Tools of the Laundry Trade

Relationship: Child of im/migrant

Many years after my father’s death and the closing of my parents’ “Chinese Hand Laundry" in West Philadelphia, I was helping my mom clean and sort through items in the laundry. My mom and brother were finally moving from a place they had called home and worked for over 35 years to a house with a porch in the Fairmount area of Philadelphia. As I was digging in a large metal wash bin, I found an old water spray can among the canvas laundry bags. The can measured about 3 inches in diameter, 3 inches high, with a conical mouthpiece about 6 inches long. It immediately brought back memories of the first laundry where my parents worked and lived located around the corner. I lived at this laundry for the first 12 years of my life. I remember seeing my father daily blowing into the conical tube to dampen clothes.  This was how it was done before steam irons and plastic spray bottles became common laundry items. My father would store this can with his other tools of the trade: his brush and ink set to mark the clothes and his abacus to total his sales.

Place(s): Philadelphia

– Jackie Fong, Chinese American Citizens Alliance

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant