World War II was a time of secrets. “Loose lips sink ships” and other pithy sayings ruled everyone’s lives.
The casual person occupying the middle pew half-way back in the congregation at Sunday church services might have been a cold-blooded spy. The most innocent of people might have been as guilty as sin.
And so it was with Beverly Mahan, aka Beverly Rumen. Beverly was the most proper of girls. In dress, in manner, and in every way, she was Miss Goodytwoshoes.
And yet, she was the most treacherous of spies, in an ironic sense. Here was her greatest sin.
One Monday, after a Sunday in which she was dressed so perfectly at the Presbyterian Church that it would have brought tears to the eyes of John Calvin, she secretly extracted several pairs of new panties from a neighbor’s clothesline.
She “baptized” them in heavy starch that her mother had made for dress shirt collars, and hung the panties back up to dry.
The neighborhood was aghast! But pretty, perky Beverly kept her mouth shut. No one ever solved the problem of the pilferage.
Whatever else this scandalous deed did for the community, it tended to formalize rules for clotheslines:
1. Hang the socks by the toes, not the tops.
2. Hang pants by the bottom/cuffs, not the waistbands.
3. Wash the clotheslines before hanging any clothes by walking the entire length of each line holding a damp cloth around the lines.
4. Hang clothes in a certain order – always hang “whites” with “whites,” and hang them first.
5. Never hang a shirt by the shoulders, always by the tail. What would the neighbors think?
6. NEVER hang clothes on the weekend, especially Sunday.
7. Hang sheets and towels on the outside lines so you could hide your “unmentionables” in the middle (perverts and busybodies, y’know).
8. Embrace sub-zero weather – clothes would “freeze-dry.”
9. Always gather the clothespins when taking down dry clothes.
10. Line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothespins, but shared one of the clothespins with the next washed item.
11. Clothes must be off of the lines before dinner, neatly folded in the clothes basket and ready to be ironed.
It was one of the great mysteries of World War II and, I’m afraid, must remain so.