“I go running when I have to. When the ice cream truck is doing sixty.”

Summer has stayed another day. The birds are flying in and out of the feeders, the red spawn has been soaked by the hose a couple of times, kids are riding their bikes up and down the street and the insects are singing. It is a wonderful day.

When I was a kid, my street was visited by so many people doing so many different things. There was the milkman whose bottles clanged in his metal holder as he walked to the back door, the sharpener man who rode a bike with a pedal driven honing wheel and who stopped to sharpen knives and scissors, the trash men who came once a week who carried their barrels behind their backs with one hand, the garbage man who also came once a week, the summer ice cream man who came every day, the junk man who shouted for rags and newspapers from his horse-drawn wagon and the mailman who knew everybody and always stopped to talk. The only name we kids knew was Johnny the ice cream man.

My favorite was the sharpener man. I loved to watch him sharpen knives as the wheel whirled. He pedaled fast and turned the knife from side to side then checked sharpness using his finger across the blade. He never cut himself. That amazed me.

Only the mailman is left, and he uses a truck. I take my own trash to the dump and the newspapers get recycled. My knives are quite dull, but I just bought a new sharpener so I’m hoping for the best. I’m also hoping I don’t cut myself prone as I am to self-inflicted injuries. There used to be an ice cream truck with bells playing a tune, but I haven’t heard or seen one on a while.

My neighborhood is a good one with lots of kids, friendly neighbors and dear friends, but I bemoan the loss of these men from our childhood. They provided services but most of all they provided color, smells and sounds to our lives. I still remember the sound of the wheel and the knife, the clop of the horse on the street and Johnny’s bell, that last one most of all.

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8 Comments on ““I go running when I have to. When the ice cream truck is doing sixty.””

  1. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    We didn’t have a junk man with a horse. That would have been cool. But we had horses in the neighborhood so almost as good.
    Our scissor sharpening man rode something that looked like a tiny Zamboni. It had a bell that rang as he rode around the neighborhood. I think my mother never used his services. I could use one now. I’m murder on edged tools.
    I remember all those other visitors to the street. There were three milk delivery companies that came to my street; Hood, Sunnyhurst and CW Speare (which I always thought of as Cow Spear). There was also the Cummings bread truck and a door-to-door clothing and sundries salesman.
    Oddly enough, I don’t remember our mailman. I remember Mr. Perkins, who lived next door to me and was a mailman but he wasn’t ours. He would walk home from work every day, always pausing to give us kids some gum. He had 9 cats and lived in the basement of a duplex that he was building but never quite got around to finishing.
    There is still the ice cream truck which plays an electronic version of the opening bars of Turkey in the Straw on continuous loop. I’d like to punch out his sound system. 🙂

    Check the local grocery stores, like Shaws or Stop and Shop. Some of them offer knife sharpening in the butcher department. It used to be free but I don’t know how it is now.

    Summertime up here. I’m not cutting any more trees. Too warm and buggy back there.

    Enjoy the day.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      I go down the street where the junkman used to live and there is a warehouse where his barn was. I remember his house had a long porch filled with newspapers.

      I could also use a sharpener man. So many of my knives are dull, and it isn’t cheap to have them sharpened. The hardware store does it now.

      Hood and Sunnyhurst were our local milk men too. We had the Hood man with his white truck and round loco in red with a white H.

      I don’t remember our mailman as I was generally in school when he came with the mail.

      Summertime here too!

      Have a great day.

  2. flyboybob Says:

    When I was a kid in Brooklyn NY, circa 1952 or 53, I remember the same street scene. There also was a fellow who had a small merry go round on the back of a flat bed truck which he hand cranked to give the neighborhood kids a ride for a nickel. Even the postman may be an endangered species. My coworkers in Toronto can’t remember when they last had Saturday mail delivery and a first class stamp cost them one Canadian dollar. Email and UPS have been putting the last nails in the US Postal service coffin. Only the Constitutional requirement for the government to deliver the mail keeps them afloat.

    The suburbanization of America following WWII was the beginning of the end of neighborhood peddlers along with many manufacturing jobs. We live in a throw away society where one can’t get a job that pays more than minimum wage without a BA or BS degree. Who gets their knifes sharpened today.

    The GI bill and the education system sold us a bill of goods that good wages only come with a four year college degree. Now plumbers and electricians earn six figure incomes as a result of forty years of depressed vocational education. Now welders are in high demand because all the craftsman have either retired or died. In my part of the country AC repair guys only have to work between April and October. 🙂

    Another warm dry day. No rain in sight until next Thursday.

    • katry Says:

      Bob,
      I remember that merry go round. It used to go up and down the streets in East Boston where my grandparents lived.

      I’m finding more and more packages are arriving from the post office. The last 4 things I ordered were delivered by my postman. I wouldn’t care if we didn’t have a delivery on Saturday. The Constitution only mentioned Congress has the power “To establish Post Offices and post Roads.” The postmaster does come under the Congress as well.

      Most people I know do keep their knives sharpened. I always get whined at because mine are dull. They are expensive so worth sharpening.

      I lived in the suburbs and the peddlers still went street to street. As mini-malls and such were built, though, the peddlers disappeared.

      Electricians spend a long time learning their craft and getting certified. I thick they deserve a good salary. I hate paying it, but it is a necessity.

      If you don’t have a skill, just a high school diploma, you make 62% less of what college-graduates earn.

      Great day here too.

      • flyboybob Says:

        If your toilet is backed up you can’t pick up the phone and talk to a call center in India. 🙂 Plumbers also have a long apprenticeship and deserve every penny that they charge.

        Many years ago in the early 50s my dad was driving his bosses car on business. When he went to start the car it wouldn’t start. His boss told him to get someone to fix the car. A mechanic from a gas station across the street opened the hood and turned one screw and the car started. When my dad asked the price he said $5. My dad said how did you arrive at that price? The mechanic replied, it’s one dollar to turn the screw and four dollars to know which screw to turn. 🙂

      • katry Says:

        Bob,
        It was just an oversight on the plumber.

        Great story!

  3. olof1 Says:

    I don’t think we’ve ever had milk men here, no one I’ve ever asked can remember any. In the city we had all the stores and here in the countryside they just walked to the closest farmer I guess.

    We had the garbage man and the metal scrap man but none of those others when it comes to junk or rags. We did have the knife sharpener but he came with a hand pulled wheeler and only had the stone not the wheel. We also had the travelling muscians, most often it was the organ-grinders. I haven’t seen an oregan-grinder in years. the last time I did was in Paris over twenty years ago.

    The ice cream truck comes here every second Wednesday around 5pm, the same time I stop working so I almost never see it. Just as well because it plays the most obnoxious tune we all hate 🙂

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • katry Says:

      Christer,
      We didn’t have an organ grinder, and I would have loved that. It was a town and I think they were more in the cities. We did have a dairy farm in town, but it didn’t sell directly to the public. The farm is still there but the cows are gone. They sell stuff like mulch now. We also didn’t have the metal scrap man.

      I miss all of those door to door services. Now I have to do errands instead.

      Have a great evening!


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