Lucky Boy Bread-- Still Warm On The Grocer's Shelf

Are you even old enough to remember corner grocery stores? Are you old enough to remember when the bread you bought in Galesburg was baked in Galesburg? Then you are old enough to remember Lucky Boy Bread, baked by the Lucky Boy Bakery.

Lucky Boy was located on the north side of E. Main St., not far from the Post Office. It was not a delivery site for white bread baked hundreds of miles away, pumped full of preservatives, and shipped "fresh" to your supermarket's shelf. It was the site where the ingredients were mixed, placed in pans, baked, cooled, packaged, loaded on trucks early in the pre-dawn morning and delivered truly fresh to the waiting neighborhood grocer's shelves.

The odor of fresh baked bread, buns and other bakery goods would spread along the sidewalks of E. Main St. in the early morning mists, tempting many an early riser to stop in at one of the local cafés for a second breakfast. While most of Galesburg slept, employees of Lucky Boy baked the bread, loaded the trucks and set off before dawn to deliver the "staff of life" to the neighborhood groceries serving Galesburg, Knoxville, Abingdon, Monmouth and the other small towns and villages that once supported their own grocery stores.

The job of making and delivering the bread ought to merit the attention of folk stories and ballads­­ but I know of none. The trucks were custom made, very heavy, nearly indestructible and unheated. On icy roads, they could drive like the wind­­ as long as you only wanted to go straight and weren't interested in stopping. These heavy trucks were often known to pick up speed and blast through large snow drifts­­ on the hope or prayer that there wasn't a stalled car within. After all, caution meant making it only partially through the drift. In the cold darkness of a Midwestern winter morning, the drivers started out on their delivery routes through snow, sleet, hail and combinations thereof. The bread had to be delivered.

Not many meals were served without bread. The postman brought bills and junk mail but Lucky Boy brought fresh, hometown baked bread.

In those days, Lucky Boy showed class and respect for its customers. The bread salesmen didn't walk into the store wearing a sweatshirt advertising an over-priced tennis shoe or proclaiming a bumper sticker philosophy. They wore neat, professional, clean, uniforms. It supported the image that the product was baked in a manner that your grandmother would have endorsed.

The Lucky Boy employee, perhaps a friend, neighbor, or a relative, rose quietly from his bed early in the morning. He would be gone for several hours before his children would be stumbling out of bed to face another school day. His wife would make a large, hot breakfast to hold him to lunch, many hours away. She would see him off and cleanup the kitchen. Then she would change from wife to mother and begin the second breakfast of the morning. Bacon, eggs, cereal and Lucky Boy bread by the toaster would see them off to school. No worrisome thoughts of calories or cholesterol for mom. She knew the merits of hot wholesome food.

Lucky Boy Bakery jobs were long­­ no eight hour workdays. It would be late evening by the time the tired father would return home. Bread loaded, bread hauled, bread sold, bread shelved, route run and paperwork completed. Time for home, a late dinner, and bed, a few hours sleep before he began again. Hobbies and "free time" activities were not options. It was a hard life. But it was honest work and it was fine bread.

Lucky Boy is no more. It followed the path taken by the neighborhood grocer and the small town business center. We are responsible. We made the decision. We drove by the corner grocer. We drove to the new, bigger grocery store, saving a penny here and a nickel there. It wasn't wrong. It was free enterprise and free choice. Perhaps we didn't recognize the hidden costs of these decisions: the loss of locally owned and operated businesses, the decay of downtown.

These big stores have large volume centralized bakeries­­ mass-produced, mass-baked, mass-preserved. Now we have white bread probably off a production line in New Jersey, next to a refinery and a Superfund site. This bread can sit around in your home for weeks and no self-respecting mold will take a bite of it. It's worth pondering.

The seeds of the hometown bakery laid dormant for years but were not dead. Galesburg again supports a home-town bakery, a younger, smaller version of one that served a younger Galesburg. It is not far from the old Lucky Boy Bakery site. This new bakery isn't as large, nor does it send out trucks driven by dedicated bread salesmen enroute to corner groceries. However, the enchanting odor of fresh baked bread again prowls the sidewalks of Galesburg "on little cat feet." As in earlier times, the aroma makes promises that it can keep. It is hometown baked and hometown fresh. And if your are silly enough to let it sit around too long, it will turn the colors of the rainbow.

I won't mention the bakery's name, after all, this is not an ad. If you don't know where it is, just park the car near Main and Seminary, get out, and follow your nose. This act is best performed when you are hungry. You can't miss the delightful and historic scent of home-town baked bread.

The good things in life have a way of being rediscovered.

This article posted to Zephyr online August 29, 1997
Back to the Zephyr home
page.Send us e