Saturday Night Bath

My dad has been telling his kids this story for years now and every time we hear it, it gets better and better. I think my wife usually laughs the loudest. Here it is:

This took place when the family lived down in "Flats" as my dad tells it. The area would be where Aliso Village is now, on 1st Street, a few blocks west of Boyle Avenue. They lived in one of the upper units.

During this time, the smaller kids were bathed on a Saturday night in the kitchen in a small metal tub. My dad says he was about 5 years old at the time.

Since Grandma was probably tired around this time of the day, and rightly so, she would enlist the help of some of the older children.

The water was heated on the stove and poured into the tub. The bar soap they used was a crude, homemade blend of lye and other caustic ingredients made by Grandma herself.

Uncle Alex was bathed first, Aunt Martha was second, and my dad last. Being last meant that not only was there scum floating on the water, but that the water itself was getting a little cold by this time.

My dad says that one of his older sisters sometimes Dora or Delia or maybe one of the others, would wash him real well but leave him literally covered with soap, also leaving big gobs of soap in his hair. According to my dad, after sitting there for five minutes with his eyes closed so that the soap wouldn't burn his eyes, he would realize that the room was a little too quiet. He would open his eyes and find no one else was around. Since the water was getting very cold by now he would normally yell, "Hey!", but get no response. "Hey!", he would yell again after a few more minutes. This time someone would come in and either smack him on the head or just yell back, "Shut up!". He said that if they smacked him on the head, he would see soap bubbles fly everywhere. In the meantime, the soap in his hair was already starting to develop cement-like qualities. He would wait a while, then begin yelling again, "Hey! Someone get me out!". This would go on until the water was freezing.

There he sat, stripped of his clothes, his dignity, and the right to a decent rinse.