Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Taking a Time Warp to the Cleaners

By Gerry Wendel, Groovy Reflections Founder and Team Member

Have you ever thought something was cool looking and you don’t exactly know why? Yeah, me too. 

Traveling through all the small towns, one on top of each other, sitting in the backseat of the Chevy or the Olds wagon and sometimes sitting backwards facing the rear of the car I got my little view of the world around me. Trees, houses ranging from Victorian through mid-century modern, wide green lawns, gas stations, an occasional school, and little downtowns made up my local world. 

Willow Run nursery, 1960's postcard
I loved driving past Willow Run because I knew they’d have a great Christmas display when the holidays rolled around. 

And it’s odd sometimes on what a young mind would get fixated on. In particular, I recall a dry cleaner we’d go past sometimes and I would be drawn to the images on the signs inside the store.

Yet I had never been inside. Until now. 

On a visit recently “to the homeland” I drove past and saw those signs yet again. Oh yeah! I had places to go but swung back that way a few hours later. I parked across the street and took a few exterior shots of the building.

Then I thought: What the heck; I’ll go inside and take some photos of those signs! I asked the woman inside if that would be okay. She said "Fine, go ahead" and gave me a bewildered look. At the time, only one was lit. Didn’t matter. I happily snapped away.

I love everything about those signs: The cartoon-like, cheerful graphics, the fonts, and the declarations of all the wonderful things this dry cleaner could do for a customer through modern chemicals! The graphics are on a heavy, textured hard plastic material set in metal box frames that are rather deep for holding all the electrical for lighting them up. They are quite large; my best guess is they're each six or seven feet across.

Got back to where I was staying and couldn't load those photos onto my computer fast enough!

Unfortunately I was devastated to see that every single photo had a mysterious black line running through them! Huh? This had never happened to me before with this camera and I've taken thousands of pics with it over the last year and a half or so.

Well, this only meant one thing. I had to go back!

Fast forward three days later. I returned. Again, I asked permission to take photos. This time, the employee (a different one) said she would get the manager. I explained to him why I was there. He smiled and said “Would you like me to put all the lights on?”

We had a wonderful conversation as I happily snapped away. The manager also happened to be the current owner. He told me that he was part of the original family that started the cleaners back in 1954. The family comes from Austria and his accent was thick, suggesting that he was born there. The signs also date from 1954 and are in amazingly great condition for their age. He said that a few years back he asked the clientele if they thought he should change the signs and not one thought that was a good idea!

Some things never change.

Dutch Cleaners, I salute you for being the wonderful time warp you are. Though I’ve never brought my cleaning to you, being in business for 58 years suggests that you provide excellent services. Here’s to at least 58 more!

Stop by and GRoove with us at our website, Twitter, Facebook, and G+!


Dime Store Novel said...

Fun story! And you're right, those signs are marvelous.

Anonymous said...

I love these signs! I'm a big fan of vintage signs!

Mary in Alabama

Guy Sharwood said...

They chose a great year to get underway--the year I was born! Had it been put to me, I too would have said, nah, leave those signs
the way they are. These signs have a timeless appeal and they continue to get the message across. Why that lady gave you a bewildered look the first time you went in goes way beyond me.

Anonymous said...

There's something about the 50's... Love everything, including the artwork, ads, lifestyle... Those fabulous signs are a great way to go back in time. Great article!