Farewell to the queen of wash and fold

Barbara Conway: retiring after 40 years of laundry.


By H. Lynn Harrison

“Got some new drawers, I see — finally. I don’t see how you keep ’em up.”

“Barbara, didn’t I have a pair of green . . .”

“Threw ’em out. Totally shot. You’ve been needing new ones since God was a baby.”

Barbara Conway retired June 25, 2008, after 40 years of running a no-nonsense wash-and-fold laundry service at Fillmore and California, now the Wash ’n Royal, but for decades the Wash Palace. During all of those years, she found more than a few surprises in the wash — from Halloween novelties to sex toys — alongside more sedate bags of laundry, including mine.
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For vocalist Kim Nalley, it all started on Fillmore

Photograph of Kim Nalley by Walter Wagner

By Thomas Reynolds

Sultry, soulful, swinging singer Kim Nalley remembers when she got her first big break in San Francisco. It was the early ’90s, and the manager of Harry’s on Fillmore called to see if she might fill a slot for a band that had cancelled.

But Nalley was otherwise engaged. She had a house to clean — a job that was helping to pay her way through UC Berkeley. She called her client and explained she wouldn’t be able to come. “How much are they paying you to sing?” the woman wanted to know. “Well, you make more here cleaning — and this is an ongoing thing.”

She called back Harry’s and told the manager she wouldn’t be able to make the gig, but that she hoped to sing another night. “This is your chance,” he told her.

So she gave up domestic work. And she started her rise to a place of prominence and respect in the jazz world, toured and lived in Europe, then came home triumphantly to take over Pearl’s, the North Beach jazz club.
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