Page 22 - Southington Magazine Issue 46 Autumn 2021
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Southington Magazine — Autumn 2021
This flfleet of Sanitary Laundry delivery trucks gave regular and reliable service. The drivers are, from left to right: Clifford Smith, Kenneth Smith, Albert Orfifino and Robert Delaney.
by Liz Kopec
Today with a flick of a switch or a turn of a dial we wash, rinse and spin our clothes clean in an automatic washing machine. It is hard for us to imagine what a drudgery laundry day was until the mid-twentieth century. When the first settlers arrived in Southington they were washing their clothes in nearby streams where women pounded the family wash on rocks and then rinsed it in the water. As household wa- ter became more available women washed the clothes at home in large wooden tubs poking and prodding the garments until they were clean. The industrial revolution produced the metal fluted wash board. Although this was an improvement in removing dirt and grime, it did nothing to shorten the workday.
The Romans were the first to recognize the need to establish commercial laundries. Men called fullers, filled large vats with human urine, added the villagers’ garments and stomped on them until they were clean. Urine later called chamber lye was used well into the 20th century to clean and whiten clothes.
Early laundries in America were largely owned and operated by Chinese immigrants who came to this country to help build the rail-
roads and then found other employment op- portunities unavailable to them due to racial prejudice. Undaunted they started laundries first in California and later all across the Unit- ed States. By 1890 Lee Wing and Sam Wah Lee had established a laundry at 36 Center Street in Southington. Their cousin Sing Wing opened a laundry in Plantsville in a building now occu- pied by Zingarella Restaurant.
Dorr Coleman, a Southington postal clerk, owner of a livery stable and a small theatre, opened Southington Laundry in the rear of Thomas Rich’s bicycle shop at 72 Main Street. It was not a great success. Many people had no confidence in a public laundry. After a few unproductive years Mr. Coleman sold the busi- ness, but ended up buying it back from bank- ruptcy after several repeated failures by other businessmen.
Finally in 1923, Severin Eberhardt, super- intendent of New England Laundry in Hart- ford, CT, bought the laundry from Coleman. Eberhardt immediately instituted changes. He renamed the laundry Southington Sanitary Laundry in hopes of relieving peoples’ health concerns with communal washing. He required male employees to wear white shirts and ties under long white coats. Female employees
Southington Sanitary

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