My privilege of service
The laundry was in the basement of the 119 building. It was moved there in the spring of 1969 from the basement of the 124. Why is it that people like to put laundries in basements? The 119 was the newest of all the society’s properties. This was a state of the art laundry facility for its time. It had washing machines that could handle over four hundred pounds of cloths in one washing. Steam presses, cloths driers, a press that could iron sheets, the hanky press that did handkerchiefs and napkins etc.
Everyone is given a laundry bag that went with their room you were assigned. They would fill out a laundry ticket with the number of items that were put in the bag. You would lay out your clothes with shirts and pants first underwear and T shirts next and then socks last. It was all tied together and put in your bag and dropped down the laundry shoot in your building, once a week.
When the bags were brought into the laundry, they had to go through a process that was called “check in.” All the clothes were counted. Then any garments that didn’t have a tag were given one for identification. They were a yellow tags that was melted onto your clothes. So for example my tag on the front of my underwear would read 499-129-33. This was my key number, building number and room number. From there the clothes were sorted into different washes, whites, colored, dress shirts, work cloths etc. The clothes were washed, dried, pressed and folded and then went back to “check out” where hopefully everything went back into the bags they came down in. Your dress and shirts and bag of clean clothes ended up back on the top of your bed the next day.
The laundry room overseer was named Ken Doweling. He had three assistants under him. Ron Teleson, Greg Javens and Bob Rains. These three brothers had what were called “key men” under them, under the key men were the grunts and under the grunts were the new boys. There is a definite peeking order there and it was important that everyone knew their place.
I knew nothing about the laundry or taking care of clothes before I went to Bethel. All of my experience was working at restaurants and working in and around kitchens. It stated that on my application. The same week I went to Bethel, another brother got there and was assigned to the kitchen. He knew nothing about kitchens or food. He had worked at a commercial laundry and dry cleaners before Bethel.
They don’t want you going there with any ideas about how things should be done. They are going to train you the Bethel way, their way. Years later, I used to joke around with young brothers who wanted to go to Bethel. I told them if you want to work at the farm just tell them you had no farm experience what so ever. It worked more often than not.
However, if you were one of the very few that went to college and got trained in a skill they really needed there, you ended up with a really good job, right off the bat. So by doing what they told you to do about not pursuing a higher education you were punished with a shitty job, right off the bat. If you disobeyed them and got and a better education you were rewarded with a better job. “Catch 22”
The first few days there I was folding underwear. There were these big tables there with mountains of clean underwear about four feet high on top of them. There were brothers standing around the tables. They had rules on how fast you had to fold this underwear too. We had to fold a pound a minute. One day they put this short, fat kid from Alabama on the table, his name was Danny Stewart. So there we were in what they called “burn out” mode, which means we were working as fast as we can folding this underwear. Danny had two speeds, slow and stop. We were folding about four times the underwear than he was. So this one brother looked over at him and said.
“Hey, Danny can you pick up the pace here. We need to get this load out!”
Danny, just kept folding the same way he had the last hour and said.
“Anything I fold, you don’t have to fold.”
“You’re just a ‘Jack’ Danny.” He didn’t seem to mind being called the worse name you can call a bethelite.
They trained me on quit a few jobs there. I went to the hanky press for a while and even did some delivery. Delivery was probably the best job in the laundry for many reasons. You were able to leave the hot laundry, with its overseers breathing down your neck. You were able to go all over the Bethel home delivering clean clothes. Speed was always the most important thing there too. One day I was waiting with my rack of clothes, in front of an elevator and happen to be talking to a young housekeeper. We talked for no more than a minute or two as I was waiting there. One of my fellow delivery boys came around a corner and saw me taking to her and that was the last day I delivered cloths.
Nothing was ever said to me back at the laundry but the next day I got a job change.
That day, I learned something they didn’t tell you in the “Dwelling together in unity” booklet. I learned that not only are there lots of brothers at Bethel but “big brother” was definitly there too. Yes, it was a snitches paradise.
Most everyone there was on a vigil looking for any minor or major infractions of the written or unwritten rules.
Why? For “Brownie points” of course. By going to your overseer with information about another, you are in essence saying. “See look at me brother overseer, I’m looking out for you and our department.” There were eyes and ears everywhere looking for just one wrong action or statement.
Ever wonder why they call it “Brownie points?” Because the color brown is the same color you would find on many people’s noses at lord’s house.