More Steps to Climb
Three stories from the apartment of the Panknin family was the communal laundry room located another staircase down in the basement. The management set up a schedule to regulate its usage to avoid congestion and quarrels among the renters. Each apartment unit could only use the laundry room at a given time and day of the month.
So in addition to the shopping routine, Frau Panknin climbed down the three flights of stairs with a heavy load of clothes. In the early 1960s, many women still washed their clothes by hand. Coin-operated washers and dryers were unknown during the post-war years in Germany. For Frau Panknin, the task was laborious and time-consuming. But the worst part of the laundry was yet to come. She packed the wet wash into the basket. Climbing up the stairs with a load now twice as heavy as before, she frequently stopped on the way up to catch her breath. When she finally reached the top floor, there were more stairs to struggle with to get to the attic, where she hung up the clothes to dry. The reader may be inclined to say. Doing this exhausting chore a few times per month was not all that bad for the sixty-year-old housewife. After all, she would have the rest of the time to relax and recover from all that hard work. But wait before we jump to a conclusion.
The apartment had no central heating. The cost of electricity was and still is very expensive in Germany. To heat your home with coal as a source of heat, however, was relatively cheap. Like all the apartment dwellers, the Panknin’s had a small lockable storage facility, where all the things for which there was not enough room in the apartment would be stored. That was also the place where the coal for heating and cooking was located. When I look back some sixty years and ponder about a fair division of labour for this family of four, I must say that it was shocking to learn how Frau Panknin took on this burden without the help from the twins or her husband.