Next time you are washing your hands and complain because the
water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how
things used to be....Here are some facts about the 1500s:
And that's the truth...(and whoever said that History was boring?!)
- Most people got married in June because they took their
yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However,
they were starting to smell so brides carried a bouquet of flowers
to hide the body odor.
- Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of
the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the
other sons and men, then the women and finally the children-last of
all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually
lose someone in it-hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with
the bath water."
- Houses had thatched roofs -- thick straw -- piled high, with no
wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so
all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the
roof. When it rained, it became slippery and sometimes the animals
would slip and fall off the roof. Hence, the saying "It's raining
cats and dogs."
- There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This
posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings
could really mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big
posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's
how canopy beds came into existence.
- The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt,
hence the saying "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that
would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh
(straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore
on, they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it
would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the
entranceway -- hence, a "thresh hold."
- In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle
that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added
things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much
meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the
pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day.
Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite a
while -- hence the rhyme, "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold,
peas porridge in the pot nine days old." Sometimes they could
obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came
over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of
wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off
a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the
- Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid
content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead
poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for
the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.
- Most people did not have pewter plates, but had trenchers, a piece
of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Often trenchers
were made from stale bread which was so old and hard that they
could be used for quite some time. Trenchers were never washed and
a lot of times worms and mold got into the wood and old bread. After
eating off wormy, moldy trenchers, one would get "trench mouth."
- Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom
of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or
- Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would
sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along
the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They
were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the
family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if
they would wake up-- hence the custom of holding a "wake."
- England is old and small and the local folks started running out of
places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take
the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening
these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks
on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive.
So they thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse,
lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to
a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night
(the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus, someone could
be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."