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Robert Smith Retires After 55 Years in the Laundry Business

May 8th, 2020

Do you remember when a wash was only 25 cents and a dry was 10 cents? If you don’t, you could ask 55-year CSC veteran Robert Smith. The year was 1965 and Smith had just accepted an offer from a friend to join Vend-O-Mat, a two-man laundry operation in Indiana.

“I still remember my first day, it was January 2 and I really enjoyed the work once I got started,” said Smith. “It was something I had never done before, but I immediately took to it.”

A few short years later, Vend-O-Mat merged with Whitmer out of South Bend, a company that later sold to National Coin out of Ohio. Eventually National Coin became part of Coinmach, which of course merged with MacGray to become CSC ServiceWorks.

Upon joining Vend-O-Mat, Smith was assigned to what was then a one-year contract with Purdue University. The one-year contracts quickly became three-year contracts and Purdue remains a CSC client today. What’s even more remarkable is that Smith has remained the University’s point of contact for all 55 years of his tenure.

For his first four years on the job, Smith was responsible for both service and collections on campus—at the time, this included every residence hall along with 35 fraternities and sororities.

“I was eight years old when my father started his career in the laundry business,” said Dave Smith, Robert’s son and Branch Manager of CSC’s Indianapolis branch. “He would take me with him on Saturday mornings to walk through the dorms and I never once thought that 55 years later I’d be looking back at a lifetime of memories that the laundry business created for both of us.”

Smith has spent the last couple years working a few hours per week managing reports for Purdue and training his replacement, who is now running the day-to-day at the University. Even though Smith was semi-retired by the time CSC Digital Laundry was launched, he’s witnessed plenty of other technological advances throughout his career.

“One of the most interesting things I got to work on was installing Speed Queen equipment that was programmable across campus,” said Smith. “I traveled to Speed Queen in Wisconsin where they taught us how to program the machines and manipulate the electronic system. Suddenly we were able to download data to determine how many times a machine was run and how much money should have been collected. I could even set a machine to come on precisely at 7 am and offer a free wash during certain hours. It was entirely new for the industry and we brought it to Purdue.”

Smith installed the laundry network which included 14 computers across campus that were directly connected to each washer and dryer.

About 10 years ago, Purdue renewed their contract with CSC and informed Smith that it was because of their relationship with him and our level of service that they chose to continue the contract.

“I can truthfully say I enjoyed every single day on the job,” said Smith. “I established such a good rapport with the team at Purdue and I’ve heard first-hand that it is our team’s commitment to service that continues to set us apart.”

Smith is now happily retired at the age of 84 after ending his last season at Purdue a few months early when the campus closed in response to COVID-19.

“I have no regrets, this career has done great for me,” said Smith.

“Dad has always led by example, he taught me to work hard, embrace change and technology and have fun doing it, he’s still passionate about repairing anything you put in front of him and telling you how he did it,” said Dave. “I truly consider it an honor and blessing to have been able to work alongside him all of these years.”