Sandburg's Hometown

September 9, 2013


Dusty Streets

By Barbara Schock

When Carl Sandburg was growing up, the streets of Galesburg were mostly dirt. Originally, in the center of town, six streets had been laid out at right angles. As more streets were added to serve a growing population, some angled streets, such as Grand Avenue and Monmouth Boulevard, were added as short cuts to Knoxville and Monmouth.

The dirt streets became dusty during dry weather in the summer, and muddy during wet periods in summer and winter. Of course, the droppings of the horses added to the mixture of airborne particles and odors.

One of Sandburg’s earliest memories was of enjoying the feel of the dust between his toes on South Street where his family lived from 1879 until 1882. He was just a toddler wearing a long white dress hand-sewn by his mother. That was the customary way of dressing children in those days.

August and Clara Sandburg also had three daughters. They didn’t play outside as much as their brothers. They were taught to do household tasks, such as sewing, embroidery and simple tasks in the kitchen. Mrs. Sandburg may have made corn-husk dolls for her girls to play with at home.
The girls could play tic-tac-toe, hide and seek and hopscotch with their brothers. Dominoes might be played on cold winter nights by all members of the family.

As he grew older, Carl found many kinds of games to play with his friends. They used the wooden sidewalks for spinning tops and spilling jackstraws. When they could get chalk, tic-tac-toe was the game of choice. Mumble-peg was played on the grass. How the boys secured a knife to play the game must have been a mystery to some parents. Older boys commonly had jack knives to carry in their pockets. They came in handy for all kinds of repairs and opening of containers.

Baseball was a very popular game which boys everywhere played. The dusty street, a cow pasture, any open space could be laid out with makeshift bases. The ball and bats were also improvised from string and scrap wood.

When the City of Galesburg installed an electric light at the intersection of Day and Berrien Streets, the boys played baseball at night. They used their voices to shout for themselves if they were winning. They also shouted if they were losing the game to cheer themselves.

The police came in the patrol wagon to warn the players about making so much noise. On another occasion, a railroad worker who was trying to get his needed sleep so he would be ready for work the next day, came out of his house and shot a revolver into the air. Some of the boys ran away. Others decided playing baseball in the evening in the street wasn’t worth the risk. They found other things to do.

All of the boys had been told by their mothers to wash the dust from their feet before they came into the house for the night. That was easy enough to do under the pump of the well in the backyard. It was fun to stretch the foot under the spout and lift the handle at the same time to bring up the cool water.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity