Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ding-Dong, It's The Knife Man

Ding-Dong---Ding,Ding-Dong---Ding. When I was a little kid, the sound of those bells would bring me running to the street. What was it? No, it wasn't the Ice Cream Truck. It was The Knife Sharpener! That's right. A little old Italian man, authentic right down to his Beret and Bandanna around his neck with Half-Bifocals perched low on his nose. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought this was Gipetto.

He would push this humongous green cart up and down the hilly streets of Struthers. No easy task, given the terrain. I couldn't pedal my bike up some of the streets the Knife Sharpener traversed. I would follow him, usually with a collection of other neighborhood kids as he plied his trade.

The unmistakable sound of those loud bells would alert the housewives to bring their knives outside to him to be sharpened in the middle of the street. Quite a sight to see these women come flying out of their houses brandishing large Butcher knives, often waving them over their heads to draw the attention of the Knife Sharpener. I'm sure in this day and age, a Cop seeing this would have plugged them full of lead before they reached the sidewalk. So much for Zero Tolerance in the neighborhood.

Gipetto, as I'll call him, would pull his cart to a halt. I can't imagine how much it weighed, but it took him quite a few feet to stop the cart's forward momentum. The cart itself was ingenious. He had a metal stand he pulled the cart backwards on to, much like a large kickstand. The Covered Wagon size wheels would then be six inches off the ground. This stabilized the cart and he had foot pedals he pumped to turn the Grinding Wheel and operate the water pump that bathed the stone in water as he grinded away. He put a razor sharp edge on anything you brought him. Knives, axes, hatchets, lawn mower blades, scissors, and garden shears all were sharpened to precision. To demonstrate this, Gipetto would take a piece of paper and slice it with a deft stroke of his hand with the newly sharpened item.

Gipetto was a sharp business man. Knowing that crowds often attracted more business, he offered penny candy to the children hanging around his cart. he would sing or whistle Italian Opera while he worked and always had a smile on his face that was infectious. I can recall him being at one spot in a suburban neighborhood for hours, as mothers or their designated offspring lined up to get that precision hone on their item.

Eventually, Gipetto no longer appeared in our neighborhood. I don't know whatever happened to him or his business. Was it a lack of customers with so many moms now working? Did the electric can opener do him in with it's built-in knife sharpener? Did he simply retire with no one interested in taking over his trade? I'd love to know. It was sort of like Puff The Magic Dragon. Another childhood memory that vanished in the mist. Ding Dong--- Ding, Ding-Dong---Ding...


  1. I WANT A KNIFE SHARPENING MAN! Actually, I want to BE a knife sharpening man. That would be such a great job! We didn't have one in Hubbard (that I know of) but my mom used to take knives and scissors to a sewing machine store to get them sharpened. Maybe Gipetto had a stand there one day a week. She complained in her later years that there was no where to get scissors sharpened. Excellent post, Tom. I'm amazed at what you remember.

  2. This is awesome, Tom. I had the complete mental image of this happy little man and his amazing knife sharpening cart. A neighborhood spectacle, and yet a common fixture of years gone by.

    Yeah - can you imagine the uproar this would cause now as women and kids of all ages in a suburb stood around getting knives and such sharpened in the street?

    What great memories, though, Tom! Thanks for sharing!


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