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Youth hostel made us wash sleeping bags in a tub with dolly maid

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 26, 2014

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EASTER 1952 – I was 19. Three of us – Mary Whitehouse, myself, and Beryl, a colleague from work, decided to spend the Easter holiday cycling to Rhyl, staying at youth hostels overnight.

Mary and I were both from West Bromwich, Beryl was an 'alien' from Handsworth.

We started straight from work on Good Friday and cycled that evening to Lichfield. The weather was good and we pedalled along happily. We were well on our way when Mary, who was way out in front, came to an abrupt halt. A great hole had appeared in the road just in front of her and she only just avoided disappearing down it! The road had subsided as she approached it. If she had been a two-ton Tessie we might have thought she had caused it, but she was a very slight person. We carefully avoided the hole and went on to find the hostel.

We left the Lichfield hostel on Saturday morning after finishing the small chore that everyone had to do before leaving. Still the weather was kind to us. We had to cycle through Nantwich and with this in mind we kept pedalling. The more we pedalled the further away Nantwich seemed to get. We eventually arrived and stopped for refreshments and a meander around the town.

On we went and rode into Wales. The day was great and so was the scenery, but we were not sorry when we arrived at the scheduled hostel. When we finally hit the sack, I for one was out for the count. All that fresh air and exercise – I slept like a log!

In the morning after breakfast we were shocked when we were told the task we had to do before we could leave. The bunk beds were equipped with sheet-type sleeping bags. That is, sheets closed up at each side to form a bag instead of two separate sheets. Some fussy people took their own – most did not. The task we three were given was to wash all the bags that had been used the previous night. The equipment we were given was a wooden tub and a dolly maid to do the wash, a mangle to wring them out and a clothes line to peg them up to dry! We were so angry we pounded those bags as if our lives depended on it and it was surprising the bed linen survived the treatment. To crown it all some Americans took photos of us! Of course, they weren't instant pictures in those days, so we never saw the results. Perhaps the pictures are still floating around the States to this day.

Before we left the hostel we learned that there should have been three young men helping us to do the washing. They had more sense and left us to it. Another Easter, six of us, including my friend Mary, decided to hitchhike to London. In the end, all but Mary and I chickened out. But that is another story!

Mary Hutchings,

25 The Birches,

Cheadle, Staffs.

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