the Internet) you can see one of the individual driers full of washed clothes being pulled out (or pushed back) .

The whole place smelt of soap and was literally covered in steam (hence the name). The hot water that you could run from the taps was a novelty as the tenements we lived in didnt have hot water only what you could get from a kettle.

Going back to the bit about washing the kids too - Like most families in Govan we didnt have a proper bath. Bathtimes were a tin bath or even getting a bath in the Kitchen sink! About once a month my mum would pay the extra in the day at the steamie to get a bath where we could all one a time have the luxury of a full soak. The bath was so big that for a time I thought it was a swimming pool.

Last modified onThursday, 22 December 2016 08:45

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