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Soue Kee Delivers the “Laundlee”

The following article was originally published in the January – February 1966 issue of Sentinel magazine.

Old-time navy men lost a good friend and their favorite laundryman recently when Soue Kee, 80, died in the Chinese Hospital at Victoria. His broad grin and high-pitched cry of “laundlee” was known to sailors from coast to coast who became his friends during his 33 years of laundering for the crews of the navy ships at Esquimalt.

He never ceased to amaze young ordinary seamen with his system of bookkeeping. He took down no names or amounts owed, but the laundry always came back to its rightful owner, and the charge would be exact. He was the unofficial finance company for many a sailor who ran out of ready cash between paydays. The loans were always interest free and were always repaid.

The crew of the former light cruiser HMCS Ontario would greet Soue Kee’s daily arrival with almost as much pomp and ceremony as they would any visiting brass. When he mounted the ship’s gangway, he was piped aboard like a celebrity, and he always replied with a smart salute.

He retired from the laundry business six years ago.

Although he was known to sailors as Soue Kee, it was not his real name, but that of his laundry. He was born Tank Kam Chew in Canton some 80 years ago. He came to Canada when he was 25 and operated his laundry for 50 years in Esquimalt. The old Soue Kee laundry was at 62 Pioneer Street, but both the building and the street have long disappeared, absorbed by the growth of HMC Dockyard. Five Chief Petty Officers and a Petty Officer were the pallbearers at the services for their friend.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: http://militarybruce.com/soo-kee-delivers-the-laundlee/

2 comments

  1. Jack Bates

    Try the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum web site…contact Clare Sharpe. She could probably help out with that….jack

    1. Bruce Forsyth

      Hi Jack,

      Thanks for stopping by my web site. This article has been on my web page for around 15 years and I pretty much forgot about it until recently when I finally decided to post the photos on the web page. I checked the magazine and it said that it was published by the Queen’s Printer. Mystery solved. Thanks for your suggestion anyway.

      Bruce

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