Sandburg's Hometown

May 5, 2014

Vintage milk wagon

The Milkmen

by Barbara Schock

Carl Sandburg was walking along one day when Sam Barlow hailed him and asked if he would like a job. Barlow offered $12 a month, plus a meal cooked by his wife at noon every day. Carl accepted and then told Mr. Humphrey, his boss at the barber shop in the Union Hotel, that it was time to quit.

With the coming of spring the barber shop was getting stuffy. Driving a milk wagon with the sun and blue sky overhead was much more appealing. In addition, Carl had experience in delivering milk on a previous job.

At 6:30 in the morning Sandburg walked from his family home on Berrien Street across the C.B. & Q. switching yards, on to the Knox College campus, South Street and then to the Barlow barn at 634 Monmouth Boulevard. The milk was brought directly from a farm in eight gallon cans.

Sandburg was responsible for cleaning the horse stalls and hitching the animals to the milk wagons. He also groomed the horses every day. Sandburg and Barlow delivered to homes on the south side of Galesburg. Other employees delivered to the north side. The men carried two-gallon cans of milk to each customer’s door and poured out pints and quarts as requested. During the warm months, from June through September, deliveries were made twice a day. Most residents did not have iceboxes in which to keep the milk cool. And, there is only so much sour milk that can be used in cooking and baking.

During the summer the milk cans had to be cleaned twice a day. Sandburg and Mr. Barlow rinsed them with cold water. They added a cleaning powder and hot water, using a brush to scrub the inside. The cans were put on a rack upside down, outdoors to dry.

Barlow was a fiddle player and well versed in the music played for barn dances. He was a short, well-muscled man who had a ready smile. He was old enough and experienced enough to know what he liked and what he didn’t like.

He appreciated his customers and made sure they received fresh, pure milk. He watched the houses along the delivery route to see when a family moved out and a new one moved in. He usually persuaded the new residents to become customers. He told his employees not to sass the customers.

Barlow had stopped attending church because he felt there were too many hypocrites involved. He explained to Carl that he belonged to the “big church.” The one that took in everybody.

After eighteen months on the job, Sandburg began to feel that he was going nowhere. He was still trying to find his place in the world, so he moved on. Nevertheless Sandburg and Barlow remained friends. Carl would visit and listen to music on the Victrola phonograph with the Barlows.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
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