As strange as it may sound, some of my fondest childhood memories took place at a dinky, old car wash in my hometown.
Florence, Kentucky — just about 13 miles south of Cincinnati — didn’t have too much to offer while I was growing up. There was a Bob Evans nearby, a Frisch’s and some other chain restaurants that you might expect in any average town. But there was only one car wash: the Classic Car Wash.
Long before I was even born, my dad developed a fondness and devotion to cars. He always wanted the newest, shiniest car in town.
Did I mention ‘shiniest’? Dad couldn’t bear to have a dirty car, so naturally that’s where the Classic Car Wash came into play. He was there at least once or twice a week from the time I was a toddler even throughout my high school years. It was just another home away from home, helping Dad wipe off the car to make sure there wasn’t a loose water droplet in sight.
If I had to draw a map of this place from memory, I know I still could. Each visit began with a greeting from a roughly 15-foot sign made of white brick, which read “Classic Car Wash” in big, red serif letters, and below, “all cloth.”
The drive-through entrance wrapped around the side of the building and met a garage-like space beside heavy shrubbery and a stop sign. A reminder to turn off all radios hung overhead. The same, kind face that greeted me as a kid still greets me today. He always politely opened the car doors for us as we got out to head inside.
The best part was watching the actual car wash itself through the four large windows that lined the hallway of the building. Spray, scrub, blast, rinse, wax and dry. After the car rolled slowly out of the wash, a worker would pull it up to one of 20 stations beside high-powered vacuums. I’d watch my dad outside from the waiting room with his own personal towel, helping wipe every last drop of water off his car that the automatic dryer may have missed. No matter how superb of a job the workers might do, Dad was always close by, towel in hand, just in case.
If my sister and I were really lucky, Dad would let us stay in the car and ride through the wash. The long, blue strips of cloth that hung overhead doused the car in soap. We pretended it was an octopus. Watching the rainbow soap bubbles get sprayed away was our favorite part. Eventually we’d see the light at the end of the tunnel as the powerful blow dryers magically dried the car in seconds. I’ll go out on a limb here and say nothing is quite as exciting when you’re a kid than riding through a car wash.
Still today, the interior of the building hasn’t changed a bit. The same outdated décor remains in the waiting room checkout area, and the wall of air fresheners, steering wheel covers and other car accessories still lines the wall nearest to the door.