Sunday, February 24, 2013

White Star Laundry Hanger


I found something interesting yesterday. Lying on the back of the couch was this vintage wooden clothes hanger from the White Star Laundry, Ltd. in Hilo, Hawaii (“THE LARGEST LAUNDRY & DRY CLEANING PLANT IN HILO, PHONE 2000, KAMEHAMEHA AVE”).
When I asked the wife about it, she said she’d been using it to hang her jacket. Amazed, I told her that it’s very old, just look at the four-digit phone number. I figure her father, who originally was from Hilo, had taken it with him when his family moved to Maui, then just continued to use it, using it to carry a clothes item from house to house whenever he moved.
So it ended up in his closet here, and the wife began using it.
White Star was founded in 1909 by Luso Joseph Fernandez, an employee of Elite Laundry on Kalakaua Street. The original White Star was on Kapiolani Street by Hall Street. Fernandez wold it to Hilo Steam Saundry in 1910, who then resold it to Bob Gillespie when the bank foreclosed.
Gillespie sold it to a Japanese employee group led by Takeo Tanabe, who operated the laundry before moving it to Kamehameha Avenue in 1924. John Kai bought it in 1929 and renamed the laundry White Star Laundry. It went through a couple more owners – John Magoon and Doc Hill, who eventually closed it for good in 1938.
In 1935, the first Hawaii modern trade union was organized – the International Longshore & Warehouse Union – by Harry Lehua Kamoku (1905-1957). Joining the union sometime between 1936 and 1938 were workers at White Star Laundry.
White Star employees participated in the Hilo unions’ support of the Boatsman Union, which was on strike in Honolulu. According to Gabriel Manning, the “Hilo Massacre” of August 1, 1938, White Star Laundry girls jumped into Hilo Bay when shots were fired.
The laundry building became the site of the Western Store (that’s what I remember occupying the building) until McDonald’s moved in.
Wondering what the value of such a relic (in good condition) is, I checked eBay and found that one recently sold for $9 on Dec. 8; soon after, one sold for $12 on Dec. 30.
So now, the question is … what do I want to do with this obviously very old souvenir relic of my hometown’s past? The wife gave it to me and told me to do whatever I wanted with it. She’s not the very nostalgic type, and getting a few dollars for it would make her happy.
Me? I enjoy looking up the history of things and writing about it. But then again, I tend not to be so sentimental about holding onto old stuff these days.

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