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Life & Times in The Industry: Personal Memories from Those Who Were There

Hobbs, N.M., in 1932 was like nothing I had ever seen: A dirty, no-pavement, oil town with no place to live. Oil wells pumped all over town, and it smelled like rotten eggs. We found a shotgun house, outdoor plumbing and shared outside shower (cold), but we were glad to get it.
Jenkins went to work for Mr. Weaver. He couldn’t pay us, and we actually went hungry. After two or three weeks, he came home sick one day and stayed in bed the next. In the afternoon, a big car stopped outside and a knock at the door brought John Stinson, the biggest drycleaner in Lubbock.
Jenkins had worked for him the year before, and Mr. Stinson liked him. He offered Jenkins a job as plant manager (translated: “do everything”) at the unimaginable salary of $15 a week, for only 16 hours a day! But don’t think he didn’t grab it, and he was tickled pink to do so.
That had to be the most wonderful day I ever had in my life — a clean city, paved streets, and green trees and grass. It was as close to heaven as I thought I would ever be.
We rode around looking for an apartment and finally found a one-room furnished, share-the-bath-with-six-other-people, for $10 a month. Jenkins walked to Stinson’s, which was at 1216 Broadway. He worked from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., but never said he was tired or complained. Jenkins also got a raise, to $30 a week!
He worked two more years for Stinson’s when a man who had worked there went to Rockdale, Texas, to put in a cleaners and wanted J.J. to come join him. So we went to Rockdale, about 60 miles southwest of Waco. We stayed there six months and then we came back to Lubbock. J.J. and a Mr. Walker bought Bray’s Cleaners.
[NP][/NP]Soon after, he bought a cleaning plant at 1611 College Ave. and moved the dye business in with it. He called it Tipps Cleaners & Dyers. We had a fabulous business there. In 1939, we bought our first car — a brand-new, red Pontiac — for $1,400. We drove it for a few months then traded it for 15 acres and a house on Erskin St. west of town and a 10-year-old pickup. We moved in, in the fall of 1939.
That was a busy year. We were doing retail and wholesale dyeing for cleaners all over the U.S. and cleaning for Lubbock [now Reese] Air Force Base. J.J. would do the dyeing, and I would package and mail it.
 

From the memoirs of Mrs. J.J. TippsTipps EquipmentLubbock, Texas

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My dad, Luke Young, ran away from home at age 13, hopping a freight car leaving Spencer, N.C. While in the train yard in Danville, Va., he fell under a moving train and lost his left arm. Too embarrassed to return to school, he took a job in a Salisbury cleaners, scrubbing pants cuffs with white gasoline.
[NP][/NP]Eight years later [in 1939], he and his new wife, Anna, were hired to run a nearby plant. The business was unprofitable, so it moved 30 miles south to Concord, N.C. He moved and installed the equipment himself during the winter of 1940-41 and was made an equal partner. Young Cleaners & Dyers opened in February 1941. Luke and Anna quickly prospered at the new location; they were able to buy out their partner in only four months.
The business model was for Mom to provide personal attention and Dad to take the time to get out stains other cleaners left in. On occasion, I can still hear my Dad’s voice saying, “I didn’t train you that way — one more try will get it out.”

Martin YoungYoung CleanersConcord, N.C.

Click here for Part 2.
Click here for Part 3.
Click here for Part 4.
 

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