Our London Chronicler, wpnewington, shares his childhood memories of launderettes.
“I think I was taken to a launderette by my mother from when I was two years old (maybe even younger) until I was about eleven. Once you reached an age, or more likely a useful height, you could help fold large sheets out of the tumble dryer.
Holding the corners as high as you could, never twisting, meeting in the middle.
But as a toddler you would read the second hand comics and sit on the hot tops of machines warming your legs that were sometimes in shorts much too early or much too late in the calendar year. The whirring of the machines and the smell that cannot be described but was probably warm, old vests and pants. In the 60’s everything was white or off white.
The best bit about a launderette, though, was being in there when it was raining. They always had large windows to look out on passing life, like a large TV screen watching the passing locals often getting wet. You could draw pictures in the steamed windows and watch the other customers, who you thought were different from you. I knew that these people were often the lesser dregs of life and I wondered why WE were there.
Obviously I know now. We were them. Single parent family living in a basement slum with no chance of an appliance for washing clothes.
With the greatest of respect to all, I have always thought launderettes were a seedier side of life where the poor went. I have seen very little to change my mind over the years. There is an ambiance about them that makes me want to leave very quickly. Never making eye contact with others there in case we both accept and acknowledge the connected stigma.
Although they are still, and always will be, the place to be, dry and warm when needed.”
All images © wpnewington