Taken to the Cleaners…

Whenever I get a reference question that causes me to pull an old volume of the Old Gold and Black from the shelf, I know I’ll find something interesting or funny to write about.  Today I was looking up a sports score from 1942 (as an aside, it was not a good season for Terrier football that year, as evidenced by the lead sentence “Coach Petoskey’s victory-starved Terriers will make their fourth bid for their first gridiron triumph of the season…”) when I came across an amusing article complaining about something.

Yeah, I know, students complaining about something at the college in the page of the student newspaper.  That never happens.

In this case, they were complaining about the laundry service on campus.  Yes, laundry service.

I quote from the article:

“Seeking to secure campus opinion on some subject of current interest, the Old Gold and Black sent out a writer to interview a representative number of boarding students on the following question: “What is your opinion of the present laundry system?”

“The current laundry system is a drastic change from that of last year in which more than one laundry was represented in the halls by students. This year the entire business has been centralized and placed under the management of one student, with full .and obstructed rights to all laundry and dry-cleaning business collected in the halls.”

Of the students polled, 76% were opposed, 19% were indifferent, and 5% were in favor.  Opposition centered on the creation of a monopoly for one service, and some suggested this had actually reduced the quality of service.  Some students said that it was “a one day service last year and a one week service this year.”  Others thought the service was no different or even better.  Some of those who supported the change thought that the lack of transportation around the city (this was the first year of World War II) made consolidating the service understandable.

What do we make of this?  First, remember, this is the 1940s and I’m guessing a lot of people had to send their clothes out to be laundered.  The campus dorms would not have had washing machines.  Also, people didn’t have closets full of clothes at this point, so being without a large chunk of your wardrobe for several days could be a bigger problem than you might think.  And finally, and maybe most importantly: students don’t like change.

By Phillip Stone

I've been the archivist of Wofford College and the South Carolina United Methodist since 1999. I'll be sharing college, Methodist, and local history, documents, photographs, and other interesting stories on this blog, which I've been keeping since December 2007.