Smoking Laundry & Big Fins 1968

Posted in Love Letters | 8 comments

After having survived the two weeks of not enough food, Frank and I realized that we would have to manage our money very carefully.  Frank was in constant search for another apartment for us because of the high rent we were paying.  Also, he wanted to get closer to town and Fort Devens, but for now, we were enjoying our apartment in the country.

We were only blocks away from a small lake called Sandy Pond, which was beautiful with a beach and a floating platform that we could swim to.  Swimming in the pond was free, so Frank and I went there on the weekends sometimes to enjoy the beauty of it and swim.

Since Frank was in Morse Code school, he would study at night.  I would help him by drilling him on the operating signals which included “Q” codes, “Z” codes, readability symbols, signal strength symbols, and prosigns then there was the military lettering, phonetic alphabet and the phonic sounds of international Morse code. Frank had to have all of these things memorized to complete his training at Fort Devens.

I loved the phonic sounds because they consisted of, di, dit, and Dah for letters in the alphabet.  Just for fun, I learned these sounds then surprised Frank one evening by saying, “di ditdi Dah di dit, Dah Dah Dah, di di di Dah, ditDah di Dah Dah, Dah Dah Dah,  di di Dah.” which means “I love you.”

Frank had to make sure that his boots were always spit shined and his brass belt buckle shined, so while he did this at night, I made sure that his uniform was starched and pressed with the creases just in the right places.  When I hand washed these uniforms, they were rinsed then submerged in liquid starch before I hung them out to dry on the clothesline.  After they were dry, I would iron them by sprinkling them with water as I ironed.  Frank would wear his uniform for more than one day, so every night I would re-iron his uniform.

Now that our off-base allotment had started coming in, Frank and I decided on a Friday night that we would stuff all of our dirty clothes into his duffel bag and a couple of pillowcases then get up early the next morning and walk into town to a laundromat.  We thought it would be fun and we were pretty sure my “Boogie Clothes” system was not getting our clothes as clean as they could be.

This is how that went.  Enjoy.


“Smoking Laundry”

It was Saturday morning, but Frank and I got up early to start our walk into town to wash our clothes at the Laundromat.  When we left the apartment, Frank was carrying his Army duffle bag stuffed full of clothes, sheets, and towels.  I was carrying two pillowcases, one full of clothes and the other with detergent, bleach, and ammonia.  We estimated that we were three miles from the laundromat that Frank’s friend had told him about.

We were like two children on an adventure.  Since I had only seen the town of Ayer a few times while riding in our friend’s car as we drove through town on the way to and back from the Commissary at Fort Devens, I was excited about going to town.

Being Texans, Frank and I were waving at the vehicles we met on the road and saying “Hi” to the people outside working in their yards. People were looking at us strangely but didn’t wave back.  Of course, this was around the time of the notorious, “Boston Strangler” murders, so I am sure people were a little leery of unusual things, and we probably looked strange carrying a big Army duffle bag stuffed tightly walking down the road.  Frank and I didn’t care we were having so much fun that we waved and shouted “Hi” regardless.

When we reached the laundromat, I looked up to see the sign, which made me laugh out loud  “Bubble-It Laundromat.”

Picture of Bubble-It Laundromat Sign

The First Laundromat Frank and I Used in Ayer, Massachusetts

Frank and I walked in and then noticed the laundromat was full of people washing, drying, and folding clothes.  There was only one washing machine available, so we claimed it then decided to wash our white clothes first.  Most of the people in the Laundromat seemed to know each other but were a little suspicious but friendly to us.  The manager was at a table at the back of the large room and nodded to us then went back to what she was doing.

Bubble-It Launderama

Our First Laundromat Ever in Ayer, Massachusetts

After we loaded all of the white clothes that would fit into the washer at one time, Frank and I added detergent and bleach but then decided that we should add some ammonia to the washing machine to help get those “Boogied Clothes” really clean.  Frank and I closed the washer lid, started the washer, went to get a soda out of the vending machine in the laundromat then sat down to wait for the clothes to wash.

Oh, My Goodness, when Frank and I looked towards the washing machine, we were using, and that dude was “Smoking”!  A cloud of vapor was rising from under the lid like a burning fire.  People began to look in the direction of our washer and run out the front door of the Laundromat!  Being young but not stupid, Frank and I ran out the door with them.

The manager of the Laundromat, who was an older lady, was the last to exit through the door then walked directly over to us then said, “What did “youse” two put into that washing machine?”

We were both a little intimidated by her, but Frank answered her question, “Clothes, detergent, bleach, and ammonia.”

She looked at us like we were in some kinda deep trouble then threw her head back, laughing saying, “Youse” kids can’t mix bleach and ammonia, together they make a toxic gas!”

Oops! Finally, the washer went to the rinse cycle, and the washing machine mysteriously stopped “Smoking.”   The manager went into the Laundromat, opened the windows, then after the laundromat aired out she told us all to come back inside.

The manager stayed by Frank and me for the rest of our time in the Laundromat.  Thinking maybe she had trust issues with us?


Frank and I actually splurged that afternoon and stopped at a little diner in Ayer where we bought the cheapest thing on the menu, sandwiches then we started our walk back to our apartment.

Frank and I would return to the laundromat many more times in the future, but we would only walk from our apartment out in the country to the laundromat then back that one time.  It was an exceptional, memorable time.  We would laugh about this story many times throughout our life together and retell it to our family and friends.

Next story happened a few weeks later.  What is red and has big fins?  Enjoy.


“Big Fins”

A couple of weeks later we went for a drive with our friends.   When we stopped at a filling station to get something to drink,  the guys got out and went in to get the sodas while we girls stayed in the car.

When Frank came out of the store, he had  a big smile on his face then told me, “Nancy Lou, I just bought us a car.”

I asked him, “What car?”

1960 Two Door Dodge Sedan, Red and White

“Big Fins” Our First Car as Newlyweds Ayer, Mass. 1968

Frank just pointed to the parking lot on the side of the building.  Wow, was all I could say. This was not just any car! Red!  This car was red, and it had a little bit of white on the roof.    Besides that, it had red leather seats with a red stirring wheel, big whitewall tires and a long sleek body with what looked like fins in the back.  The car was huge. Frank and I were running around looking at it, hugging each other, and acting like the two excited kids that we really were.

Our friends were very excited for us too.  They told us to get in it,  drive it, then they hugged us and left in their car.

We got the car started but then realized it did not have a shifter of any sort to put it in drive or reverse.  Then we saw the push buttons on the dashboard.  Frank and I both started laughing because we had never seen a push-button shift car.  “Big Fins”  was not only red but it had push buttons!

1960 Dodge Sedan Interior showing push bottons

Interior of our 1960 Dodge Sedan with Push Buttons

After we pulled out of the parking lot and got on the road, it occurred to me that I did not ask Frank how much he had paid for the car when I asked him he told me $35.oo.  I couldn’t believe it, and we had gotten this car for a steal.

Receipt for car

Receipt For Our First Car, Ayer, Massachusetts. 1968

We drove out towards our apartment and on down the Sandy Pond Road towards the pond where the road had a  bridge that crossed the pond at one of its narrower parts.  When we started across the bridge, a man standing on the bridge waved us down.  Frank stopped the car and asked him what he wanted.

The man leaned in the window, looked at us sitting side by side, then asked, “Are “Youse,” brother and sister?”

Frank answered him, “No, Sir, we are husband and wife. Why would I let my sister sit this close to me? Why would you ask that?”

The man laughed then replied, “Youse” guys look like brother and sister.  “Youse” guys have to have a license tag to drive that “ca” around.”

Frank thanked him, then we turned the car around and headed back to our apartment.  In our excitement, we had not noticed the car did not have license plates.  We would have to check in to that on Monday because it was a Saturday evening.  We decided to just sit in the car listening to the radio until dark then we went up to eat supper and went to bed.

The next morning we ate breakfast then ran out to see our car.  When we got to the car, we saw that to our amazement all four tires were flat.  We could not afford to fix the tires, so now we were back to walking, but we would spend evenings sitting in the car, listening to the radio, and talking about where we would drive it when we had the money to fix the tires.

Frank and I were making a few blunders, but one thing for sure we were becoming one heart and soul with our love growing deeper and deeper.


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  1. Another wonderful, tale, Nancy Lou. I feel the love in the words. Thanks for the video, too. It left me with a good feeling. Cheers!

    • Thank you, Mary Rae for your comment. We had so much fun. We were young and foolish but our love for each other was so real and deep. God always held us in His arms.
      I love the song “I Got You Babe”, it truly reflects us.
      God Bless you,

  2. Lol….chlorine and ammonia…chloramine gas!! That’s nasty stuff….

    • Yes it is and we nearly killed everyone in the laundry. We were so crazy but those sheets were really clean. I don’t remember if they detieriated quickly or not.
      Thank you for reading and enjoying.
      God Bless you Kim,

  3. When I read what you had in the pillow case along with the bleach, I cringed. Thank heaven nothing bad happened. But it did surely leave you with a fun memory and lots of laughs. That car was something else. 4 flat tires. Wow! But you always made the best of things and that is something most people do not know how to do. Loved your stories.

    • We loved that car but we were to broke to get new tires. Finally, we had to give it to a guy who the renter got to tow it away. I can still see Frank and I in it driving over that bridge. The memory of it runs like a video in my mind.
      Thank you for reading and commenting Diane. I really appreciate it.
      God Bless You,

  4. Another fabulous chapter. Came here from your Facebook post today, October 7, 2019.

    Love the picture of the Laundromat TODAY.

    Laudromat, 2019

    • Thank you so much, Chuck. It is so much fun to share pictures from the places the stories took place 51 years ago.
      God Bless You,

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