The founder of Walden's Cleaners - my dad Jess Walden was born in Shawnee in 1902. My grandfather Tom Walden owned a blacksmith shop in Shawnee. My father, Jess, worked in the blacksmith shop but wanted to learn another trade. He moved to Oklahoma City and roomed with a friend when he was about 20 years old.
All I know about this time in his life is he worked in a Dry Cleaners somewhere in the downtown area next to a small restaurant. He learned about the Dry Cleaning process and worked full time doing everything he could. Norman came into the picture when Clark Cleaners came into Norman about 1923. My dad helped install the equipment at Clark Cleaners and then moved to Norman. Dad was not married to my mom (Vivian) at this time and he commuted back to Shawnee lots for the first few months. Dads sister (Della) was dating a guy named Fred Evans (to whom I was named after). Fred and a partner named Burt moved to Norman and opened a cleaners at 121 North Porter, this was in or about 1927. My dad was still working at Clark Cleaners and this is when my dad quit Clarks and went to work for my uncle Fred. Yes Fred was now married to Della, dad's sister and my dad and mom also married and living in Norman. Dad worked for Uncle Fred and Burt but times were very hard, the depression was going on and in 1933 the Evans and Burt owed my dad back wages and offered to sell the cleaners to my dad and mom.
In "1933" dad and mom somehow got a loan and for about five hundred dollars and all the money dad was owed for back wages Walden Cleaners was born, I am not sure of the exact date but I think in the Spring in 1933. Dad told me about just how bad times were around now, but he and mom worked and did everything with no employees. September 1935 my brother Joe was born, World War Two, and times were still pretty bad.
Dad told me when the Navy Base came to town it really helped out Norman, nowhere to spend your money everything was rationed so everything they made now went to pay on the new house at 202 North Flood. Yes in 1933 broke, 1935 a new baby and now in 1943 a new house and paid off in three years. That's when I came into life, October 1946, a new baby is born. Mom was thirty nine dad was forty five, just think when things were just getting better. Norman is doing pretty good now into the fifties and in 1957 with Norman moving to the west, build a pick up (satellite) store, put in the front yard at 202 North Flood. This new store really was a great move, soon mom was so busy she had to hire an employee, I was working and helping Waldens is doing well.
I worked at the store on Porter off and on from 1959 to 1968. In 1968 I took a job in Texas until spring of 1969. May or June 1969 at 11:30 p.m. I was at Sonic on Lindsey Street and my life changed forever when I met Carolyn. We were married in December and for the first few months she worked at another job but it wasn't long before she came to work at Waldens Cleaners. Now in 2009 Carolyn and I see each other every day at work.
We moved the main plant from 121 North Porter to 505 Highland Parkway in 1978. We now are in our third generation at Waldens with our son Tonny and his wife Sara working in the business. Today Waldens Cleaners & Laundry has four locations in Norman and employs over 50 people.