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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

The Pushcart Man

I thought the day of the pushcart was over by 1945, but no, John Downey, of West Washington Street was a pushcart man. He would move your belongings from one house to another or haul away your junk in his pushcart. He came to Bloomington from Kentucky around 1920, but had only been pulling his pushcart for about ten years.


He built the cart himself, buying the wheels four miles north of Towanda and then banging the rest together from odd bits of lumber. His best time for business was in the spring and fall, because the snow made it too slick for pulling his cart in the winter. He claimed that the heaviest item he ever carried was 600 pounds and the furthest he ever carried a load was three miles.


He was quite proud of his Scotch-Irish heritage and smoked a pipe as he pulled his cart. He would take a little break and puff on it with pleasure. He had been smoking a pipe since he was six years old, according to him, and credited it for his stamina.


John died in Paxton at the Ford County Nursing Home, where two of his three daughters lived. He was 84 years old in 1952. We don't know what it was he did before he became a pushcart man at the age of 66. Rest in peace, John, we know you earned it.



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