Early White Star Laundry photo. Steve Chou collection
Hannibal Courier-Post (MO) - Friday, September 8, 2006
Author: MARY LOU, MONTGOMERY
Bill Craigmiles of Hannibal has fond memories of Milton P. Knighton, who owned White Star Laundry for many years. "He was like a granddad to me," Bill told the Courier-Post this week. "Milton picked me up after church on Sundays in his old Packard, and we'd go to Crow's Pharmacy. I'd get a phosphate and he'd get a BromoSeltzer." Then the two would go to White Star Laundry, where Mr. Knighton would check on employees who were working weekends. Bill - who was 9 or 10 at the time - would slide down a laundry chute located in the front of the building, landing in the building's basement. Bill would then wander through the building and up the stairs to unlock the front door to let "Nighty" in.
Bill said that a steam engine was used to power a common shaft which operated all moveable equipment at the plant. Bill remembers going to Quincy, Ill., with Mr. Knighton, where the business owner bought a used steam turbine engine from Corrugated Box Company to replace the old steam piston engine.
Mr. Knighton kept all of his delivery vehicles in a shed by the old ice house near the riverfront. The big old delivery vans had regular routes around town.
"My dad was a dentist and had to wear white shirts," Bill said. "The laundry washed his shirts and our sheets." Bill remembers that once a week his mother gathered all the white sheets and shirts together, tying them in a bundle and putting them out on the front porch, where they would be picked up by a White Star employee. "They brought back the sheets and shirts wrapped in brown paper," he said.
Each family or business had its own number to identify personal items, which was on a tag stapled to the items to be washed. Bill remembers his family's number: K-33.
Dan Wissinger, who died in 2003 at the age of 92, was a long-term employee of the plant. "He was a prince of a guy," Bill said.