We always looked forward to the days we would get to wear our rag boots.
Dad would tear up old sheets, or any fabric mum could find that had seen it’s best days. When he had enough large squares and strips of fabric he’d say “Who’s first?” My sisters and I would crowd around him and one at a time we’d sit on the floor. “Foot up” he’d say, and we’d hold our foot up in the air as high as we could, so dad could rest it on his knee. He’d place a piece of cloth around our foot and wrap strips around, until it took the shape of a boot. Then he would tie a tiny strip around the ankle to keep it all in place. “Next foot”. We’d offer up our other foot for the same treatment. Once we all had our rag boots on dad would say “OK, off you go!”
We’d go skating!
Round and round we’d go, sliding around and giggling. What fun we had. Sometimes we would skate so hard that one of our boots would come loose and dad would have to fix it for us. Off we’d go again. Round and round and round. We hadn’t ever seen ice skating. There were no TV’s then, so to be able to skate without roller skates was very cool to us. Eventually, dad would say “OK girls! It’s all done now” One by one he would remove the rags from our feet and we’d slip back into our shoes.
In the 1950’s, kitchens had linoleum for floor covering. We also only had carbolic soap and water to clean it with. Dad would get down on his hands and knees with a bucket of water, a block of soap, a scrubbing brush and a large rag for rinsing. I can still see dad in my minds eye, wringing out the rag and spreading in on the floor, then with large circular motions he would remove all the dirt and suds. This was one of his jobs – a man’s job, as he would say. There were many things that dad considered to be a man’s job, like fetching coal for the fire or taking the rubbish out. He often washed all the heavy pots and pans after a meal or cleaned the cooker. He was quite the ‘modern man’ for the 1950’s.
Once he’d scrubbed and rinsed the floor, and it had dried, he would get down on his hands and knees once more, open a large flat tin of polish and with a cloth he would rub polish into the linoleum, a patch at a time, working his way around the kitchen. It was a back-breaking job – a man’s job. Polish needed to be buffed up to a shine, and this is where we came into the equation.
A great bit of ingenuity on dad’s part and great fun for us girls.