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Three Cheers for the Washateria

Let’s head down to Forth Worth today on a little sightseeing tour. And I’ll be delighted to be your tour guide.

There are lots of things to see and do in the “City of Cowboys and Culture,” as the slogan touts for the tourists. If you’re in a cowboy mood there’s the Stockyards with daily cattle drives, Sundance Square and the National Cowgirl Museum. But if your tastes are somewhat on a higher level we can check out the Amon Carter Museum of American Art or the Kimball Art Museum. Or how about the federal government’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing where greenbacks roll of printing presses?

We’re now in front of Billy Bob’s – the self proclaimed world’s largest honky-tonk, home to some might fine Texas music and country music and equally fine libations (should you choose to indulge). And here, on this very spot, stood the washateria. Now if you’re a local, you know what I’m talking about. But if “you ain’t from around here,” as the ultimate Texas put down goes, I’ll quietly whisper “laundromat, laundromat.”

So what’s the big deal about a washateria or laundromat on this spot? Ah, it is a big deal since that’s when it all started 80 years ago, on April 18, 1934 when the first coin operated laundry in the United States, called a washateria, opened. And when I think of this momentous anniversary I go back to our first week here, some 10 years ago now, when the gentleman came out to hook up our washer and dryer and mentioned that he came from Sherman where he just finished up a job at a washateria. My wife Marge and I exchanged blank looks and sort of shrugged while smiling, having no clue what he was talking about.

In time, we found out that in many regions of the south, and especially here in Texas, mention washateria and everyone knows what you’re talking about. The outlook for laundromats or washaterias is not rosy. According to trade publications the industry has been in decline for decades with competition from washers and dryers in our homes and drop-off and pick-up laundry services. But as the old adage goes, someone’s loss is another’s gain. With apartment construction in an unprecedented boom stage, and more and more people opting to live the carefree apartment life, the laundromats in these complexes are relevant again.

And since our country’s populace has always been fascinated by British royals, (no doubt by the latest fairy tale wedding and then the birth of baby royal) here is one more bit of semi important information: laundromats in Great Britain are known as “launderetts.” However, I highly doubt you’ll run into Kate and William there…