Today we welcome guest blogger Kenneth Haag. He shares a charming childhood memory of the rag man who rode through the alleys of Kenneth’s North Side Chicago neighborhood.
I was born too late for horse-drawn wagons, but I do remember a knife sharpener who wheeled a wooden cart down Central Park Avenue in the early 1960s. He stopped his cart on the street in front of our house, and my mother would bring out the kitchen knives.
It may seem hard to believe peddlers still walked residential streets in 1960s Chicago, but it’s true. Someone on the Forgotten Chicago forum posted a comment recalling the knife sharpeners and even linked to a photo of a cart, circa 1968!
Here’s Kenneth’s post:
“We called him the Rags-a-Line Man because that’s what his call, “Rags, old iron!” sounded like. He drove a horse-drawn wagon through the alleyways of our North Side neighborhood (Addison & Albany) in the 1940’s and probably earlier. He was one of the most magical characters of my youth.
“My hope is to write an article about him and his fellow tradesmen, these obscure and all-but-forgotten men (and their horses). I want to know who they were, where they came from, where and how they lived, so that there should be something to remember them to future generations. So far, I’m having very little success in finding anything on the internet. Any suggestions will be much appreciated.
“The Rags-a-Line Man of our neighborhood was called Koutek, which may have been his surname. I turned seven in 1949, having lived at 3050 Addison for about three years. Another Chicago blogger lived on the South Side during that era and remembers hearing the call, “Rags-a-line!” in his neighborhood. So this becomes part of the mystery.
“How many of these ragmen and their horses were there? What determined their range and routes? How did the trade actually work? How did they manage to make a living at it – and also house and feed the horses?
Might there be living ancestors with stories to tell?
“On a different theme, my grandfather worked for the McBride Brothers & Knobbe Ice Cream Company sometime between 1914 and 1920. I have a photo of him and one of his co-workers with the horse-drawn wagon. The original photo is now in the Chicago History Museum library, but I have a large copy of it on my wall at home.”