Back in 1971 my wife and I purchased, as an adjunct to our other business activities, the Benalla Coin Laundrette. At that time it featured a diesel operated hot water service, four washing machines, and two clothes driers. The opening hours were 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.
After some years’ activities we converted the hot water system to gas, and purchased eight up-grade Maytag washing machines and four driers. The business was not overly profitable, but it did enable us to pay for two new cars and provide the children with pocket money.
We engaged the Benalla Security Service to open and close the shop at these times. When we would go on holidays it was our practice to engage my bowls skipper, Bill Bryce, to attend to the cleaning and collection of the takings.
The duties involved an early morning rise, so that we could wash the floor and clean up all the equipment after the previous day’s activities. This would take up to an hour per morning. Because of Bernadette’s child minding responsibilities, I would generally do this work. One night a week we would collect the takings. Usually the premises would be quite dirty. The main problem being the activity of youth vandalism. The premises were next door to a fish and ship shop and, after school of a day time, school children would assemble and sit on the seats of the laundrette. It would amuse them to sprinkle soap powder (readily available) in the machines and the coin functions of the machines. Sometimes, after some school kid frolicking, we would find girl’s knickers dangling from the ceiling rafters. Because of this activity it was occasionally necessary to clean up the shop of a late evening.
It was often necessary to engage tradesmen to maintain the equipment. Although not technically minded, I found that I became quite adept at the maintenance of the coin machines.
The busiest time of the year would be Benalla Show days, when show people would back up their utes to the front door and unload what seemed like tons of soiled attire, sheets and so on.
Because the machines were coin operated we had a mutually satisfactory arrangement with the fish shop next door to provide the necessary coins.
It came to our notice, not long into our occupancy, that the night watchman shirked his responsibilities by not locking the premises of a night, but by merely turning the light off. This meant that he did not have to open the premises again in the morning. We thought better of taking him to task.
After operating the laundrette for a number of years we decided that the daily commitment was too much of a bind. We had a good relationship with our machine maintenance man, and, after seventeen years of operation, we sold the business to him for a very reasonable (to him) price.