2015-07-03 / Travel

Ode to my Father

Part 9: The Laundry and the Filling Station
By Warner M. Montgomery, Ph.D.


This may have been the first filling station in Williamsburg County, but it no longer operates. This may have been the first filling station in Williamsburg County, but it no longer operates. (Note: This series is from my father’s memoirs I found long after his death.)

Even though my father got “fired” from picking tobacco worms, he was not discouraged. He had learned to drive by sitting in his father’s lap and steering his Model T Ford Mail Delivery Truck. And, back then, police never checked drivers’ licenses unless there was an accident.

Laundry technology reached rural South Carolina soon after WWI. Mechanical wringers were replacing hand twisting. Washboards were being replaced by hand-operated washing machines which were being replaced by electrically powered agitators. Hanging clothes on lines in the backyard was being replaced by perforated spinning tubs blowing heated air through the clothes. All of this was happening in little Greeleyville.


In the 1930s, S.C. allowed anyone over 12 years old to obtain a metal “dog tag” drivers’ license by completing an application and paying a fee of 50 cents. In the 1930s, S.C. allowed anyone over 12 years old to obtain a metal “dog tag” drivers’ license by completing an application and paying a fee of 50 cents. Daddy realized he could make some money on this, so he made friends with the Chinaman who ran the “Pick Up & Deliver” laundry business in Greeleyville, and he soon had a specialized “Pick Up & Deliver” route. Men wore stiff collars which could not be washed, dried, and starched at home...so, the Chinese laundry was able to seize that market, and needed my father to expand the business.

Daddy told me of this business venture as a way to get me into business: “Papa would let me use his mail truck to pick up and deliver men’s collars to the Chinese laundry. I did this on the weekend with a car full of my school friends. It was a lot of fun, and I became popular. But, as more and more men went to soft collars, my business suffered, and the Chinese laundry moved away. I had to look for a new job.”


The first laundry in Greeleyville was a Chinese Laundry similar to this one. The Chinaman lost out to soft collars. The first laundry in Greeleyville was a Chinese Laundry similar to this one. The Chinaman lost out to soft collars. My father’s next job was working in a filling station on Saturdays. He admitted to me, “Papa didn’t want me to be exposed to the environment of the filling station and ordered me to stop working there. This was probably the first time I disobeyed Papa. I’d wait until he went to work, and then I would go to work at the station. Since Papa was the station’s best customer, I’m sure Papa told him to fire me or he would take his business elsewhere.”

Next week: Clerking at Fox Dry Goods

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