The historic preservation officer for the city of Phoenix has taken an interest in the city’s car wash culture. Writing for the Arizona Republic, Michelle Dodds describes the period-defining rise of what were known as “auto laundries” in the 1950s.
Here’s an excerpt, but go to the Republic website to read the whole thing.
Cars were washed by hand in the earliest car washes.
The process progressed through the years until it became a fully hands-free event as the car would advance through the tunnel and came out sparkling clean on the other side. Of course, the self-serve car wash was another option in Phoenix. These were coin-operated facilities where you would drive your car into one of several bays to wash your car yourself.
The car-wash industry has evolved over time, but these businesses still tend to be locally owned family operations.