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Homemade Lye Soap
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Feb 21, 2021 14:08:39   #
Robert J Samples Loc: Houston TX
 
I realize this will date me. Maybe even get a laugh! That is assuming that you readers have ever in your lives made lye soap, or have seen your parents, or grandparents make it. While it isn’t hard to make, my mother would never let me get close when she did the final touches of adding the lye to this concoction.

She would save up scraps from the hog that we had killed the previous fall, the skin from the bacon rind, and such. Also cooking grease from frying sausages and bacon. I don’t know how she remembered the ratios of the ingredients, but she always seemed to know just how much of what to add. I know there are formulas on making lye, but we never went that far, but purchased it in small cans.

My job was to get the black kettle that probably help 30 or 40 gallons, get it out in the open away from any structure and build a fire under it, and fill it about 1/3 full of water. We would then begin to add the pieces of skin, bacon grease and such to this witches’ brew. Finally, she always had me to stand way back from this last step. She would then carefully add lye to the concoction which I believe was the final step to set the process in motion. If you are of a mind to repeat this process, do not assume I have remembered all the ingredients or the proportions. I don’t pretend to be accurate.

This brew would boil and bubble for some time and I suppose because of the boiling and such would have reduced the total volume of liquid. After a few hours of cooking, we would remove the remaining wood and let this concoction cool overnight. In the morning, after it had cooled down to the touch, she would take a large butcher knife and cut it into chunks. The color was usually one of yellow, from dark to possibly light yellow. This was strictly due to the proportion of hog parts, as to kitchen grease. If there had been only grease, the soap would have been almost white.

I don’t think my mother ever bought any laundry soap. At least not until she and dad built their home in Saint Jo and moved to town. It was then the first time she had her own washing machine and dryer. All the time before, either Dad or I would drive her into town so she could use the laundromat to do all the family laundry. I believe that is when she stopped with the lye soap I ‘ve described. I suspect she quit using lye soap when she was doing our laundry in town for concern of being laughed at and mocked for being a “hillbilly” or “country bumpkin”. But regardless of all, lye soap really worked and got even dad’s and my clothes that were sometimes stained with oil residue quite clean.

It might also be a sign of how self-sufficient we were. Making soap was just one more thing we did not have to buy. During World War II, being able to grow large gardens, raise our own hogs, having a milk cow, and repairing things caused the rationing during the war less of a burden.

As an aside, my mother, even when they moved to town, or later after dad died, she moved again to Gainesville, she never gave up that black pot. She had a green house in Gainesville and a small business of selling garden bedding plants in the spring, her logo was that black pot hanging in the front yard, filled with flowering plants and a sign “Pearl’s Plants!” Just Sayin…RJS

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Feb 21, 2021 14:15:48   #
Gordon Loc: Charleston South Carolina
 
Good story Robert. Thanks for sharing it.

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Feb 21, 2021 15:21:18   #
USAF Major Loc: Sea Bright, NJ
 
Things were different in your part of the world. Had never heard of making your own soap. Glad you told us.

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Feb 21, 2021 15:31:10   #
Robert J Samples Loc: Houston TX
 
USAFMAJOR: I believe you are right. We were rather backward in many ways, which in some cases was good and in others retarded. It was for the most part if you broke it, you had to fix it, or do without.

While I never did, a lot of my cousins and others had an active business of trapping and skinning animals for sale. Dad trained and sold bird dogs for quail hunting. A lot of folks raised cattle. At one time we had about 90 head of cows and calves. I suppose you could really call us country bumpkins!

Just Sayin ....RJS

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Feb 21, 2021 18:06:33   #
Whitey Loc: Southeast ohio
 
Robert J Samples wrote:
USAFMAJOR: I believe you are right. We were rather backward in many ways, which in some cases was good and in others retarded. It was for the most part if you broke it, you had to fix it, or do without.

While I never did, a lot of my cousins and others had an active business of trapping and skinning animals for sale. Dad trained and sold bird dogs for quail hunting. A lot of folks raised cattle. At one time we had about 90 head of cows and calves. I suppose you could really call us country bumpkins!

Just Sayin ....RJS
USAFMAJOR: I believe you are right. We were rath... (show quote)


Thanks for the story Robert one thing about growing up living like that I'm sure you always had plenty to eat along with plenty of chores to do.

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Feb 21, 2021 18:21:19   #
Robert J Samples Loc: Houston TX
 
Whitey: Well, the load wasn't too heavy. We had a milk cow that I had to round up and get to the barn. Dad usually milked her. I fed the bird dogs that we raise and Dad trained. On school days, I would come home on the school bus, have a snack and then check to see if Dad had been bird hunting. If he had I would clean the quail and put them in the refrigerator. In return, I could go hunting with the dogs when he couldnt go and shoot his shells. Just Sayin...RJS

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Feb 21, 2021 19:42:44   #
Whitey Loc: Southeast ohio
 
Robert J Samples wrote:
Whitey: Well, the load wasn't too heavy. We had a milk cow that I had to round up and get to the barn. Dad usually milked her. I fed the bird dogs that we raise and Dad trained. On school days, I would come home on the school bus, have a snack and then check to see if Dad had been bird hunting. If he had I would clean the quail and put them in the refrigerator. In return, I could go hunting with the dogs when he couldnt go and shoot his shells. Just Sayin...RJS

👍

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Feb 21, 2021 20:12:33   #
Huntm22 Loc: Northern Utah. - West Haven
 
Great times - great memories.

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Feb 22, 2021 09:27:37   #
USAF Major Loc: Sea Bright, NJ
 
RJS: I was born in 1940 so I never saw people walking along rr tracks in Bayonne looking for the odd pieces of coal that fell off the tender cars.Even in the late 40s, early 50s I can recall my mom darning socks. Actually had a wooden 'egg' that she put in sock to facilitate her task. She got a job in NYC in 1928 upon graduating high school and kept it until she married in '38. A couple of times a week she would buy an apple on a street corner in downtown Manhattan from men in suits and ties for a nickel just to help them out. She always referred to to those times as "the height of the Depression". When I tell people that chicken was once more expensive than beef you get the 'who are you kidding look'. For city people chicken was a very expensive treat in the 30s! People had different perspectives on the hard times back then.

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Feb 22, 2021 09:41:57   #
Bog Irish
 
Robert J Samples wrote:
I realize this will date me. Maybe even get a laugh! That is assuming that you readers have ever in your lives made lye soap, or have seen your parents, or grandparents make it. While it isn’t hard to make, my mother would never let me get close when she did the final touches of adding the lye to this concoction.

She would save up scraps from the hog that we had killed the previous fall, the skin from the bacon rind, and such. Also cooking grease from frying sausages and bacon. I don’t know how she remembered the ratios of the ingredients, but she always seemed to know just how much of what to add. I know there are formulas on making lye, but we never went that far, but purchased it in small cans.

My job was to get the black kettle that probably help 30 or 40 gallons, get it out in the open away from any structure and build a fire under it, and fill it about 1/3 full of water. We would then begin to add the pieces of skin, bacon grease and such to this witches’ brew. Finally, she always had me to stand way back from this last step. She would then carefully add lye to the concoction which I believe was the final step to set the process in motion. If you are of a mind to repeat this process, do not assume I have remembered all the ingredients or the proportions. I don’t pretend to be accurate.

This brew would boil and bubble for some time and I suppose because of the boiling and such would have reduced the total volume of liquid. After a few hours of cooking, we would remove the remaining wood and let this concoction cool overnight. In the morning, after it had cooled down to the touch, she would take a large butcher knife and cut it into chunks. The color was usually one of yellow, from dark to possibly light yellow. This was strictly due to the proportion of hog parts, as to kitchen grease. If there had been only grease, the soap would have been almost white.

I don’t think my mother ever bought any laundry soap. At least not until she and dad built their home in Saint Jo and moved to town. It was then the first time she had her own washing machine and dryer. All the time before, either Dad or I would drive her into town so she could use the laundromat to do all the family laundry. I believe that is when she stopped with the lye soap I ‘ve described. I suspect she quit using lye soap when she was doing our laundry in town for concern of being laughed at and mocked for being a “hillbilly” or “country bumpkin”. But regardless of all, lye soap really worked and got even dad’s and my clothes that were sometimes stained with oil residue quite clean.

It might also be a sign of how self-sufficient we were. Making soap was just one more thing we did not have to buy. During World War II, being able to grow large gardens, raise our own hogs, having a milk cow, and repairing things caused the rationing during the war less of a burden.

As an aside, my mother, even when they moved to town, or later after dad died, she moved again to Gainesville, she never gave up that black pot. She had a green house in Gainesville and a small business of selling garden bedding plants in the spring, her logo was that black pot hanging in the front yard, filled with flowering plants and a sign “Pearl’s Plants!” Just Sayin…RJS
I realize this will date me. Maybe even get a laug... (show quote)


Mr. Samples: Thank you for that little bit of history. As I recall, there is a song about Grammas' Lye Soap. Another interesting laundry story my mother (of all people) told me, had to do with a neighbor ladys painful experience with a new-fangled, labor saving device (designed by men, of course), with no thought to women with ample bosoms. Hence the term: "She got her tit in the wringer". ...

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Feb 22, 2021 10:56:25   #
Flytier Loc: Wilmington Delaware
 
My grandma lost half her hair to an old wringer washing machine. That's why she always wore her hair in a bun, covered the bald spot .

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Feb 22, 2021 13:30:26   #
Big A Loc: Gilbert, Arizona
 
Flytier wrote:
My grandma lost half her hair to an old wringer washing machine. That's why she always wore her hair in a bun, covered the bald spot .


I can sympathize with both ! At about age 14-15, I was helping mom do the laundry by feeding the bedsheets through the wringer; hand got wrapped/
caught in the tangle and pulled into the wringer - although she shut it off immediately, the tips
of three fingers were caught in
the wringer ! By the time she found my grandfather and he got the wringer apart, the tips were
black and very painful for several days !

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Feb 22, 2021 18:01:12   #
Flytier Loc: Wilmington Delaware
 
Big A wrote:
I can sympathize with both ! At about age 14-15, I was helping mom do the laundry by feeding the bedsheets through the wringer; hand got wrapped/
caught in the tangle and pulled into the wringer - although she shut it off immediately, the tips
of three fingers were caught in
the wringer ! By the time she found my grandfather and he got the wringer apart, the tips were
black and very painful for several days !


The one my Mom had was improved version. Had a bar up over the rollers that popped everything open if you got snagged. Just had to have a free hand to smack it.

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Feb 22, 2021 23:51:17   #
Robert J Samples Loc: Houston TX
 
USAF Major wrote:
Things were different in your part of the world. Had never heard of making your own soap. Glad you told us.


Yes, you can make lye too, but since we did not make any, I never worried about how, or the formula. We did not have an abundance of hard wood.

Sort of like making black powder, we never needed to make it from scratrch at home, so I never worried about learning how. But now under our present circumstances, perhaps I should. Just Sayin...RJS

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Feb 23, 2021 02:04:35   #
DozerDave Loc: Port Orchard Wa.
 
Robert J Samples wrote:
USAFMAJOR: I believe you are right. We were rather backward in many ways, which in some cases was good and in others retarded. It was for the most part if you broke it, you had to fix it, or do without.

While I never did, a lot of my cousins and others had an active business of trapping and skinning animals for sale. Dad trained and sold bird dogs for quail hunting. A lot of folks raised cattle. At one time we had about 90 head of cows and calves. I suppose you could really call us country bumpkins!

Just Sayin ....RJS
USAFMAJOR: I believe you are right. We were rath... (show quote)

Dad will be 93 next month. He’s always telling us how it was growing up on the farm in rural South Dakota in the 20&30’s. Being pretty much self sufficient they didn’t really suffer from the depression...🐟on

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