Lessons learned at the dry cleaners

Published 6:32 pm Monday, February 18, 2019

Like most young boys growing up there were jobs my dad had me do. Most were not hard, but it always seemed to interfere with the time I had with my friends or a good game of football in a nearby lot. Still, like most jobs, they had to be done and done before he came home for supper — all but one.

Saturdays at the dry cleaners were busy days and, except for Christmas holidays, usually our busiest. Everyone wanted their clothes to be cleaned on Saturday for church on Sunday or to have cleaned and pressed for work on the following Monday. Dad needed all of us there and ready to work after he opened at six o’clock that morning. Hughie always got there at eight. I was there shortly after Hughie. Mom got in about nine and Dorothy Cherry, Liz, Aguilla and Pearl tried to be there by 9:30. It was important that they got in as soon as the steam was up so they could start pressing clothes to have them ready by the afternoon. There were some benefits to working on Saturdays, and one was lunch.

For lunch on these busy days, my dad would tell me to go and ask all the employees what they wanted for lunch. This was a job I enjoyed because we all usually loved Bill’s Hot Dogs or hamburgers from the Dairy Palace! A big bag of hot dogs and sweets from Mr. Ammon’s bakery was always a hit and to wash it down, nothing better than a cold Dr Pepper. If I went to the Dairy Palace, it was two hamburgers and the biggest order of French fries for me. We took a break after the food arrived and sat in the back to eat and get caught up on the news from the week and listen to Paul Harvey on the radio to hear him say, “Paul Harvey, Good Day.” After that, it was back to work.

Sometimes in the winter months, Dad would have me go over to Day’s Fish Market to pick up a bushel of oysters, and he would steam them with the steam from our pressers. This was always my favorite! Steamed oysters! Hughie and I would sit down and eat them as if we had never had any. The ladies never really cared about them except for Mrs. Dorothy, and I would always open hers for her to eat. I loved oysters, but I loved Mrs. Dorothy Cherry more. After lunch, it would be time to deliver the clothes.

Dad’s pride and joy was his green Falcon station wagon that he had to deliver clothes. He had a bar welded across the back seat in order to hang up clothes that needed to be delivered. and in the very back were his tools that he used to work on the farm. It was my job to drive his car and deliver the Saturday clothes around town that he had picked up on Wednesday. My usual route was straight to Carver’s to check on my friends and see what was up for the evening and get a couple of chili dogs for the ride. I always thought my Dad never knew of my trip, but later I found out he knew; he just never said a word as long as I returned in his Falcon station wagon and got the clothes delivered.

Now, please, do not get me wrong, my job at the cleaners was not the most important one. I did bag the clothes and put them in the alphabetically arranged line for pick up, and Mom did the delivery clothes while I helped Liz in the front. Those days at the cleaners were teaching me life lessons in dealing with people and teaching me skills in customer service. They were to be used in my later life, but at that time I never knew it. Still, I will always love the lunches and the talks Hughie and I would have about life and hearing Mrs. Dorothy sing her gospel music.

They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, NC!

— Harold Jr.

Harold Robinson Jr. is a native of Washington.