April 25, 2014
Campus continues fifty year laundry relationshipOne of the first chores that a
student is forced to learn how
to do when coming to college is
laundry. For most, this comes as
an unwelcomed task. They wait
until the last possible minute to
do it, and if possible, wait until a
break in the semester to take it all
home for their mothers to do.
Not everyone on campus
shares their sentiments. Susquehanna
alumnus Merle Ulsh,
known to some students as the
laundry man, has been in the
laundry business for 50 years
alongside his wife, Nancy.
Owning all 180 machines that
are located across campus, Merle
Ulsh services all of the machines
when issues arise. Nancy Ulsh
manages the bookkeeping for the
business. Ulsh said: "I supply the
machines. I take care of the machines.
Susquehanna then supplies
the water and electricity. It's
a really symbiotic relationship."
The Ulsh family began this
symbiotic relationship with
Susquehanna in 1964 when
Susquehanna's business manager
at the time offered three sets of
coin operated laundry machines
to Merle Ulsh to buy. Merle Ulsh,
who was currently running an appliance
store in downtown Selinsgrove
took advantage of the business
opportunity and continued
to grow the business as Susquehanna
grew with it.
Merle Ulsh said that when he
started the business those were
the only three sets of laundry machines
and at that time they were
located in the garages of houses
on Faculty Row. Faculty Row,
which is sometimes referred to as
the cottages, was a group of houses
that were situated alongside
Pine Street from Seibert Hall up
to 18th Street and housed many of
the faculty members.
The business ran out of the
garages for a period of time
until Gus Weber, a previous
Susquehanna president, began
expanding campus, said Merle
Ulsh. Merle Ulsh said that
once Weber became president
new buildings were added to
Once Degenstein Campus
Center was constructed, Merle
Ulsh said that the laundry services
were moved into the lower
level of Seibert. At this time,
they expanded their business to
include thirty machines. As new
residence halls were constructed,
such as Smith Hall, Reed Hall and
Aikens Hall, laundries were built
in. Also, other residence halls
were remodeled to include laundries,
such as Hassinger Hall and
the upper level of Seibert Hall.
Most recently, the company
added 20 new machines in the
18th Street Commons Complex.
Merle Ulsh said that all the
machines on campus are high
tech, with the oldest machine on
campus being about nine years
old. Merle Ulsh said that each
machine uses less than 10 gallons
of water for a whole wash cycle,
as opposed to the 20 to 30 gallons
used in a normal machine.
Along with the growing of the
business, the laundry service has
come into the modern age, allowing
students to use a credit/debit
cards to complete their payment,
which was started and is managed
by the food services at Susquehanna,
according to Merle Ulsh.
This ability proves to add an
extra variable for problems to
arise. Merle Ulsh said, "That's
why in almost all of the dorms
there is a sign that asks if it is a
software problem or a machine
problem." If there is an actual
problem with the machine itself,
Merle Ulsh will come down and
fix it. If it is a software issue with
the card reader, food services is in
charge of fixing it.
Merle Ulsh said that the
residence halls that still have
machines that can be coin operated
were bought before the
full transition was made. He
said: "I sensed that something
like cards were coming by, so
I ordered dual function [machines].
Reed [Hall] and West
[Hall] have dual function. They
can use one or the other."
Merle Ulsh said that he
doesn't have to replace the machines
very often because the
students, for the most part, have
taken care of the machines very
well. He said, "Vandalism is almost
This wasn't always the situation.
Both Merle and Nancy Ulsh
commented on the 1980s and the
issues that arose during that time.
Merle Ulsh said, "1980 students
were unbelievably destructive.
What it was, I have no idea."
Nancy Ulsh said: "Students
were angry in the 80s... They
poured paint in the washers. They
ripped the tops off the dryers and
threw them out the windows. It
was a nasty time."
Merle Ulsh remembered that
students would try to do loads of
laundry without having to actually
pay, too. He said, "The students
found a way, by using a hammer,
to push the coins in part way to
turn the machine on."
He continued: "Normally
you have to push the coin slot
all the way in, but they would
take a hammer and hit the slide
and send it on back."
Another instance was when a
girl got her pinky stuck in a coin
slot. He said: "One girl was trying
to get her coins out of the coin slot
and got her pinky stuck. The fire
company had to come with a saw
and cut the coin shoot off."
Nancy Ulsh said, "I think we
actually had to take that particular
student to the hospital," where
they were ultimately able to get
her finger out of the coin shoot.
Despite the hiccups that may
have happened in the 1980s, the
Ulshs both agree that they've
had a great relationship with the
university. They are often invited
to attend university sponsored
events and have a scholarship
in their name.
"It's just been a great 50
years," Merle Ulsh said.
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