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Memories of Jackett Cleaners

April 27, 2024

Arlene, Judy, Orville (holding baby Steve), Paul, and Mary Jackett in Front of Jackett Cleaners Truck, 1955

With Arlene (Jackett) Allison

Orville Jackett grew up in Fenelon Falls, the son of George Thomas and Mary Alma (Northey) Jackett. While Orville’s brother Wilf, branched out into construction, sand and gravel, Orville left the village to join the army, but was deemed unfit for military service. While in Toronto, he met his future wife, Gladys (pronounced Glad-ees) at a dance. They married in 1940, and Orville got a job at Ontario Hydro. After working in Sudbury for a year, they moved to Peterborough.

In the early 1950s, Orville and Gladys met a very tall man named Streak Conkle, who worked at a haberdashery, and had cleaned a lot of fedoras over the years. These friends planned to partner to open a dry cleaning business, in Orville’s hometown of Fenelon Falls. Though Streak backed out, Orville and Gladys persevered and set up shop on Colborne Street.  It was challenging for the couple to start a business while raising five children. “We were what would be called today the ‘working poor.’ My Mom at least had high school, so she was able to manage the books and pay the staff.”

Back then, before the advent of polyester clothing, wool was fashionable, and though most people did not own that many outfits, each family would have wool blankets, suits and dresses that needed to be carefully cleaned so they could look their best. Jackett’s Cleaners had one 20-pound washing machine that immersed the clothes in perchloroethylene (tetrachloroethylene), and one dryer. Jacketts also had a temperature-controlled concrete storage area for fur coats—to ensure that moths could not get at them.

When customers came in to drop off their clothing, Orville would be hard at work at the back of the shop, spotting the clothes to take out the stains. When this was complete, he would put them into the washing machine. Gladys and an assistant would carefully press the clothes, using a blower to take the wrinkles out. Once pressed, each article would be bagged and labelled. Maxine Hughes recalled that when she started work in 1962, it cost 35 cents to clean a shirt, 65 cents for a pair of pants or $1.75 for a suit. She worked there with Marie Fell, Ruth Isaac, as well as Hilda and Ruth Stegenga. Starting when she was 15 years old, Arlene drove the truck around the surrounding area picking up articles to be cleaned, while also helping out at the shop.

Jackett’s Cleaners was originally located next to Canadian Tire (Subway), just north of the corner of Colborne and Water Streets. The business moved across the street to a building that had been Hugh Dixon’s Garage (Kawartha Store—South Half, they rented the other half of the building to Glen Wood Real Estate). When they moved to the new location, Jackett’s Cleaners upgraded to a 40-pound cleaning unit, that washed and dried the clothing, making the process much more efficient.

“I left to go to nursing school in Peterborough, but my sister Mary and brother Paul worked for Dad. Dad thought that Paul might take over the business one day, but the handwriting was on the wall as to where dry cleaners were going.” By 1973, Orville was concerned about how changing fashions (and polyester clothing) would impact the business, so he sold to Mr. and Mrs. William Clarke. They operated it for five years until they flipped it to Lindsay Dry Cleaners, which was operated by the Rodd Family.

This story is a memory and nobody’s memory is perfect. Sometimes details get a little mixed up, things get forgotten or overlooked, and the perspective is inevitably subjective. If you notice something that not right, have something you would like to tell us, or a memory to share the museum would be happy to hear from you: curator@maryboro.ca

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