Not So Much As A Crumb

by Terry Hogan

It's gone. There is not so much as a crumb. It used to fill the air with the smell of fresh baked bread. The fragrance would travel down Galesburg's Main Street on little cat feet. It would sit on silent haunches, overlooking "The Q" tracks and then move on.* Although my recollections are foggy, I remember the Lucky Boy Bakery on the north side of East Main Street. An office was nearer the street and the bakery sat behind.

Over the years, while I was still a young lad, my father, Lloyd; my uncle, Herschel; and my oldest brother, Ron; worked at the Lucky Boy Bakery. An early photo shows a young father and a younger uncle standing by an old, but uncertain vintage bakery truck.

Not only is the bakery gone. The company is gone. And in recent years, the building that used to house the bakery has been torn down. Not much is left. Apparently not many memories have survived either. An Internet search turns little about Lucky Boy Bread. A Galesburg obituary or two can be found, listing Lucky Boy as a former employer of the deceased.

On Ebay, there is the occasional Lucky Boy Bread trinket put up for auction. Over the years, I have scrounged up a few wood pencils, a mechanical pencil or two, a key chain with a lucky penny and the Bakery's name. I also have a Lucky Boy Bread key ring, described in more detail, below. I have an old bright orange apron that was worn in the bakery. I bought it in Galesburg at the Antique Mall. I have a Lucky Boy Bakery calendar. It features the famous Dionne Quintuplets, the only surviving identical quintuplets, born in Toronto. My Mother gave the calendar to me. She also gave me a plastic thimble that sports "Lucky Boy Bread" along its margin. I saw a metal thimble for sale at Ebay but it went for $29 plus shipping. It apparently could double for a whistle, according to the Ebay description. In any event, the price got too rich for my blood. (Who but me would be collecting this kind of stuff? It has to make you wonder.) All in all, that’s not a lot of stuff left behind.

I also have a post-card-sized advertisement for the Lucky Boy Bomber radio show put on by Galesburg's own WGIL. It shows a photograph of the World War II bomber with the "nose art" of the Lucky Boy Bakery boy that appeared on the bread wrapper. The pilot worked for Lucky Boy before he entered the war. It must have been lucky, as both he and the plane survived the war. The pilot returned safely to Galesburg and rejoined Lucky Boy. He lived at Lake Bracken and he and his wife were friends of my parents. I wrote an article on this awhile back.

I don't remember much of my Dad's years with Lucky Boy. I was too young. I know mostly what I heard from brief stories of the time. He would wake in the very early hours of the morning and drive from Lake Bracken to Galesburg. The salesmen would load their trucks and be off to make their rounds, not only in Galesburg, but all the surrounding communities, big and small. If there was a corner grocery, there were probably loaves of Lucky Boy Bread, still warm from the oven.

The wintertime was particularly tough on the salesmen. The old trucks did not have heaters. It was also a time when many of the smaller roads, and some of the bigger roads didn't get plowed - particularly at the time these trucks were out. Driving these old trucks, with no heaters, no defrosters, on drifted over roads, made for tough times.

I don't know when Lucky Boy closed shop in Galesburg. I don't know why. I do know, at least I think I know, that there was also a Lucky Boy Bakery in Jacksonville, Illinois. I only know this from oral history. But I also know from genealogy that oral history reliance is fraught with danger.

History fades quickly for small businesses. Genealogy doesn't spend a lot of time on the details of a company that an ancestor worked for. I'm not sure why. When you think of the hours worked per day, six days a week, much of their lives were spent working. For the Lucky Boy Bread salesmen, the time was spent loading, hauling, unloading, stocking shelves, and convincing the grocer to give them more shelf space.

When I return to Galesburg, I usually make the rounds of several antique stores, looking for Lucky Boy Bread stuff. Mostly I find nothing. Frequently the proprietors or clerks act as if they have never heard of Lucky Boy. They appear a little apprehensive about talking to someone who is interested in it.

I wrote an article about Lucky Boy Bakery several years ago for the Zephyr. It drew a response from a woman in California. It seems that she had a spare key for her apartment that was on an old Lucky Boy key ring. Although she was vague on the specifics, the key ring played an important role in a romance that resulted in her marriage. (I could speculate on this, but I won't. I'll leave it to you.) The key ring was a little round piece of plastic with a clear bubble center (like a small watch crystal) that showed the Lucky Boy Bread boy's face.

I frankly don't know where this article is going. I just started it and figured it would go somewhere. It has, but it seems to lack a clear ending. But perhaps that is appropriate. Perhaps the Lucky Boy Bakery in Galesburg had a similar vague ending. I certainly don't know.

If you know any stories about the Bakery or any facts that are so sorely lacking in this article, I would like to read them. You could mail or email them to the Zephyr and they will be passed on to me. To risk singing the song of so many genealogists, I waited too long to ask my father or my uncle about Lucky Boy. They're gone now.

So if there is a moral to this article, it is one that I've preached too often before. Ask now while they're alive. Write the answers down. Write the oral histories down. Do it even if you don't have time for genealogy now. Put it in a safe place.

Do it, before they are all gone…without so much as a crumb left behind.


*My apologies to Sandburg. It was a weak moment.