ANOTHER LAUNDRY IN ANOTHER TIME
JUNE 4, 2012
Several months ago, I wrote about my very first job where I received an actual
paycheck with the deductions for whatever they took out in the late 1930’s. What I
ended up with was $13.76, and you can bet the farm that I was pleased as punch. (No
Tequila in those days.) That job was during my softball career, and was in a laundry
in Orange, CA. The sponsors of the team wanted to keep the pitcher and catcher
(me) in tow so we could win the World’s Championship. I helped Co-Owner Vera in
the office department. Elwood, her husband, took care of the heavy work in the back
checking in the laundry — the pitcher, Lois, helped him mark and sort. Well, she
had never bothered to learn to type, so it was her own doing, or more like no doing.
I think it first dawned on me at this point that if you wanted to be in business
you should definitely be the owner.
Now we will go down through about 25 years, and at this point in time, I am
on my 4th out of 5 saloons I had owned. My Realtor friend, Vic — a real estate guru –
— calls me one day, saying he has a very good deal for Gary, my son: “Susie, (his
nickname for me) you know the place; it’s Art’s Fluff and Fold laundry up on No.
Coast Blvd. This would be just the thing to give Gary something to do, and start
earning some money.” I said, “Gee, Vic, I will have to talk this over with Gary, so call
me back in a few days.” This Fluff and Fold is where the customers bring in their
dirties — clothing and towels and linens – then it was returned to them all nice and
clean in very neatly tied bundles. I talked it over with Gary, and he showed a little
enthusiasm. He had finished high school, and was just wandering around with his
life, mainly honing his skills as a surfer. He was a very good one.
When the Guru, Vic called back, I said, “Well, Vic, maybe you do have a
pretty good idea, and it’s worth the try since Art is asking only $1200 for this little
business. I’ll find Gary, and we’ll come by your office to sign the offer.” The purchase
price included all the equipment: a whole bunch of washers, a whole bunch of
dryers, a couple of huge washers and dryers for BIG stuff. I am saying “a whole
bunch” simply because my memory card for this stuff is missing. I can see it in my
mind’s eye, but just can’t see how many.
The papers were drawn up, and we went to escrow, so while that was going
on, Gary and I went up to the Fluff and Fold several times to be taught how to fold
the sheets, or the clothing, and putting them in neat stacks for the customers to pick
up. If there were shirts in the customers’ clothes, we would hang them on a hanger.
We also took in dry cleaning, which was picked up every day by a dry cleaner from
Santa Ana, then delivered when ready.
We started out with me helping Gary since my days were free, then he could
find someone to help him out permanently. It only took 2 to tango in this business.
Pretty soon he was appearing less and less on the premises to help me get out from
under all those dirty clothes. It was a good thing that Gail, one of my bar clients,
would stop by to shoot the breeze, and she would step in and help me — saving the
day. She had a great sense of humor, and we always had some good laughs. After
some very funny dialogue one afternoon, I put it right to her: “Gail, why don’t you
come and be part of this great organization? You can be Asst. Boss.”
“Now, Silver Bullet (her nickname for me,) I can see you need me desperately, and
you make me laugh, so why not? If you can’t pay the high wages I would demand,
you can just forget about any green stuff being placed on your bar when I order a
drink — just mark it down on that “House Drinks” list you keep next to the cash
register.” I replied, “That’s great, then we don’t have to keep any books around here.”
Gail was an artist from Kansas City, and I think her dad would send her out to
Laguna Beach all the time because artist-types were probably not all that popular in
K.C. and probably did not fit in with his Cadillac Agency. Besides, she was also a free
spirit and was not about to be cooped up in the inner sanctums of an automobile
agency where all the office work took place.
So there we were washing and drying, fluffing and folding, cracking up at our
own jokes, having a great, old time.
And THEN there was Gary, with thousands of business cards announcing his
ownership of the FLUFF AND FOLD — handing them out on the Main Beach in
Laguna, or at the foot of Brook Street where all the surfers would be hanging out
or “hanging ten.” In between waves — he was an excellent surfer —, he would have
plenty of time to pass out more. For all I know, he could’ve been up in Corona del
Mar, or he could’ve gone south to San Onofre to run into surfers there at
Gail and I toiled away for months at Gary’s Fluff and Fold. We had some very
interesting customers. One was a very well-known movie star with a summer home
in exclusive Emerald Bay at the northern city limits of Laguna Beach. She and her
husband had either 6 or 8 kids (there I go again: I sure need to find that memory
card.) When the big, black limousine parked out in front, we knew we were in for it.
If the Chauffeur got out of the car to bring in the stuff, it meant lots and lots of big
black bags, maybe 8 or 10. When Mrs. C. drove up and got out, she had only a
couple of smaller bags. Never did see the Husband. Now, in retrospect, maybe the
Chauffeur was the Husband.
Gary’s cards actually did bring in some business from the surfing population.
Of course, they never did have much money, and their belongings would sometimes
sit on the pick-up shelves for months before they would dig up enough moola to
retrieve their stack of clothes. Then there were some stacks that never would be
picked up. I figured they might be over in the Islands, or maybe in Australia —
always on the prowl to find and ride the “big” one.
The “glamour” of our job was starting to wear thin — Gail and I were running
out of laughs. We could go over to the Main Beach and sit in front of my bar and get
more laughs just people watching the sunbathers in some of their get-ups — I can
visualize some pretty funny scenes. Now there would be no more times when Gary
would come in to give a little help, but then after he left we wouldn’t be finding an
IOU for 10 or 20 bucks in the till.
I called my guru, Vic, and simply said, “SELL!” He countered back with “Why
can’t you have Gary take over? It’s about time.” My retort to that was, “Well, no,
that’s out. He is in absentia as owner of the hip Fluff and Fold on North Coast Hwy
of Laguna Beach. He is in Hawaii visiting with his biological mom, but is more apt to
be looking for that “big” one up on the north end of the Island at Makaha.
Many a time I watched him take those Makaha waves. What memories!
MONDAYS WITH MELITAS,
JUNE 4, 2012