This was written many years ago by my grandfather and is a fascinating reminiscence of life in the old days.
Joann Capazorio (Managing Director)
EC Hjort was born in a town called Orebrö in Sweden in October 1870. After studying then qualifying as a dispensing chemist at Upsala University, he came to this country by sailing ship, which took 3 months, when he was about 20 years old. He had a job with Lennons Chemists, worked down a mine, and studied bookkeeping. He became secretary to the Rand Steam Laundry Ltd. With premises in Auckland Park. He was refused an increase in salary by the owner, another Swede called Frank Oscar Neilsen, and he decided to open his own laundry, which he did in association with AH Platt, the works manager. They bought a property in Bez Valley and built their own premises. This was about 1910. During the 1914-18 war, Platt sold out to my father who then became the sole owner of the business.
It is interesting to note that in the audited accounts for the year ended 30 September 1911 assets listed included earth closets, dye house, native quarters, wagon shed, livestock (horses and mules), wagons and harnesses. Revenue for the year was £ 10 207.13.2. Salaries to AH Platt for the year £ 240, EC Hjort £ 120. A profit of £ 193 was made. No motor vehicles those days!
Eventually he sold out to Advance Laundries for £ 100 000. His son, AD Hjort had been Secretary of Model Steam Laundry until he sold and became Acting Secretary of Advance Laundries in around 1945. He held this position for about 18 months then decided to start his own business. Model Steam Laundry was of course basically a laundry with a small dry cleaning and dyeing section attached.
In October 1935 he became a member of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries and in the same year he sat for and passed the final examination for the London Association of Certified Accountants Association. He started Douglas Dry Cleaners and Launderers (Pty) Ltd in 1947 with 3 motor vans and the first week's turnover was £ 20. He purchased Twinkle Cleaners of Norwood for £ 3 000 in 1950. In 1961 Immaculate Dry Cleaners and Dyers, with premises in Braamfontein, went into voluntary liquidation and he made a bid of £ 13 000 which was accepted by the liquidators. Through sale of excess plant and other items he ended up only £ 2 000 out of pocket. He eventually moved the whole enterprise to Kew.
From the time Mr Hjort started in the Laundry and Dry Cleaning Industry in 1923 he saw many Laundry and Dry Cleaning businesses come and go, often due to price cutting. One recently discovered price list was trousers 9d, jackets 1s3d'. Companies that were around in the early years but have now gone include Model Steam Laundry, Atlas Steam Laundry, New York Steam Laundry, Reliance Steam Laundry, Rand Steam Laundry, Palace Steam Laundry, Ideal Steam Laundry, Johannesburg Electric Laundry and International Steam Laundry.
Immaculate Cleaning Services Group (Pty) Limited remains in operation and continues to provide high quality cleaning services throughout Gauteng.