Good old days

28 September 2020

Howard Bradley harks back to the good old days of the 1950s (and before) when everything was pretty much seen in black and white and where lockdown and Covid-19 had never been heard of

Lockdown, a phrase that we had not probably heard of prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic, outside of adventure films and thrillers, is now a phrase that we are not likely to forget.

There is no doubt that this recent period of time has provided people with the opportunity to find all those things in their homes that had been missing for ages, but I have additionally taken this period of self-isolation to not only de-clutter but also look through the old Bradleys archives at some very old drycleaning artefacts in my possession, the oldest one being a humorous postcard from 1895 and entitled ‘French Dry Cleansing’.

The textile care magazines have proven interesting and have shone a light on our industry from the 1950s. I thought that you might find it of interest if I were to share some of the stories with you, albeit in abridged versions.

‘Your technical queries answered’ in a 1958 issue of Laundry & Journal, published a letters from a dry cleaner who had sent in a coat where the customer is complaining about colour loss on the hem after cleaning. The expert noted that not only had the coat been worn since cleaning as the hem was soiled, but also that the colour loss had been caused by a domestic cleaning product that the customer must have brushed against. Exactly the same complaint can still be heard today.

The magazines also cover criminal actions in their new sections and in one story a woman had just left a the bank with cash for the entire staff of a laundry – 30 of them. A man in a “high powered white sports car” leapt out of it, knocked the lady over, stole the pay roll and sped off. The entire wage for the laundry was lost which came to £250.00.

In a separate incident, a man was arrested having been linked to the scene of an indecent exposure incident when a drycleaning ticket was found in his possession. He apparently would enter a drycleaning establishment/laundry wearing a gaberdine raincoat and ask the assistant if “They could clean this” at which he would open up the raincoat to reveal that he had nothing on underneath except for a singlet.

One of the things that is very noticeably lacking from the way the textile care industry is today is that there were several reports on laundries/ Good old days Howard Bradley harks back to the good old days of the 1950s (and before) when everything was pretty much seen in black and white and where lockdown and Covid-19 had never been heard of cleaners entering competitions that were sponsored by suppliers and local councils. I particular loved the report on the Lincolnshire event that saw 23 vans from different companies and their drivers competing for the title of best van (see photgraph left).

The entrants not only had to show expertise in road routes and mapping, but they were also judged upon their attire and how clean and well looked after their van was. Sadly, we all think that we lead a much too busy life for something like this but it didn’t half foster good relationships with fellow businesses and pride in their jobs. They really were the good old days. Weren’t they?

GENTLE PROCESS: This postcard is from 1895 when the term ‘French Cleaning’ started to be used in the USA as an alternative for drycleaning or spirit cleaning. French cleaning was advertised as being an extremely gentle process and this explains the portrayal of these young children in an idyllic scene
CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE: The Laundry Record & Journal (published fortnightly by Heywood & Company of Drury Lane) published this photo of a Best Van event in August 1958

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