Laundry Day
By Rodney O. Young

Reprinted by permission of the author



Most people do not question how anything works, or really even care for that matter.  But nevertheless, everything is related in an ironic twist, i.e., that if it does not work, everyone cares.

My subject, “laundry day,” is an example of a subject that most people can not get to excited about, when in fact this subject should be given deeper thought.

Shipboard laundry.  One of those things we take for granted, But an important part of any ships operation. If not organized in an efficient manner, a crew of 170 sailors would have more than one complaint. As a matter of fact they would get downright testy.

A crew member on the CGC CHASE in the late 60’s or early 70’s had to follow a basic routine to have his laundry done.

There was a laundry closet provided in every berthing area.  These closets had a large bag in them and the shirts and pants would be placed in them.  Socks, underwear, etc. were usually placed into a personal laundry bag which were also placed into these laundry closet bags. Once a week on laundry day the bags were taken to the ships laundry, washed and dried. The clean laundry was returned to the berthing area, sorted and placed on each crew members rack for them to store at a later time.

Marking your clothes with your name and service number was an important part of the laundry organization.  Yes laundry was lost, but usually always returned when marked.

For those with the extra money, the laundry staff would provide custom laundry service, i.e., special washing care, pressing, and folding.

This department was very good at their job. I can not remember ever having any laundry problems.

Special laundry, such as undress whites had to always be custom laundered. The undress whites were made of a cotton material. The  ships laundry would wash and press them or one could take them to an off ship laundry, usually at a land base, to be done.  The dress blues and working blues always had to be dry cleaned and this required a land base laundry to do the work.

The white Donald Duck hats and Navy Hats would often be washed by hand in the head.  An old tooth brush was always handy for this project.

Some of the crewmen would iron their shirts and pants. They were a smart looking bunch while others of us took to the very gauche "wrinkled look."

The storing of clean laundry again was up to the crew member.  While we were taught in boot camp how to fold and properly store our clothes, most just tried to make them fit into the sea locker.

Alan Ricker’s memories on the laundry subject:  “I never worked in the ships laundry, but do have memories of it.  When I bought new clothing, especially bell bottom work jeans, I would place them into a netted nylon laundry bag, secured it to a line, and while under way, threw it into the ocean for a few hours.  They would come out so soft, just like you owned them for years. Sort of like the pre-washed trousers you can buy nowadays.”

Laundry day,  one small routine of ship board life, but lets say, a most important one.  One link of the chain that makes a ship operational.

Return To Coast Guard Stories

setstats 1