One has to remember that the houses in Plackett’s yard were built when there was no running water or electricity. There was coal gas from a plant on Orchard Road. This was piped around town and into houses. At the plant the gas was stored in huge floating tanks, and as kids we would often look at the height of these tanks to see how much gas was available. The gas lamps on the streets were turned on and lit by the lamplighter at night and turn off in the morning. In later years, a preset clock did this. In houses there was usually a ring burner on the hearth, and an outlet in the middle of the ceilin of the kitchen/living room. This room was illuminated by a hanging mantle lamp. Other rooms were lit by candles.
The water for all purposes was obtained from the pump in front of York’s the middle house in the long row. So there were no flush toilets or bath tubs. For washing clothes, a row of washhouses were provided. These were small brick buildings used to store tools and coal. In one corner was a built-in boiler with fireplace and chimney. The lead boiler was filled with water which had been carried across the yard from the pump. A wood and coal fire was lit and the clothes boiled. They were aggitated with a washstick, or taken out and rubbed on a washboard. The rare hot water was used for washing ourselves,or carried across the yard to scrub floors.
The washhouses were also used for playhouses on rainy days. We would pack as many as ten children on improvised seating, and have a magic lantern show. The lantern was illuminated by a candle which threw the circle of light onto a white sheet. A favourite game was to throw shadows of butterflies,rabbits, etc. made by contorted hands. A lot was left to our imagination, but all seemed to get pleasure from it.
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