My father owned a coin-operated laundry located in Stonewood Village Shopping Center, on Memorial Drive, near Stone Mountain. The shopping center didn't have any big stores- nothing that would draw anyone in. The center consisted of Dad's Laundry, a small pet store, a dry cleaner, Merle Norman's Make-Up Center, a Crystal Shoppe, a real estate office, etc. This was my universe growing up. My parents spent long hours there: cleaning the place, refilling the change machines, collecting money out of the washers and dryers. Of course, my brothers and I were always with them, trying to help where we could. We'd mop and roll quarters, wipe down the washers and clean the lint from the dryers. That was always the funnest part. Cleaning the lint was gross and nasty, but our reward was that we could keep whatever money we found in the lint compartments. People always left change in their pockets and it would end up in the lint compartment. We knew the secret places to look-- especially along the top rim where the change would usually land on a ridge. Sometimes we found paper money there, too. We were the best lint cleaners in the world, and on an average day we'd bring home at least a dollar each. Later, Dad's policy changed and we began putting all of the found change in a jar-- the first night of vacation each year, we'd roll the change and divide it and that would be our spending money for the week. Can you imagine the hassle of spending a week at the beach, with a pocketful of rolled change in you bathing suit pocket?
People were always leaving loads of laundry behind. Dad would lock them in the back room and save them for 30 days. If anyone reported missing clothes, Dad would lead them to the "vault" and let them look through the clothes. On day 31, the leftover clothes came home. We'd all sort through the sizes and try everything on. Once a month, we'd get a new wardrobe! We always had to be careful not to wear the found clothes if we were going to the laundrymat, just in case the former owner came in and recognized the clothes that once belonged to them. That happened once, and it was too embarassing for words: "That's my son's shirt!" the lady pointed at me as I wore a shirt with the name "Tommy" embroidered over the front pocket. We learned our lessons fast.
Stonewood Village Laundry supported our family for the first 20 years of my life. Later, Dad got sick and wasn't able to take care of the store. I would still go there before work each morning to open the place up, and my brothers and I would take turns locking up at night and doing the cleaning, counting quarters and refilling the change machines. Dad sold the store shortly before he died. The last time I drove past Stonewood Village the Crystal Shoppe, Merle Norman's, the pet store and the real estate office were gone, as well as Dad's laundrymat. Time marches on, I guess, but these memories remain.