IRH - The Sanitary Laundry

This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.

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IRH - The Sanitary Laundry

Post by David » Tue March 6, 2018, 9:12 pm

The Sanitary Laundry
washing clothes
1910's - 1950's
by: Russ Lancaster
Most of us remember the Sanitary Laundry on Vance Street having walked past it or used its services over the years. But, it was before our time and its origination was not on Vance Street.
Sometime around 1913, it existed on Main Street next to the Opera House. It was purchased by J. S. Birmingham and J. C. Brittingham. The equipment needed repair and upgrading and the new owners either bought or got permission from the Lackey family to rebuild the laundry on Vance Street where it was to remain as long as I remember.
In 1920 the Sanitary Laundry (or Sanitary Steam Laundry, as it was known back then) handled much more than local citizen's laundry. Most locals did their own laundry in their own way not being able to afford to pay someone else to do what they already knew how to do themselves. The laundry handled all the linen work for hotels from Monroe, Sanford, Raleigh and the Carolina Beaches as well as the laundry for the Seaboard Hotel. The out of town laundry was shipped into Hamlet by Railroad Express.
The Sanitary Laundry was listed in the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph directory in 1924 in bold letters with a telephone number of 200.
Having been born in 1941 to a family that still did their own laundry, I knew the ways my mom took care of this back wrenching business. I remember watching her bend over a tin tub with a washboard and scrubbing the clothes by hand. The water would then be replaced with fresh water for rinsing the suds out and the clothes put out on a clothes line to dry in fresh air. I watched her do this many times back in the early 1940's when we lived upstairs in the Shortridge house on Oak Street.
The Shortridges then bought a primitive washing machine (probably modern at the time) with a ringer. The wringer was electrically powered and consisted of two wooden rollers rotating in opposite directions through which the dripping clothes were fed. This cut the drying time on the clothes line considerably and my mom was allowed to use it as often as needed.
I don't remember when my folks got their first washing machine but it was probably in the late 1940's. I know my mom used the services of Mr. Meacham who owned a "Washeteria" down on the lower part of Washington Avenue during the mid to late 1940's. He had a garage looking type building filled with washers. One of my chores was to haul the dirty laundry, bundled up in bed sheets, in my wagon down to him. He would tell me what time to come back and pick up the cleaned laundry and what the charges would be. I would then return and pick up the still damp laundry (which now weighed twice as much) and pull it back up the hill to be hung out on the clothes line.
My first sight of the Sanitary Laundry that I remember is sometime in the 1940's when our "Washington Street Gang" of young boys would head to the Hamlet Theater for Saturday Matinees. We would "short cut" through the back of the Hamlet Hospital and come out on Vance Street right where Pansy Fetner School sat across from the Hospital. Down Vance Street, to Raleigh Street and down Main Street was our route to the theater.
My attention to the Sanitary Laundry was drawn by the steam that came from its side walls and the aroma of freshly washed laundry one wintry day. We slowed down, stood in the steam and absorbed the smells and sounds coming from that building. It was a "boy" thing for us to all take turns standing in the steam and to not be afraid.
The Sanitary Laundry of the 1940's and 50's offered pick up and delivery service. They had a few trucks that had pre-determined routes and the routine was simple. Each area of town had a prescribed "laundry day" for pick up by the route drivers. The dirty laundry would be bundled up in bed sheets and left on front porches. A driver would pick it up, tag it and take it to the laundry for cleaning. A few days later, all would be returned. Everything would not only be clean, it would be ironed and starched to the owner's preferences and bundled neatly in brown wrapping paper. The driver would collect upon delivery if the owner were at home or leave a bill that was usually paid in person by the recipient at the Sanitary Laundry.
Paying the bill was simple, I was given the money to do such a thing many times. The office was just beyond the front door on Vance Street. There were about five or six steps up to the door and a counter just to the right as you entered the business. One need only to show the bill to the cashier, a duplicate would be produced and payment be made. There wasn't much conversation needed; it was handled quickly and efficiently.
I remember the person who was probably the longest tenured driver of Sanitary Laundry. I remember his name as only "Ed." He was a frequent visitor to our house as we became "rich" enough to take advantage of someone else doing our laundry. He would come by on the appointed days to pick up our laundry and deliver it back so neatly wrapped a few days later. He was a friendly man. I never saw him without a smile. As I grew older and became a teen ager, I noticed him at Hamlet High School football teams as a spectator. I regret that I don't remember his last name (don't know that I ever did). But I do remember him as being around average height and in good physical shape. And, he is one of the few folks I ever knew that always had a smile. He was courteous to folks both young and old and I will not forget him. You probably remember him too know that I have reminded you of times past.
When I was around 10 years old or so, my dad took a second job for a while with the Sanitary Laundry as a delivery man much like Ed who did it full time. My dad was a Yardmaster for the Seaboard Air Line Railroad but was always looking for a way to make a few extra dollars. I remember being thrilled when he drove home with one of those Sanitary Laundry vans and during one summer and on Saturdays one school year, I helped him out on his rounds. I learned that Ed's job was tougher than it seemed.
Picking up the dirty laundry around my dad's route was not as easy as it seemed. Most times, it would be a week's worth of laundry piled up on every front porch of every house on his route to be picked up. The bundles were heavy and the smell was unpleasant. I helped pick up those bundles and they were tagged and thrown into the back of the van where the aroma became more pungent as the day wore on and the bundles piled up.
Delivery day was much easier. The clothes and things were always neatly wrapped and the smell was clean and fresh as we took them back to their rightful owners. The second job soon became more than my dad was willing to handle and he gave it up. I learned as a youngster what hard work was about helping my dad on those routes.
The Sanitary Laundry may or may not be still in existence on Vance Street in Hamlet as I write this story so many years later; one of our readers will have to let me know. But I remember that place and those trucks. I remember the smells and sounds of that place and standing in the vented steam to show my friends I was as brave as they. I remember "Ed" and the many years he worked there. I may have some of the facts wrong in this tale so many years after I lived them, but am thankful that by writing this I can refresh both your and my memories with the way things were so long ago in the peaceful town so many of us grew up in. And I am thankful that for one more day I can say again.... I remember Hamlet.
**note** It didn't take long after I wrote this to get more info. The following was provided by Flake Martin within hours of my writing this tale:
Ed in your Sanitary Laundry story was Ed Evans who lived over behind City Hall. His daughter Becky and I graduated from HHS in 1966. I believe she is now married to Cary Boney. Another of Ed's daughters lives in Wilmington.
A few years ago I had the real pleasure of getting to know Ed again as I visited him each week in Pinelake Nursing Home in Carthage. (Flake Martin, 2/23/02)

And yet another pice of info, this time from Charlie McKee: His name was Ed Evans. He was the brother of Mr. Evans who lived up on Enwistle Street. This was the family of Mickey, Jane, and Tony Evans. Tony became a very good golfer and won several Army tournaments and later and now a club professional and lives in Cayce, S. C. He married Ann Cato of Hamlet.

eddie hobbs
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Re: IRH - The Sanitary Laundry

Post by eddie hobbs » Tue March 6, 2018, 11:07 pm

Becky Evans Boney and husband Carey live south of Wallace,NC in Pender County in the restored family home. She and Carey are both retired. She is a glass artist and Carey restores old railroad motor cars.

freddie hassler
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Re: IRH - The Sanitary Laundry

Post by freddie hassler » Wed March 7, 2018, 12:29 am

I used Sanitary Laundry After High School in1964-'65 until I joined the USAF for my dress shirts and pants, they did great work for a low price :D

Wayne Terry
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Location: Rock Hill, SC

Re: IRH - The Sanitary Laundry

Post by Wayne Terry » Thu March 8, 2018, 7:25 pm

I worked for John Evans during the summer, holidays, etc. in 1964 and part of 1965 until I moved to Atlanta. Great family and I thoroughly enjoyed working for the Evan's. I drove the commercial truck picking up and delivering to a number of motels, the RC Hospital, and the most interesting was the old Terminal Hotel. Also would pick up the monster greasy rag trailer from the shop at the railroad yard.. Also cleaned carpets in the homes sometimes, although we did clean a number of big rugs "on the floor" at the laundry. The bad one was the once a month trip to the reform school. I hated that trip cause the clothes I brought back really were "rank".

I played in Pro-Am golf tournament a number of years ago and Big Tony was playing. I got to talk to him for a while on the putting green. The first time I ever caddied at Richmond Country Club, I carried two bags and one was Tony's. That was in the Dark Ages!

I think Tony still owns a par 3 course and gives lessons in Columbia. My son lived in an apartment complex next to that course when he was in college at the University of South Carolina. I drove by there about 3 weeks ago with the grand kids headed to the zoo in Cola.

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