The Rag Man and His Angry Nag.

Joe the Ragman was an unshaven, musty smelling, gnome-like character who wore a long gray, tattered coat buttoned at the top, and a trivial matching hat with a visor. His horse drawn cart was laden with stacks of rags that smelled of the dampness of a cellar. Squeaky wheels carried it down the street. His nasal twang… “Rrraggs, rrraggs,” gurgled in a voice almost too low to be heard.

“Up here, up here,” the residents responded from their windows. And up the stairs he went, plodding on worn dirty boots, empty satchel over his shoulder, gathering rags along his way.

One day, while he was away from his horse, one of my older buddies said, “I’m gonna ride that baby.”

Kinda Like Joe’s Nag

“Ride her? No way. Are you crazy. You can’t do that,” I blurted as I looked around.

“Yep, I’m gonna ride her.”

He rubbed his hands, hoisted on the metal step, stood on the seat and jumped on the back of Joe’s dirty white, droopy horse. She might have been a nag when she pulled the cart, but not so when she was jumped.

Her eyes widened, her ears stood up and back, she raised her head, reared up on her hind legs, threw him off and came crashing down with powerful hooves just missing his head as he rolled away. Yikes, he could have been killed.

I never was quite so venturesome.

On occasion, when I felt a sting of bravery, I hitched a ride on the back of the wagon, but the memory of a crazy nag, Joe’s musty mumble and a few snaps of his whip warded me off.

© July 2018

Rag and Bone Man

By | 2018-08-27T15:43:59+00:00 August 27th, 2018|Friends, Humor, Stories of the 1940's and 1950's|51 Comments


  1. Edward Wilson April 6, 2015 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Ed, I also hitched a ride hanging on the back of that same wagon, he seemed to know we were hanging on, he stoped the wagon and said something to us as we ran away. I also remember selling rags to him, which he would weigh on a large scale. I would get a small amount of change, enough to buy something at the store. Oh the good old days.

    • Ed April 6, 2015 at 10:17 pm - Reply

      We had the SAME rag man, Ed? Yikes! How did our rags look by the time he got to your house?

  2. Karen Izzo April 6, 2015 at 10:53 pm - Reply

    My mother would tell us she was going to sell us to the rag man when we didn’t behave. Thing is, I’m not old enough to actually remember the rag man. I had no idea what she was talking about but it didn’t sound good.

    • Ed April 12, 2015 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Karen. Yes, I too heard the “I’ll let the rag man take you” from my grandmother.

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 3:41 pm - Reply

      My father said he would send me to “the bad boys school at Sockanosset” when I didn’t behave. Oh the threats.

  3. Lynn Walker August 27, 2018 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    I used to tell my little nephew when I babysat and he was naughty that I would let the rag man take him, too, if he didn’t stop. He was terrified of that guy, and he would be good for the rest of the day. This was 1966, so it probably was a different rag man, but the scare power was still there!

  4. Raymond Amore August 27, 2018 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    The world is laden with suffering, and those poor, unprotected animals like the rag man’s horse,were an emblem of humanity’s lack of empathy. Poor horse. His best day was probably the day he evanesced into the ether. I love animals.
    Is this comment too abrasive for this post?

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 3:40 pm - Reply

      Not abrasive at all, Ray, because it’s true. Poor horse indeed. Too soon we have forgotten.

  5. Carolynn Gifford August 27, 2018 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    Good morning Dr. Iannuccilli, I can remember the Rag Man from the sixties, I am assuming it was the same guy. I always wished he would go down to the next neighborhood and that the Ice Cream man would come by instead!! (I also remember there was a guy who would sharpen and fix your lawnmower and knives who would drive around in a truck). I love your stories! Have a great day!!

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 3:38 pm - Reply

      Yes, we too had an ice cream man, a fish man, a knife sharpener man and … guess what … a Waffle Man!

      • Natalie L McKenna August 28, 2018 at 3:05 am - Reply

        I remember the “rag man”. We used to gather up old clothes,warn-out towels, etc.and he would put them in a cloth bag and weigh them on a scale to determine the amount of money he had to provide. Of course, your memory and writing about the “waffle man” saved my sanity. Everyone I used to tell about the “waffle man” thought I was making it up. His waffles were delicious! The Hood “milk man”, whose truck we used to steal ice from in the summer, and the baker who dropped off warm Italian bread daily, the “fish man” who sounded his horn and called out “pesce” (spelling?), the “grocery man who had fresh vegetables and weighed them on a scale shaped like a large metal scoop with a chain hanger held by the weighing mechanism, which had an arrow dial that showed the weight of the vegetables. Oh my, what wonderful memories.

        • Ed August 28, 2018 at 2:33 pm - Reply

          Just a treasure trove of memories of our neighborhood visitors.

  6. Maria Izzi Greene August 27, 2018 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    Dr Ed: I loved the story about the rag man….a strange figure I had almost forgotten. There could have not been much traffic back then as I remember he and his wagon nearly covered the whole street! My question always was and has gone unanswered is “What did he do with the rags.” I think my mother did say once that he sold them. Do you know?

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 3:16 pm - Reply

      Great question, Maria. I will try to find out what he did with the rags. ?to a car wash

  7. bob conroy August 27, 2018 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    I remember the rag man never figured how he made money buying selling rags but he was around for a long time
    great stories great days. I wish I could back. Bob Conroy

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 3:14 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Bob. I never met a poor rag man.

  8. Nola lasalle August 27, 2018 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    Memory of yesterday blended in with many other forgotten memories thanks for the wake up call so many years ago, the raglan whatever happened to him??????

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 3:37 pm - Reply

      Thanks. I guess the rag man drove his wagon into the sunset …

  9. Honey August 27, 2018 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    i am always surprised by your memory of detail. I have no doubt that it is what made you such a great doctor! Keep these stories coming!

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 3:52 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Dear Friend. Love you.
      Yes indeed, they’ll keep acomin’

  10. Leslie Munson August 27, 2018 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    I don’t remember the rag man, but I do remember the fish man, the vegetable man “Hank”, the little old man that sold popcorn from his red wagon and put real Land-O-Lakes butter on it! Also, the ice cream trucks that sold all kinds of good stuff besides ice cream. It was a great time to be growing up back then. We didn’t need much to keep us happy! Summers were especially great!
    I love all your stories and have read all your books so far. Can’t wait for the next one?!

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 4:11 pm - Reply

      Love you, Leslie. Thank you for your kind comments. What, NO waffle man?
      We had one. I’ll post that story soon.

  11. Vin DiBiasio August 27, 2018 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    I remember the rag man that traveled around the Nelson Street school area in the late 1940’s with his horse and wagon. He had a child in our school and was there each end of the school day to pick up his child.. It must have been a lucrative business since in 1950 he had a brand new truck. I’m sure his child was not ashamed to be seen riding in the new truck.

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      As I said, I never met a poor rag or garbage man.

  12. Mary Hobart August 27, 2018 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    Great story- we also had a bleach man and a man who would sell linens from the trunk of his car. Fun times.

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 5:22 pm - Reply

      But, but … did you have a Waffle Man??

  13. Joan Calise August 27, 2018 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    Loved those waffles!

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 6:25 pm - Reply

      AHA! Someone else with a waffle man

  14. Tom DeNucci August 27, 2018 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    By the time he got into my memory he had evolved into using an old, very old, truck. Piled high with all his collections of fabric. In my neighborhood his yell was Eh-raaaggs…Eh-raaaggs. If any were presented to him he would weigh them up on a scale hanging from the side of the truck, then pay out in cash (usually a few coins) from an old leather purse. I wonder if we had the same gentleman?

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 7:27 pm - Reply

      Wow, you were high end. Your man had a truck. And a scale! And cash. I think our guy just took ’em as a favor, no cash, but I’m not sure.

  15. Barbara Brooks Castore August 27, 2018 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    I remember that same Rag Man in Mt Pleasant on Dover St. My Mother use to say if I wasn’t a good girl,she’d sell me to the Rag Man. Someone said he’d give me right back!!!

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 8:33 pm - Reply

      Very funny. I wonder how many kids he was harboring under those rags. A pied piper for annoyed parents.

  16. Mike Montigny August 27, 2018 at 8:00 pm - Reply

    Great story Ed
    Our Rag Man’s name was Mr. Macaroni
    He would come by and always holler out those words Raaggs over and over again as he pulled his cart up Robert West Warwick
    He had no front teeth, and he smelled worse then his horse! He always flirted with my mother when my dad was not home.
    My mother would just ignore him, so he would try and hit on my neighbors along the way.
    When my father was home he would act like a Saint and just wave and say hello.
    My father was 350lbs and he did not want to get him upset.
    Anyway your story brought back a lot of memories about our Rag Man
    Thank you my friend

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      An Italian rag man with the devil in him. And no teeth. Sounds like a Dickens character.
      Thanks for the kind remarks, Mike.

  17. Peter Voccio JR August 27, 2018 at 8:27 pm - Reply


    Believe it or not, Seekonk, a Town of about 5000 in the 1940s, had a rag man. It wasn’t often but several times I would mix some old and not so old rags and clothes to fetch a few coins. My mother when finding that I gave away some good, not so old clothes, would council me on the value that I received was not a fair trade for me. Yes, he shouted, rags, rags, rags. Waffles, no Waffles.
    Newport creamery, Waffle with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream-so good!

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 8:29 pm - Reply

      OK, you’ll have to read my waffle man story. I’ll post it soon.
      You had everything in Seekonk, Eh?

  18. Peter Voccio JR. August 27, 2018 at 8:52 pm - Reply


    Almost. We did have Mr. Thompson, Town Clerk on Newman Avenue, who performed many marriages. As a teen, I directed a few couples to his home.
    His wife was my first grade teacher. We did have schools.

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      Up town, indeed. No wonder you loved it.

  19. Peter Voccio JR. August 27, 2018 at 9:04 pm - Reply



  20. Norman Albanese August 27, 2018 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Hi Doc,
    The only waffle man I remember was at Rocky Point Park. An ice cream square between two warffles.

    • Ed August 27, 2018 at 11:02 pm - Reply

      OK, I will blog the Waffle Man story sooner rather than later

  21. Betty McGowan Young August 28, 2018 at 1:33 am - Reply

    I also remember a rag man with a horse coming to our house on Cypress St in Providence in the 40s. I was on the porch and was very small – pre-school. When the horse looked in the direction of the porch and made noises I got very scared and started to cry as I thought the horse was coming up on the porch. Maybe that’s why I don’t like animals too much to this day. An ice man also delivered ice with a horse-drawn wagon. Anyone remember the iceman?

    • Ed August 28, 2018 at 2:36 pm - Reply

      I have a story of th Ice Man in my third book, “My Story Continues: From Neighborhood to Junior High School.”
      Available on Amazon or at local book stores, or from me if you wish.

  22. Peter Voccio JR. August 28, 2018 at 11:23 am - Reply


    The Waffle man at Rocky Point worked with his mother-in-law at one of the stands. The Waffle was always hot, topped with the square ice cream slab, oh, so good. He was a character and a little flakey. My wife, Ann, and I visited the stand often in our dating years. I am ready (cheap date-EH)

    • Ed August 28, 2018 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      No ice cream on our waffles, just white confectionary powder and plenty of it.
      Inexpensive, value, not cheap. And memorable

  23. Helene Capraro September 3, 2018 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    Your article about the rag man brought back memories from the late 30’s and 40’s. That poor horse. I think even at my young age I felt pity for the poor animal. Another memory. In Cranston, we put our garbage in an in –
    ground pail. On garbage pick-up day my friends and I spent the day indoors. The stench was unforgivable. Helene

    • Ed September 3, 2018 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      Yes, it was a sad old nag, Helene.
      As for the garbage, I just don’t remember. Guess I blocked it out because of the smell.

  24. Mary Hartley September 7, 2018 at 11:46 pm - Reply

    I remember my ragman in Fall River. His name was Joe Bananas and he said “Rrraggs, rrraggs,” too. His horse drawn cart went clip clop, clip clop down the street while I listened, forever bored, through the open window in primary school.
    Joe drove a horse drawn cart under Sputnik’s orbit. I sided with the modern age.
    But Ed, horses? Don’t admit to being THAT old. They’ll send us to the glue factory!

    • Ed September 7, 2018 at 11:56 pm - Reply

      Funny. Mary. Sputnik. You always had the energy of a Sputnik. Yep, horses … hard to believe.

  25. Biagio Trofa October 11, 2018 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    Ah! so others remember the rag man, except I always thought he was saying “rakes”, only much later that I realized it was rags, not rakes. Also the fish man, but for me the biggest impression was the ice man, we live on third floor, and my mother would lean out window, say one half block, and this huge man, with a dark heavy piece of leather draped over his shoulder, would climb the stairs and using this big metal scissor clamp, swing the ice off his shoulder pad into our ice box. I can still see it in my mind, funny the stuff we save in memories

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