Sunday, August 18, 2013

Life at the Laundromat

I first want to thank Ed for writing about the car lot. That was a great post that brought tears to my eyes, and I can't wait to read more.

I was 18 when Mom and Dad moved to Overland Auto. The day they moved in was the day I moved out. Like many teenagers, I was not that helpful and mostly thought of myself. When Dad got after me for not helping out more with the move, I figured it was my time to exit.

With barely a goodbye, I took off for college in a car Grandma McEuen bought in order for me to use. It essentially became my car. I've always felt disappointed in the way I left and for not helping out more.

After living with Grandma Mc for a year, I was so excited to move back home for a summer, and it was me who was bawling when I had to leave that second time.

So that summer was about the only time I lived at Overland Auto, and I loved it.

If Ed moved into the car lot when he was about 6, the family moved into The Wash Tub Laundromat in Heyburn, Idaho, when I was age 4.

Before we lived in the Laundromat, we lived in a home on the Snake River. I loved that home. It was on a cul de sac, and the backyard was the river. But it was probably smart Mom and Dad moved from there, as I'm not sure how many of us would be alive today. I distinctly remember one night when Grandpa and Grandma McEuen were visiting, and Dad and Grandpa went down to the river to shoot some guns. I went down with them, or perhaps I followed them without telling anyone, but I was left down there. I tried climbing up the side of the embankment back to the house, but I kept slipping. Someone eventually saw that I was missing and helped me back. That's one of my oldest memories.

So my parents moved to the Laundromat. I think they moved to the Laundromat, because Mom could stay at home, while at the same time bring in a little income by running the Laundromat. Mom and Dad had an entrepreneurial spirit. In addition to running the Laundromat, Dad also ran a custodial job at nights. During the day he sold cars for Don Ovitt Chevrolet, and was quite successful, even winning a trip to Hawaii for him and Mom when he sold the most cars one year.

A nice home was connected to the Laundromat, and my parents remodeled the basement to have a big, 1970s looking spaceship fireplace.

There was the main floor with a living room, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom; an upstairs with two bedrooms and a bathroom; and a downstairs with a family room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. A flight of stairs behind a door in the main area led people to the back area of the Laundromat. In the back area of the Laundromat is where we stored a lot of pop, and we always had plenty of Pepsi, so that Uncle Gail could come get some on a Sunday and not break the Sabbath.

At this time, Mary was "the baby of the family." (Note: Christensons' tell time by who the baby of the family is. "Let's see, Mary was the baby of the family, so it must have been around 1980.")

I have a ton of memories from the Laundromat. Talk about your magical places! This was before Nintendo, and even a little before Atari (or maybe the same time), and the Laundromat had a pinball machine and Space Invaders! And we had a snack machine and pop machine.

At night, we'd strap on our roller skates and skate around the washing machines.

But I think the Laundromat was also a lot of work. Sunday was Mom's only day off. Not only did owning the Laundromat entail the upkeep of washers and dryers, filling change machines, and stocking laundry detergent and food machines; but it also included doing laundry for local motels. Mom would drive around two or three days a week picking up big bags of laundry from local motels, bringing them back to the Laundromat, washing and folding them, then taking them back when she picked up the dirty ones.

And usually she did all this with three kids in tow: me, B.J., and Mary.

Amy, who was maybe about 11 or 12, became Mom's right-arm girl. She helped with the washing and folding. And when we did eventually sell the Laundromat, Amy was hired at the age of 12 by the new owner of the Laundromat to wash and fold laundry. So essentially, Amy's work ethic was born in that place, and now she's a high-powered attorney who still washes people's dirty laundry. (Bah, dum, bum.)

I started kindergarten at Mrs. Thaxton's in Burley, Idaho. This was before Idaho included kindergarten as part of a public education. Dad would drive me to Mrs. Thaxton's, and Mom would pick me up.

In the afternoon, Mom would make me take a nap, but I would sneak upstairs to watch her watch Donahue and The Edge of Night. This was also during the Luke and Laura years on General Hospital, my mom's favorite soap opera.

One time, my dad somehow sold a car to someone or something, but we found a big truck outside our home with a trampoline on top.

We could not resist a trampoline on the back of a truck bed. Though dad told us not to jump on it, we of course climbed up there to jump. We all got spankings for doing so, and were told never to do that again.

But Doug and I decided we'd sleep up there in the middle of the night, and awake when the sun came up and no one would find out. And to this day no one has...doh!

I think my dad rented a trampoline for our family every summer we lived there. I remember the Jeppesens coming over, and we'd jump and pretend we were the Greatest American Hero.

"Believe it or not, I'm walking on air, I never thought I could feel so freeeeee. Flying away, a wing on a prayer. Who could it be? Believe it or not, it's just meeeee."
I remember jumping on the trampoline as a way to pass time waiting for my sister Hetty to be born, and how excited we were to meet her.

I've heard stories that my brother Brian jumped out of our home's second-story window onto the trampoline, but I can't confirm said stories. Jumping out of the second-story window was completely forbidden by Mom and Dad, so the likelihood that it happened is pretty high.

Another time at the Laundromat, there was a large potato-hauling truck outside. I have no idea why it was parked there. The truck had two wooden sides that would come down to make a flatbed. I don't think it had a back panel.

At any rate, B.J., Mary, and I decided it would be a great place to play. So Mary and B.J. managed to get into the back of the truck. Mary was leaning against one side of the panels, while I figured out what this chain thing did.


It looks like the chain thing undid the side panel, causing the side panel to swing down. And Mary with it. She landed right on her forehead on the hard rocks below.

I ran to get Mom, telling her I had no idea in the whole wide world how that panel came down. Mary had a large, purple bump forming in the middle of her head. Mom rushed her to the hospital. She looked like the child of Frankenstein, but no permanent damage remained (I hope).

But the Laundromat proved to be too much to handle, and Mom and Dad moved the family to the house on Q Street in Heyburn. We were all very sad. But it was probably a wise move.

The night before we moved, we were with all the cousins at Grandma Christenson's house in Heyburn. We were all protesting the move, because the cousins also liked visiting the Laundromat and being able to skate and play Space Invaders. I remember saying, "Maybe if I broke my leg, they wouldn't move." The logic of a child.

But wouldn't you know it? The next day while moving, Dad asked me to hold the door open for the movers as they transported our large, upright piano out of the house and down the front steps.

I did as a I was told, and the inept movers managed to lose their grip on the piano as it tumbled onto my foot and off our front steps, crashing on the yard below. Though I broke my leg, my parents still moved.

For my second grade year, and during the cold, Idaho winter, I experienced having a cast on my foot. And it wasn't one of these nice, new fancy casts. This cast was a 1980s-style cast that was heavy, and they cut out a section for my toes. And Mom's brilliant plan for walking to school in the snow on that cast was to put a Wonder Bread bag over the cast, followed by a wool sock. The snow somehow penetrated both the wool sock and the bionic powers of the Wonder Bread bag. I was miserable.