The Hillyard Hand Laundry

Being Japanese in Hillyard was not always easy. Home to a large community of railroad workers of every nationality, conflicts between the Japanese and other laborers were frequent, sometimes resulting in riots. This small laundry is one of the few Japanese-owned businesses that remain standing in Spokane today.

Built by the local blacksmith, Charles Carr, in 1906, the little laundry on Olympic street was soon bought by Kisaburo Shiosaki and his business partners. It was originally a hand laundry, where laborers rolled the wet soapy cloths across washboards one at a time. As the business grew Shiosaki bought out his partners, and moved the family into the apartment upstairs. While Shiosaki and his wife operated the laundry, their five children attended the local public schools. After Pearl Harbor, Japanese-owned businesses faced boycotts by many in Spokane. Although separated from the larger downtown Japanese community, the Shiosaki’s laundry continued to operate.

Pearl Harbor marked a shift in their son Fred Shiosaki’s life. As an American citizen, Shiosaki felt strongly about his duty to fight for his country. When the Army began recruiting for a segregated all-Japanese service unit, he leapt at the chance. Serving in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Shiosaki and his unit served in Europe, aiding in combat and rescue. Known as the “Purple Heart Batallion,” the 442nd was the most decorated infantry regiment of all time. Yet after the war, Shiosaki and other Spokane Japanese-American veterans were refused admittance to local veterans’ associations including the Veterans of Foreign Wars Association.

The Hillyard Hand Laundry operated from 1906 to 1950, when it changed its name to Hillyard Laundry and Dry Cleaning. Today it stands as a distinct reminder of the many small businesses owned by Japanese immigrants and their families.

Images

Japanese Hand Laundry, c. 1910

Japanese Hand Laundry, c. 1910

Hand laundries like the one depicted in this photograph were typical among businesses owned by Japanese immigrants. The Shiosaki family laundry would have looked similar to this Japanese hand laundry in Seattle. | Source: University of Washington Digital Collections View File Details Page

The Hillyard Laundry Building

The Hillyard Laundry Building

The Shiosaki's family laundry business is gone, but the building still boasts a neon sign from the 1950s. | Source: Allie Honican View File Details Page

Fred "Rosie" Shiosaki

Fred "Rosie" Shiosaki

Fred Shiosaki grew up in Hillyard and volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army during WWII. After the war, Shiosaki went on to fight against air pollution in the city of Spokane, serving as the director of the Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority. | Source: Courtesy of the Japanese American National Museum View File Details Page

442nd Combat Regiment

442nd Combat Regiment

The 442nd Regiment seen here hiking up a muddy French road in late 1944, served on several important European missions including the daring rescue of the "Lost Battalion" near Biffontaine in October, 1944. | Source: U. S. Army View File Details Page

Video

The 442nd Saves Unit

Newsreel footage from 1944 covering the heroic rescue of the Lost Battalion by the Japanese-American comprised 442nd Combat Regiment in WWII. | Source: Footage courtesy of the U.S. Army News and Media YouTube channel View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Anna Harbine, “The Hillyard Hand Laundry,” Spokane Historical, accessed July 28, 2017, http://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/564.
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