The 1st steam laundry in Ridgetown was the Lutz laundry situated on Main Street East, about where Wilson's Polar Pantry was located. Later a Mrs. Ferguson operated a laundry almost opposite to the Municipal Hall on the property now owned by the Srigley Service.
About 1902, Mr. Sam Kennedy bought out Mrs. Ferguson and ran the laundry for 20 years. Mr. Kennedy also took in some laundry to be sent to outside points usually London. This laundry was packed in huge baskets and sent by train.
At the same time a Chinaman operated a laundry on Main Street East in the building now used by Dr. Feegan (the dentist). Later this Chinaman sold his business to another Chinaman, who later moved to another building on Main Street West. No steam laundry for a number of years.
The first dry cleaning establishment in town was started by Jim Toll and a Mr. Gibson in the building later used by Squire and Sons, upholstery. Harry Stennet bought out Gibson and Toll but later moved his plant to the property where City Service is located. Mr. Stennet sold out to Clare Giddes in 1922. Later Giddes moved to where Dr. Feegan is now. Giddes did all dry cleaning brought in but sent laundry to Alymer. About 1942, Giddes closed.
For a number of years, anyone wishing articles dry-cleaned had to have them sent to Chatham or Alymer which had agencies in town.
In September 1947 Byrene and Hannay opened a dry-cleaning plant on the corner of Marsh and Ebenzer Streets. Hannay took over alone in 1949. It is a solvent plant doing all cleaning brought in, but any dyeing is sent to an outside plant.
In cleaning, 1st there is the cleaning cycle in which a petroleum solvent, dry cleaners soap or detergent is used; leaving articles in for 20 minutes; then a 10 minute period is necessary filtering out impurities; then the "drying cycle" of 5 to 10 minutes, in a spin dryer; final deodorizing and drying takes 20 minutes in the "tumbler" where hot air is sent circling through the clothes.
Suits, overcoats and heavy articles are finished on the "steam presses" and all silks and such material on a "steam finishing board".
Transcribed from the records of Mrs. Geo. S. Brien, Rural Ridgetown Women's Institute.