Parks takes a load off South Kitsap players, coaches

The motto is lettered into a mug and hangs from the wall in her room between the locker rooms at South Kitsap High School.

"It's a dirty job and I get to do it."

That has been the weekday routine for Gloria Parks, 60, since she began working as South Kitsap School District's laundry person in 1981. She has worked for the district for 39 years after starting in food services.

Parks keeps detailed handwritten notes on the number of loads — she averages 28 to 45 per day in the four big washers and three dryers — she does. As of July 30, Parks washed 154,150 loads of laundry for teams.

"Only two stains have defeated me," she said.

One was a kicker who sat on a piece of candy and "it dyed them the prettiest shade of hot pink you've ever seen." They remained that color until they were tossed out a few years later. The other occurred when a football coach broke a pen in the pocket of his shorts.

"If he hadn't let it sit for two days, I would've gotten it out," Parks said.

She said every other stain, ranging from axel- and motor-oil grease to gum, has been removed.

"The biggest compliment I ever got was when the [football] announcer yelled, 'They've got new uniforms,' ” Parks said. "They were six years old."

Parks prefers washing clothes for boys' teams.

"I will take every boys' sport over five girls' sports," she said. "That's because a boy is trainable. A girl does not care until they have to do their own uniform."

Parks keeps a regimented schedule, which she said is the only way to avoid working overtime. She arrives at school around 5 a.m. with the first load going 30 minutes later. In addition to the athletic teams, she also washes towels for physical education classes, where showers are required, food services, maintenance and trainers. She is employed to work for the district, not just the high school.

"It's just something you don't have to worry about," said D.J. Sigurdson, who coached South's football team from 1997 to 2011. "We're very unique and sometimes you don't realize how fortunate you are."

One place that Parks does not do laundry is at home. She lives with her sister, former Orchard Heights Elementary School teacher Karen Bishop, and her father. Her sister handles the household laundry, while Parks cooks dinner for the family.

Doing any more loads might be physically impossible for Parks. She wears hand braces when she sleeps for half of the year to help alleviate pain from the repetitive stress of folding. The chemicals and heat, she said, strip away her fingerprints nine months out of the year. Parks said when she had to get fingerprints for the school district, it took nine tries.

Most of that work is dedicated toward the sports programs. When the team plays an away game on a grass field, she meets the players at the locker room to begin the four-hour process of removing stains. She said FieldTurf actually is more difficult.

"It's like cleaning coffee grounds out of everything," said Parks, referring to the recycled rubber tire pebbles in the turf. "I will take grass over turf."

Home games, where Parks has worked the restricted-access gate since the Fisher era, are 23-hour days.

When Walla Walla visited Joe Knowles Stadium several years ago and spent the night in the Maguire Wolf Den, Parks washed the Blue Devils' uniforms and had them ready by the time they left.

Another favorite memory — and busy night — came Oct. 19, 2007, when torrential rain drenched South's home field. Neither team moved the ball much in the downpour and the Wolves prevailed 7-0 against Gig Harbor.

"Those uniforms went through 14 times," Parks said. "They even ran them through the shower at halftime. But nothing was ruined."

Parks has chronicled those memories from each football season since the Fisher era with a scrapbook. She compiles articles written about the team along with updates on former players competing in the college and professional ranks. Parks said they range from 200 to 225 pages with the largest reaching 258 pages. Wrestling coach Chad Nass joined the project in 2005.

Teams have shown their appreciation for Parks by presenting her with state championship rings. She has one from the football team when it won state in 1994. She also has one from the baseball team with all three of its state titles on it.

Parks, who rarely misses a day of work, bristles when asked how many more years she plans to work. Her only extended absence came in 1985 when she fractured her right ankle coming down the stairs at her home. She missed 44 days.

"I would have worked if they would've let me," Parks said. "I love doing laundry. I love to fold it and separate it. I wouldn't have a job I did not like coming to."

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