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Lathering Up For Floating Soap Sales

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My mother, who ruled her roost as sagaciously, sedately, and as graciously as ever did Wife-Queen Juno, still made her own soap. True, the age of excoriating soft soap was before my mother's time, but we still had retired leaching boards in the barn, and she knew what they were for, if her children didn't.

But Mother was Bobbie Burns-oriented and never threw anything useful away, and kitchen drippings of fat were for making soap. The Soap Trust had made its start, and she did buy scented cakes for closer family ablutions, and certainly for the spare chamber's occasional guests. But a couple or three times a year the household squared away and we had soap days.

Hers was a heavy utility soap cooled in big pans lined with brown paper and cut into cakes. No lilac and lavender, and never meant for delicate hands, it lathered with a reluctance otherwise found in clay bricks. It was, all the same, powerfully effective. And for hands that grubbed the earth, we used a cake of it on the outdoor washstand, where it would bring grimy fingernails from darkness to light if you kept at it and used a stiff brush.

It was helpful, if you meant to clean up at that washstand, to bring a pan of warm water from the house to start the soap first. I'm positive this maneuver has disappeared from the art of cleanliness. Finding your indispensable jackknife in your hip pocket, you carefully scrape or cut thin bits of soap from the weathered cake, work them for a moment with the dirty fingers, and then put them in the face-pan to be covered with some warm water. Now you slosh things around so the smidgens of soap will dissolve, and if they do, you add more water and commence to lave.


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