Washboards – Not Relics of the Past
Scrub a Dub Dub! That’s the sound of clothes being washed on what most consider an old-fashioned washboard. But that’s not the case at all! People around the world still use washboards and many of those are being made today by the Columbus Washboard Factory in Logan, Ohio.
In 1895, Frederic Martin, Sr. began building washboards called “Bear Easy” in his back yard near Columbus, Ohio on Oxley Avenue in Grandview. The business didn’t really take off until his son, Frederic, Jr. expanded the business in 1925. Their peak year was in 1941 when they sold 1,287,757 washboards. During their lifetime they sold over 23,000,000. But eventually the business was sold and in 1999 moved to Logan, Ohio where the new owners promoted some alternative uses for washboards.
Today Columbus Washboard Company is the only company in the United States that makes washboards. They emphasize originality and high quality in over 80 different boards they manufacture. Signs posted throughout the small factory make it quite easy to do a self-guided tour. Workers eagerly answer any questions you might have. If you have a group of six or more, a guided tour will be provided.
Production has slowed and there are usually about 200 washoards made per day now. Once the materials are assembled, it takes less than a minute to make a washboard. They have the one-at-a-time assembly down to a science.
A crimper holds a roll of metal, which runs through a device that bends the metal to create various rubbing surfaces. The two most popular washboards are Maid Rite and Dubl Handi, which gets its name from double sides on the washboard. One side is rough for those tough spots, while the other side is fairly smooth for fine garments.
The fact that the washboards and all parts are Made in the USA creates a special added attraction. A Washboard Kit makes an excellent gift for members of the armed forces stationed away from civilization. Each kit includes a covered tub, washboard, bar of soap, clothesline, clothespins, and, of course, instructions.
If you have a member of the armed services who might have need of a washboard kit, Columbus Washboard Factory will send a kit free of charge. Send a name and address of someone in the armed services to Columbus Washboard Factory, 14 Gallagher Avenue, Logan, Ohio 43138. Donations are appreciated, but not required.
Once in a while the washboards get used in unique ways. One such time happened when a soldier received some steaks. How could they cook them? They used the wood on the washboard to start a fire and then used the rough metal surface for the grill. Those military guys think outside the box.
These boards get shipped around the world. Some of the frequent customers outside the United States live in England, France, Japan, Australia, and all of the tropical islands.
Columbus Washboard Factory has discovered other uses for the washboards besides laundry. At the Veterans hospital in Waco, Texas, they decided to cover the walls of the elevator and cafeteria with washboards. Guess they wanted a scrubbed clean look! Many people today use them for decorative purposes and some have a blackboard in place of the metal so it can be used for a message board.
Their gift shop includes many unique items besides all the various washboards. You can find products that Grandma would have used such as Laundry Powder, Bluing, and Dolly Clothespins.
Today one of the most popular uses is as a musical instrument. Every year on Father’s Day weekend, three blocks of downtown Logan are closed off to host the Washboard Music Festival. It is listed as the Most Unique Music Festival in the area. The streets overflow with toe-tapping music, arts and crafts, a quilt show, antique tractors, and even washboard solos. Perhaps you would like to purchase a washboard and join in the fun this year.
There is no easy way to arrive at Logan, Ohio. State Route 33 runs through the town in south central Ohio. The journey is not one for those who enjoy interstate travel, but perfect for a gypsy.