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June 09, 1989 - Image 51

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-06-09

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Commuting from his
log cabin in Holly,
Hugh Sanders has become
`the platza man'
at a Southfield
health club.


"The leaves are magic, containing tannic acid and natural oak oil."


.Jewish News Intern


ugh Sanders re-
ceived his first
platza in 1949
when he was five
years old.
"My father would take me
to the Oakland Bathhouse in
Detroit on Sunday mornings,"
Sanders - said. "I could
remember lying on the top
shelf in the steamroom get-
ting a platza. It was warm and
sudsy and comfortable. I lov-
ed it."
Sanders, now 44, not only
gets platzas regularly, but he
also gives them five days a
week at CMI-Tennis and
Health Club in Southfield and
Thursday evenings at the
Schvitz in Detroit.
The idea of the platza ("play-
tzuh") started in Russia hun-
dreds of years ago. It was a
ritual bath, given to cleanse
the body and help soften the
skin. Platza, Yiddish for
"back," starts and ends with
the patcher (platza giver)
massaging and cleansing the
East European immigrants
brought platza to the United
States in the late 1920s.
"When people from Russia
and Europe immigrated to
this country, many of them
came without money, so they
moved into tenement houses,
homes without indoor plumb-
ing," Sanders said. "As a
result, Russian bathhouses
were built in various
neighborhoods for people to
gather in after work and clean
themselves up."
A Russian bathhouse
features a three-shelved
steamroom built underground
with steam coming from an
oven filled with huge rocks.
The oven is heated all night

long. When the bathhouse
opens the next day, the oven is
turned off. The heat radiates
from the rocks all day.
At one time, there were five
Russian bathhouses built in
the Detroit area, but the only
one still in existence is the
Schvitz, formerly the Oakland
Bathhouse, built in 1930.
Sanders credits Detroiters
Izzy Cohen and Leonard
Krolicki with teaching him
the different techniques of
He picks all of the leaves for-
his platza brooms right out-
side his cabin. Each broom is

When Jews
immigrated to this
country, many of
them came
without money, so
they moved into
homes without
indoor plumbing.
As a result,
bathhouses were

made up of about 450 oak
"It takes me about an hour
to pick the leaves and 40
minutes to make them into
brooms," Sanders said.
The broom is dipped in a
bucket of hot water and soap
suds and then spun and
_ twirled all over the body.
"The leaves are magic, con-
taining tannic acid and
natural oak oil," Sanders said.
"They make the skin clean
and soft. The intensity of the
heat loosens the client's
muscles. In about 20 minutes,
that person is well relaxed and
feeling great."

CMI members agree that
Sanders' platzas are rubbing
them the right way.
Ronald Rodnick of South-
field, a long-time member,
claimed there's nothing like a
platza given by Sanders.
"They alleviate my back-
aches and arthritis. I know
platzas, and this man
(Sanders) is fantastic."
"They're a mechiah (pleas-
ure)," said Congregation B'nai
Moshe Rabbi and CMI
member Allan S. Meyerowitz.
"I love Sanders' platzas,"
said Farmington Hills resi-
dent Lou Grant, another long-
time member. "They make
you feel like a million bucks."
"Making people feel good
makes me feel great," Sanders
Feeling great is an emotion
Sanders once thought was lost
forever. "During the 1960s, I
became involved with drugs
and alcohol," Sanders said.
"As a result of this, my life
was a disaster."
In 1977, he went into
"Part of the recovery process
was going back and doing nor-
mal things," Sanders said. "I
started to hang around the
Oakland Bathhouse when I
wasn't writing for the Detroit
Monitor. At the bathhouse, I
gave and received platzas
three times a week."
As Sanders began to get
back on his feet, disaster
struck again. •
"In 1984, I was diagnosed as
having prostate and bladder
cancer which was related to
the drugs I once ingested,"
Sanders said. "Doctors
thought I was going to die. I
was supposed to die. I was very
Doctors removed Sanders'
prostate and bladder,
eliminating the cancer.
As a result of his illness,

Sanders took a leave of
absence from the Detroit

Monitor and spent a tremen-
dous amount of time at the

"They would open at 11
a.m.," Sanders said. "So, I
would go and watch a little
television, take a schvitz and

just relax there all day."
Eventually, Sanders was of-
fered a patcher position. He
would open the steamroom
every morning and give
"I was able to pick up a few
dollars a day," Sanders said.
"It wasn't a lot of money, but

Sanders rubs CMI members the right way.



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