The WHS Laundry Service -   Mark Frost (Hansons 70 to 77)

A mundane subject to be sure, but consider for a moment what a mammoth task it must have been to deal with the laundry of 360+ boys and presumably some staff/Sick Bay? Hats off to the matrons who had to deal with dispatching and receiving a vast amount of washing every week.

Hansons House was the domain of no-nonsense Scottish matron Marian Dobie (RIP), aka ‘Grappler’. Quite how she acquired this nickname remains a mystery to me. What, or who, did she grapple with? If any OBs know the answer, please speak up.

It started with the school outfitters (I think originally J&J Edwards and latterly Grimwades) having a list of the required uniform. I recall that we needed at least two of nearly everything, so one could go in the wash and one could be worn. To fit me out in 1970 cost £70 – that’s £1090 in today’s money, and that doesn’t include anything spent on casual clothes. Next the name tapes had to be sewn in, so every sock could be identified.

Twice a week a lorry from The Ipswich Steam Laundry (oddly then located in Aldeburgh) would take the wicker baskets full of clothes to be washed and returned a few days later. Boys would have to help get these wicker baskets downstairs to the loading bay. When the washed clothes returned they had to be sorted and put in pigeon-holes. Think about that – at least 120 socks matched into pairs twice a week per house! Once a week beds were stripped and re-made with ‘hospital corners’. Habitual bed-wetters had the embarrassment of a rubber sheet being provided. I also recall being keen on ‘airing’ my bed on occasion – ‘Let’s get that bedding into the wicker basket asap!’

In Hansons we had two blue-and-white striped towels – one for the downstairs shower/drying room and one for the upstairs washroom. I recall other houses had different colours. I don’t remember having a named towel; I just used one until it went in the wash and was hung on a peg with my name on it. Towels went missing – someone had ‘borrowed’ yours, so you had to ‘borrow’ from someone else.

The drying room had two large diameter hot pipes running around the perimeter. Some boys washed items of their own sports kit/casual wear with school-issue carbolic soap. Once dry, the clothes were then peeled off the pipes normally 2 sizes smaller and stiff as a board.

PE kit – the shorts and T shirt could be folded around your Dunlop Green Flash plimsolls to make a nice bundle which sometimes doubled up as a pretend rugby ball for practice passing, or even kicking. Is my memory deceiving me or were we really told not to wear underwear for PE and rugby? Was ‘going commando’ the done thing?

Chris Snuggs - Berners/Halls 58 to 65: Hats off to Mark indeed for this amazing feat of memory; I cannot recall anything at ALL about laundry - which I fear shows that I rather took it for granted. But he is right: it was a considerable and vital responsibility for those managing it. Too late to express our thanks now of course, in this and many other areas.