Knife sharpener guy
Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: margaret (
Date: January 24, 2012 04:12PM

This is going back to pre-1970 and maybe it was just a south side thing, but does anybody else remember the man (men) who used to push a cart through the neighborhoods with a sharpening stone on it that would sharpen your knives & scissors? It had a bell on it so you could hear when he was near and the stone was operated by him using a foot pedal. He did a damn good job & those knives stayed sharp for a very long time.

There was also produce trucks that used to drive down the streets and you would stop them, and have your fruits/vegetables weighed on a hanging scale. I remember the fruit always being really good from them...

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: shekaago (70.58.230.---)
Date: January 24, 2012 06:00PM

I grew up in Schorsch Village on the NW Side and I also remember the scissor/knife sharpener man pushing the cart down our street with the bell ding, ding, dong, dinging! Here's a little article on the subject...


Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: Kchi (
Date: January 24, 2012 06:57PM

I saw the knife sharpener guy this past summer on the NW side by Indian Road Park. It was the same as you described with a foot pedal for power.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: margaret (
Date: January 24, 2012 08:37PM

Oh my gosh! I'm glad to hear it's still around! I remember my brother and I saw him stopping to wipe the sweat from his forehead--it was hot out--and felt sorry for him because here was this poor old guy just trying to earn a few bucks. We took the money our parents put aside for the newspaper boy, grabbed a couple of knives & went outside to meet him. He had a heavy Italian accent and was showing us the nicks in the blades, etc. Our parents didn't get mad when we told them (about the money) and were so impressed with the sharpening job that they told us to keep an eye out for him from then on. Stopped seeing him within a few years.

Glad to hear "the knife man" tradition is still alive! Thanks everyone.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: Richard Stachowski (
Date: January 24, 2012 09:07PM

[b]We had them also in the back of the yards in the 40's.[/b]

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: Dunning1 (
Date: January 25, 2012 05:03PM

I live in the Schorsch Village area too, and remember the scissors grinder very well. He became quite friendly with my family, and for a few years my father would let him leave his grinding wagon in the garage when he was in the area. I guess he had people where he could leave his car overnight in various areas. I can still remember the distinctive three note bell as he pushed the cart down the street.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: theseos (12.207.209.---)
Date: January 25, 2012 07:05PM

We used to have a knife/scissors sharpener come around with his cart growing up in the early/mid-70s in my neighborhood near Six Corners in Portage Park. It may have been as late into the early 80s. I remember my grandma and great-grandma waiting on the front porch or steps with handfuls of knives.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: Elaine W (192.175.17.---)
Date: January 25, 2012 11:24PM

I remember something like this in Hyde Park in the 1950's, maybe into the early 1960's. There were probably different people doing this in different neighborhoods. I'm surprised that someone is still doing this; this kind of itinerant craftsman pretty much went out of business when hardware stores and the like took over.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: b.a.hoarder (
Date: January 25, 2012 11:38PM

Last time I saw the sharpener man was in the early '90's in the Garfield Ridge area. Most of them also repaired umbrellas. I worked with an engineer who was from Cuba, he fled Castro in 1961. One time we were reminiscing about our neighborhoods and I mentioned the sharpener man to him and he laughed. They had them in Cuba too!

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: rjmachon (
Date: January 26, 2012 01:07AM

I grew in Logan Square until we moved to Portage Park and I remember very well in Logan Square the guy coming down the alley to sharpen knives. I also remember the guy coming around and selling vegtables as well.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: zorchvalve (
Date: January 26, 2012 01:53PM

I grew up at north ave. and larabee and in the 40s there was a knife sharpener with a little push cart that came down vine st. There was also a ragman on a wagon pulled by a horse. You could hear him coming from a block away saying "rrrags" in an odd voice. We also had a fruit and vegetable truck come down the street for people who couldn't walk to the market.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: Steve B. (74.7.39.---)
Date: January 26, 2012 05:27PM

I remember my mother calling him the "Rag Sheenee" (Sp?). Don't know why. Never asked.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: jak378 (
Date: January 26, 2012 06:43PM

The term "rag sheenee" comes from a derogatory, and pejorative term of reference to ragmen of Jewish descent, Ragmen travelled the alleys looking for old rags and other similar materials, shouting "rags, old rags, rags," or something like that. Apparently many of them were of Jewish descent, hence the appelation "Sheenee" (sp) The ragmen had a loud, distincitive tone to their voice that was annoing to some. In some neighborhoods and homes being told that you sounded like a "rag sheenee" meant that you sounded unpleasant and loud. In a sense this was an early recycling method since the rags were made into various grades of paper, I think

Thews were not the knife sharpeners.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: b.a.hoarder (
Date: January 26, 2012 08:25PM

Near 26th & California the call was "Rags and old iron" from the horse drawn wagon; into the mid '50's that I know of.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: ski50 (
Date: January 27, 2012 04:12PM

Grew up in Sleepy Hollow area around 47th & Cicero!We had the knife sharpener man also had the Rag man with his horse & wagon calling out Rags & Old Iron.There was also a photograper that came around with a pony called Tony who wpuld take kids pictures in cowboy or cowgirl attire.I think most of this was in 1950,s.There also a barber who made house calls,I think his name was Tony also.Had those hand clippers that would pinch at times.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: 222psm (
Date: January 28, 2012 11:51AM

I grew up in Irving Park, and remember the knife/scissors sharpener, the fruit and vegetable guy, the milk man, and a guy that cleaned the sewer-catch basin in the rear of our building with a long pole and a scooper. He came around once a year around spring time in a old beat up truck. That was back in the early 70's.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: snappytom (
Date: January 28, 2012 07:36PM

I saw the knife sharpener about 5 years ago on the NW side (Edgebrook).
Had not heard those bells in 30 years but immediately I knew what it was.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: rjmachon (
Date: January 28, 2012 08:17PM

Wasn't there a knife sharping store inside of Harlem Irving shopping center?

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: celticjunker1 (
Date: July 27, 2012 02:41AM

The older man the came down the alley between Beverly and Winston, 95th-103rd also yelled Rags-Old Iron. He wanted rags and old iron which he scrapped and he also sharpened knives, skates and anything else that could be sharpened on that stone he had on his contraption which I seem to recall was a kind of pedal car. My mom let him sharpen stuff but we also had to keep an eye on him because sometimes things were missing after he left the neighborhood.

Re: Knife sharpener guy
Posted by: daetchief (
Date: December 09, 2013 08:17PM

I spent my childhood in the 5500 North section of Jefferson Park in the mid 1960's and saw (heard) the knife sharpener(there was a name my folks used for him... Tinker? Cobbler? Something...) and it truly was a neighborhood event whenever the practitioner was in the area.

Mom & Dad were protective of us kids and urged us not to hang around the cart or follow him. As I recall the operators (most often they were a different person each time) were elderly (a subjective term for a then 5 yr old) and almost always Black or a thickly accented immigrant, were always happy and friendly.

Grandpa and Grandma, who we lived above us in a two-flat were less worrisome and often accompanied me to the cart (with their knives and scissors) to introduce me to the operator and the operation. I watched intently while the craftsman made quick work of honing an edge back on the implements. In the coming years I recall Grandma wishing the 'guy' would come around (more).

The story that I recall hearing in the late 60's or early 70's regarding the rarity of the knife sharpening carts was that the City of Chicago wanted to do away the profession and the carts in the spirit of modernization, but it turned out that they had issued licenses to the operators (probably during the Depression) that were good for life. The City (according to Grandpa) didn't want to revoke the existing licenses since many of the operators knew no other trade and relied on the cart to support their livelihood. But the City had placed restrictions on the transferring of the licenses to others, and would not issue any new licenses. (I seem to recall a large metal badge (polished) affixed to the carts) Once all the operators retired, the carts would be silent.

I recall seeing my last cart when I was about 30 years old. It was in the Chicago Historical Society. I wanted to share one last visit to the museum with my Father. I stared at that cart for a long moment - reliving one of the high points of my childhood.

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