Spinning Stories

The Heissmangel, by Barnaby Hewlett by cqualmann
July 24, 2009, 10:00 am
Filed under: Contemporary Launderettes, Contributions, Laundry Stories
I grew up in Germany, and my Mum used to take the bedlinen to a
steam-ironing place in town, known to me only as the "Heissmangel",
literally "heat-press". It was a tiny doorway into a small
basement room, which I had to stoop to get into, even as a
child ( I was fairly tall even then). The steam was coming
out of the windows and doorway in Winter and it smelt like a
hot tumbledrier mixed with baking smells, wonderfully warm in
winter. The room was dominated by a large rotary iron, and at
least three women working it constantly, who were always very
pleased to see me and at least one of them would drop what
they were doing and come over and fuss over me.
I was usually given a handful of sweets and I remember sitting 
on the baskets of clean laundry waiting to be pressed, eating 
gummi-bears or similar things, definitely no chocolate. I was 
fascinated by the constant motion of the iron, I was always 
told to keep my hands away from it, and the various garments 
and sheets were pulled through it at great speed, but the 
women were always chatting away happily and barely paying any 
attention to what they were doing, it was so automatic to them 
they were able to focus on gossiping about anything and everything.
I took the linen round there a few years back, and the same women
were still there, really getting on now but still chatting away.
Of all the things that had changed in the place I grew up in, 
these women, the steam and the wonderful smell were exactly as 
I had left them.
I didn't get any sweets this time though.

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