Tales From the Chinese Laundry on Bridge Street

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The Lees opened a Chines Laundry in Carleton Place and Hong On had been hired as an assistant. One day Charlie Sumner was picking up his laundry when Charlotte Morrison entered with some work to be done. She asked Charlie what the proprietor’s name was. Without batting an eyelash he replied, “One Lung”. Charlotte commented that it was a particular name and could not understand why Mr. Hung On and and Mr Sumner were in fits of laughter.

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Clipped from The Ottawa Journal,  06 Dec 1893, Wed,  Page 7

Chinese laundries developed as a major occupation for the first wave of Chinese immigrants who came to the United States during the mid-nineteenth century. Laundries opened throughout the country and became uniquely identified with this ethnic group. Carleton Place’s first Chinese Laundry once sat where our Town hall is today. Mr. Taylor’s son, Gordon, spoke fluent Chinese and practiced the language with the owners of that very Chinese laundry on Bridge Street. It was said Gordon was a spy for the British Secret Service, and later became a  missionary. Blaine Cornell who has been a resident of Carleton Place all his life said,”when I was a young fellow in the late 1940’s the proprietor of the Chinese laundry was known as Kelly the Chinaman.” This story goes way back in Mr. McDiarmid’s notes so it could have been one before that.

By the 1950’s the actual traditional Chinese laundries were becoming obsolete. Self-service laundromats proliferated during the 1950’s. Generations of children who grew up in laundries pursued higher education and entered other occupations. With the end of the civil war in China in 1949, a new wave of Chinese immigration had begun.

Photo from The Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

Bridge Street – the west side, between College and Emily/Elgin Street. No date, but c.1950. The occasion was an Orange Day parade, and landmarks include a barber shop, Chinese Laundry, the Roxy Theatre, and Carleton Lunch Bar. J. Gordon Lancaster is marching in the front row, second from left.

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

8 responses »

  1. The Chinese laundry as I recall it was as shown in the picture. That was mid 50’s. Only one in town as I remember. When we used to catch eels while mickey fishing we would give them to the Chinaman. Sorry for the use of that term but that was how we new him.

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