A Video Interview With My Grandparents About Cloth Diapering in the 1950′s

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Sometimes on rare occasions I get to combine my actual college degree in History with my chosen profession as a cloth diaper blogger.  When I lived in NC for a few months I seized the opportunity to film an interview with my grandparents and share with the world their experiences with flats and handwashing.  While my maternal grandmother Peggy was camera shy and thus appears less frequently in the film, my step-paternal grandparents Bill and Ann (who are like my own parents) were born storytellers.  I lived with them for a while in high school and fondly recall their stories about their younger days.

The film is 12 minutes long but for anyone interested in how our grandparents used to live, including how they diapered their children, you’ll be glad you watched.   Both of my grandmothers had children during the mid 1950′s and my maternal grandmother continued into the early 1960′s.  Both exclusively used birdeye cotton flats and handwashed their diapers.  They discuss in depth how they boiled the diapers.  My Mamaw Ann exclaims in horror after I ask her if she sunned the stains out of her diapers that she would never hang stained diapers on the line [for the neighbors to see.]

I definitely consider the information about Flour Sacks to be the most interesting.   While I knew that flour sack towels make great cloth diapers I didn’t realize their origins!  Flour sacks used to come in floral patterns and once the flour was gone families would turn the sacks into dresses, tea towels, bonnets, and anything left over would then be used for diapers.  If this is interesting to you there are a few interviews about this topic on “Farming in the 30′s.”

I appreciate you taking the time to watch this short film. It is out of my own comfort zone (I even rented a professional mic for the audio) but it was so much fun to record, research for, and edit. Anyone interested in historical cloth diaper information should also follow me on Pinterest. There I keep a board on Historical Cloth Diapers full of vintage photographs of babies in cloth diapers, vintage cloth diaper ads, vintage detergent and diaper commericials, and even a few early disposable ads that reference cloth diapers when they were trying to knock the competition.

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Kim Rosas began Dirty Diaper Laundry in 2009 out of a desire to help more parents understand modern cloth diapers. She lives in Florida with her husband of 5 years and her two boys. Even though none of her boys wear diapers anymore she is still just as committed to promoting them. In her spare time Kim enjoys video editing, photography, and coffee.
  • Bekah

    I really enjoyed this video! Your grandparents are a wealth of information and so sweet. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/1Mommabear Trisha W.

    Very nice. Thanks for sharing it with us. Am I weird that it made me feel a bit weepy at times? Also, I loved the part about line drying being different now and the mention of bird poop.

  • Julie

    What a beautiful video and some great conversations preserved. My paternal grandmother died before my sister or I were born and my maternal grandmother died when I was 2 1/2 so I never got to know them. Your grandparents seem like such attentive parents. They’re such a good example to parents today. It makes me think I might’ve liked living in that time. I can see why babies were potty trained much sooner back then- they were changed immediately when they wet or pooped. Sort of like EC.

    I think it’s very interesting what they said about hanging clothes on the line to dry back then compared to now. I always wondered why people used to say they loved the smell of line dried laundry when I always hated the smell. I do line dry my diaper covers because if I do they smell better than if I don’t.

    This is a great video. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amber.wagley Amber Wagley

    Really enjoyed your video. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/freya76 Freya Mercer

    That was great!!! What an invaluable resource for the future–the details of daily life get lost in the history books. Awesome!

  • Rebecca S

    What a great interview. I’ve talked to my grandmother and my husband’s grandmother about cloth diapering their children. They mentioned very similar things- flats, Ivory Snow and boiling the diapers. Apparently it was very common for mothers to handwash and boil their baby’s diapers on a daily basis. It makes modern cloth seem so incredibly easy that I feel silly for my occasional complaints.

  • Lesa B

    That was wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing. I think maybe we have more “issues” with our diapers because we have much higher expectations. LOL We really do have it pretty easy : )

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristina.hull.7 Kristina Hull

    Great video. So interesting. I want to know how they never got leaks?

  • Kayla

    I loved this! What a great idea and you did such a nice job!

  • http://twitter.com/arobinsc Amy

    Did love this. Makes me wants to use flats more often hearing about how much easier they are to clean. I have used them in the past but use fitteds more with my WIGGLY toddler!

  • mere2005

    That was sweet! My grandmothers told me stories, but I wasn’t old enough to really ask them questions about everyday life. I can’t imagine changing a baby’s diaper on your lap! Trunk or back seat of car, yes. Ha. Even I’ve done that a few times.

    • kimrosas

      I’ve done it on my lap but with an all-in-one or a pocket. Not flats and pins!

  • Shalaina Simmons

    What an amazing video!! It totally inspired me to have a similar conversation with my grandmothers. I am actually really giddy about it :-) I already planned to start a majority of my stash off with flats and covers, but this video was a great positive reinforcement. Also, I’m going to look into to Ivory Snow a bit more.

    • Shalaina Simmons

      I spoke with my paternal grandmother last night and her reaction to me wanting to use cloth diapers was hilarious. She thought people only did that if they used a diaper service, since disposables are so popular now. Her biggest concerns were the cost and how I was going to sanitize the diapers without irritating the baby’s skin. We did talk about the different types of diapers, how I would not be using a diaper service, and how my great-grandmother used cloth for all five of her children (surprisingly my grandmother got away with never changing a single diaper even though she was the oldest by a number of years).

      • kimrosas

        That’s interesting that she only knew a diaper service!

        Please excuse typos and brevity. Sent from my iPhone

  • Emily

    Thank you so much for sharing your family’s history. I’ve talked with my mother-in-law about cloth diapering her children and she said that she washed them at home with the first four and then used a diaper service when the fifth came along 14 years later. She thinks that the prefolds and covers seem much easier than modern cloth diapers would be and that, of course, the savings is incomparable. She is one of the few people I know who is encouraging me to use cloth when we have children. I think it is amazing how much concern there is over diapers today (what brand to use, cloth or disposable, prefolds vs. AIO) when our grandmothers used one kind and that’s all there was no fuss about it (especially when your grandmother said she never had problems with leakage). What an eye opening video. Thanks again!

    • kimrosas

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! I often say that simple is the best when it comes to cloth diapers.

  • Kelly Davis

    Beautiful story! Thanks for sharing. Makes you feel so connected to them, I bet.

  • Tamara

    This is so great. What has happened to society. I am so glad that I have my diaper community online but locally there is no one I know who uses them. Plus, they act like I am a weirdo for wanting to use them:(. I just love these articles you are writing about the history of cloth diapers:). Thank you for Kim and thank you to your wonderful Grandparents :).


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