Spinning Stories

Laundry Memories, by Rita Pullen by cqualmann
July 24, 2009, 2:02 pm
Filed under: Contributions, Laundry Stories
I was brought up in South London, where we moved to a brand new 
council estate when I was 4, in 1952. I think the estate had 
been built by a private developer but taken over by the council 
because the developer’s business failed. It was quite luxurious 
by the usual standards of the day and we had a laundry room which 
served the 24 flats (in six small blocks).  

I loved going to the laundry room with my Mum.  
I remember it as a place where women laughed and had fun together 
(it probably didn’t feel like that to them!). Each woman had an 
allotted time when she could use the enormous sinks, the washing 
machines and the large drying cupboards. My Mum was a widow and 
went to work so her time was on a Saturday morning. Sometimes 
I’d help her carry cups of tea to the laundry room for the other 
women who shared our slot, and sometimes they would bring drinks 
for us.  

I think each woman would have done a whole week’s washing during 
her allotted time – I remember the warm, steamy smell and the 
flushed faces of my Mum and the others as they slogged away 
(still with scrubbing boards if they were using the sinks).  
The best bit was when I was trusted to “sweep” away the water 
from where my Mum was working with a large, heavy broom-type 
implement with a rubber blade. I felt as if I had joined an 
exclusive women’s club.

Very occasionally, the male caretaker of the flats would come 
in while the women were doing their washing. I don’t think 
I ever understood what was said to him but he would always 
disappear again very quickly, looking sheepish, while the 
women roared with laughter. It was a women’s space and I 
remember it very fondly. I really loved it.

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