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ftp901's avatar

Is it common in other towns for a man to drive around ringing a bell (like an ice cream truck) offering knife-sharpening services? or any other similar services?

Asked by ftp901 (1276 points ) July 9th, 2010

In a few towns I know I’ve seen what looks like an ice cream truck driving around ringing a bell. On the side of the truck it says it says he offers knife & scissor sharpening.

I’m not sure if this is a world-wide phenomenon or just this local area. Has anyone else in North America seen this?

How could this man possibly be making a living? He drives so fast down the street that once you heard the bell, you would literally have to make a split-second decision to run into the kitchen, grab your knives and run onto the street after him.

It just seems so bizarre to me and I’d like to know if this is a common service or just some crazy local man.

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18 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

I used a mobile knife sharpener who drove a truck and rang a bell in New York City for 20 years. I have moved, but when I visit I still see him on the street once in a while. Itinerant knife-sharpening is an old American tradition.

cookieman's avatar

If I saw one of my neighbors running frantically into the street waving around a bunch of knives – I’d call the police.

To answer the question, no o have not seen this in my area (Boston).

YARNLADY's avatar

We used to have street vendors like that, who would drive through neighborhoods and sharpen knives, clean pots and pans, and remove old, usable, sellable items, sort of like a junk dealer. We also had the Jewel Tea man who sold kitchen cleaners, dishes, towels and such in addition to coffee and tea.

My favorite was the milk man, who I never saw, since he came while we were still asleep. He left milk with cream on the top, and Mom always made peaches and cream for breakfast.

I have read that the “junk man” is making a comeback in some neighborhoods.

Jeruba's avatar

Oh, I haven’t seen an itinerant knife and scissors sharpener for years and years!—at least twenty. I was wondering just the other day if anyone did that any more.

I think the procedure would be to hail the man first and then run after your knives when he stops.

It’s nice to know there are still some old-fashioned traveling vendors of services around. If a junk man or a rag man came by regularly pushing a cart or slowly driving a truck as they did in my childhood neighborhood, I would make it a weekly project to have a bundle ready for him until all my closets and boxes were cleared out.

What I’d really like to see come back is the fruit and vegetable man.

Symbeline's avatar

I’ve never heard of that, but that sounds pretty cool.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Jeruba We have fruit people, but they just put up tables on busy intersections.

Jeruba's avatar

I want the old guy to come around the neighborhood with a horse-drawn cart and call out his wares. You can hear him a block away. Tomatoes, beans, peaches and melons. Fresh hen’s eggs, too. Who knew it wouldn’t always be that way?

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Jeruba “Straawwberries! Four quarts for a dooollllar!’

We had ice cram man, knife shapening and milk man.
Kife shapening stiopped 40 years ago and the Milkman 15 years ago. The ice cream truck still comes aroumd.

Now there is the Swan frozen foods guy. The only bell he rings is the doorbell.

SmashTheState's avatar

When I was a kid, about 30 years ago, there was an itinerant tinker (one who fixes pots and pans) and blade sharpener who made the rounds in his truck, ringing his bell. But we also had a juice man with a bell, who would bring around bottles and crates of various sorts of fruit juices. You could place orders with him, in which case he’d make sure to ring your doorbell (or drop your order off with a neighbour), or you could just wait for him to come around and hope you didn’t miss him.

Unfortunately, all itinerant vending is now banned here, as it is in many cities. People don’t seem to realize that the reason they don’t see these sorts of services any more is because business has taken control of government (here in Ontario, it’s through the structure of BIAs – Business Improvement Areas – which have been given quasi-governmental powers over city streets and own all the politicians at city hall) and stamped out vending. I once had a live media debate with the head of one of the BIAs over vending, in my capacity as spokesperson for an organization fighting for the right to vend on city streets (among other things), and after the debate we had a long informal discussion. He stated flat out that they owned city hall, and that the reason they had crushed itinerant vending is they considered it unfair competition; store owners have to pay property tax and itinerant vendors don’t. So they simply had their pet politicians ban it. I suspect this has occured in many, many places.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Wow…I’ve only experienced ice cream trucks. Could you send him my way? The tenants of my Henkel block set could do with a bit of whetstone love.

Mom told me that, back in the ‘50s when she had two babies, if she didn’t answer the knock at the door, the milkman knew that she was taking advantage of napping when the kids were. He’d enter the house, check the refrigerator, and restock it.

NaturallyMe's avatar

Nope, i’ve never heard of such a thing here! Or anywhere else actually…

knitfroggy's avatar

The only service I know of like this a man that goes around to beauty shops and barber shops sharpening their shears. I’ve never seen him going thru my neighborhood with a bell.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Wow, I haven’t seen one of those since I was a child, and only in the small town in Michigan where my grandparents lived, which was a pretty small town in the early 70s. I know there’s a Kids in the Hall comedy sketch from the 1990s with a knife sharpener dude walking around the neighborhood with his tools. Dave Foley, as an ax murderer, stops in the middle of a killing spree to have the man sharpen his ax blade and makes small talk.

iflyaa's avatar

We had a knife sharpening man while I was growing up in a suburb of NYC in the 60’s. I wish I had one driving around now. He always did a great job as I recall my Mother saying.

Andreas's avatar

@SmashTheState Corporations pretty much rule all of us. Democracy?

Even ice-cream trucks are rare now in Perth, Western Australia, where I live. But all sorts of deliveries used to be made in past decades, but that was then.

ftp901's avatar

These are great answers, thanks everyone. This confirmed my suspicion that this is not a common activity and that this is, in fact, a crazy man holding on to a tradition that is past it’s prime. I guess it worked in a time when women were home during the day, lived in neighbourhoods where houses were close to the street, and cooked so frequently that they needed constant knife sharpening.

…and it was also a time when people weren’t freaked out when their neighbours ran out onto the street with knives

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

You were considering starting up your own travelling business, weren’t you? :)

MrHopkins's avatar

As a child I remember the junk collector driving through the streets with the cow bells ringing on his truck. This was way before recycling so he’d be looking for scrap metal, glass and mostly anything he could re-sell !!

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