Monday, June 25, 2007

The Return of Hobos



In the Above art you see Markings, interptative signs that were used by Hobos in the 1930's. ( I am bringing these Signs/Symbols up for a reason, so hang in there Enigma is going Somewhere with this). The markings were used by unemployed men to communicate with each other as they wandered across the country in search of Work, Food, and Housing. It was a way for the wandering men to take care of each other. Hobos were known for their Independence, but also for their Work Ethic, they were mostly men that had been employed and were creative and thoughtful and talented, and many had held Skilled Employment before the Depression Hit. They used the symbols in trainyards and on the Homes near train yards. They also used the symbols in neighborhoods to let other Hobos know Where it was safe to Sleep, or find Hospitalities such as Good Cooking. They created many of their own symbols and some differ regionally. Some Hobos also were extremely talented, and you may have heard of "Tramp Art" made from useless or discarded objects.
( The odd thing is that there is a difference between Hobos and Tramps, tramps tended to be men that were not working, Hobos were known for seeking work and working hard, quiet diligence).

On the back of my Grandmother's house scratched into the frame by the Kitchen door was what appeared to be a broken clock , it was the symol of a PIE, the highest praise for "Good Cooking". A gardener at their home explained The Symbols to me when I was eight back in the 1960's.

I now live in an Old Neighborhood, and oddly enough there is now a quiet Return of the Hobo Symbols.

I walk my dog and this spring I kept seeing "W"s large, yet daintily inscribed, occasionally on a tree or on a sidewalk in the neighborhood. Finally a good fellow that helps me with my yard saw me looking quizically at the "W" that is down just past my house. I laughed and showed it to him and said " This damnwell better not be a Dubya this close to my house ?!?!?!".

He laughed too, and said "Nope, don't you worry it does NOT stand for That Crook".

(( Cici does yardwork with me, I needed some help and he comes every other week. I give him icewater or lemonade, and sometimes I bake Something. And if it is his last job of the day sometimes we sit on the porch steps and talk Life. He is a Vet with a Limp, and he tells stories with a great sense of Humor, and Southern Manners. I appreciate his help and the quiet diginity that he carries with him.)

So I asked WHAT does the "W" scratched in the Sidewalk stand For ???

It Stands for "WORK".... "Work Available".
And now when I walk the dog I keep an eye peeled for the Markings, the Symbols of Our Own Hobo Era.

13 comments:

DivaJood said...

We're on the brink of a major recession, so yes, it would make sense that the hobo life will return. Interesting post, and I love the symbols explained.

Coffee Messiah said...

Makes sense to me, although it shouldn't be this way.

I only recently found out about "Hobo Tokens."

Riding The Rails by Jack London was an interesting read on his hobo-ing days.

Sad to think we're back to that! ; (

Mariamariacuchita said...

Very cool. Love this post.

The hobos used to come to my great-aunts home in Denison,Texas, a railyard town, and home of the old KATY railroad- because they knew that after they got off the trains, that the railroad people would always feed them. Even though most of them were pretty poor themselves. (Aunt Gussie grew up in 2 railroad cars pushed together with a breezeway connecting them.)

Made the hobos sit out on the stoop, but fed 'em.

How many people will go feed the hungry these days?

...I'm not talking about handing out a dollar bill to the guy standing on the corner with a cardboard sign.

I mean cook up a meal and feed someone, work in a food pantry on the weekends, etc.

Talking about giving of one's time.

Anonymous said...

This should be the sign on the sidewalk outside the Enigma Cafe ~ PEACE

Larry said...

There are nearly 2 million homeless veterans in America.

30% of those homeless veterans were in Iraq or Afganistan.

Funny way to show our veterans appreciation from the Bush White House.

Mary said...

Learned something new today. Very interesting.

Holly said...

I never knew the hobos had these symbols to talk

D.K. Raed said...

I like the "pie" symbol!
Are the migrant workers of today like the hobos of yesterday, I wonder? I'm sure they also have a network of code to let others know who might have trabajo.

My great grandma lived near the mexican border, where she & her sisters ran a boarding house. She got a rep for good, hot meals & a place to flop out in the barn overnight for those who couldn't afford her rates, but never for free. Oh no, she always demanded the men do something even if it was only sweeping the cobwebs from the ceilings cuz it gave them dignity. In addn to poverty, there was much racism down there, still is. ~~ D.K.

annie said...

fascinating stuff. thanks for the continuing education!

enigma4ever said...

Everyone thanks...I loved hearing about relatives and others interactions and history...and yes I am sad that the Economic Part of this is part of the story....and DK, yes it all comes down to Dignity....People need to have work and Purpose and feel that they contribute and that it means something.......

These symbols mean alot to me- Hope, Dignity, and a sense of community and caring for others....leaving messeges for the next on the road...

Blueberry said...

My mother was a hobo for awhile back in the Depression. She was a teenaged runaway, and really had some stories to tell. Interesting about the symbols. I didn't realize that. We lived in Greece many years ago, and there were gypsies there who did the same thing to the houses, mark them for food handouts, etc.

The vanishing middle class is quite frightening. We have been spiraling down in income for a few years, and although we have all our basic needs taken care of, we are still a heartbeat away from the cardboard sign. A few things going wrong at the same time can turn your life into a trainwreck.

azgoddess said...

i do remember these symbols..though i've not seen any lately...

we have had a person with a spray can and a stencil working around -- beautiful stuff...

thanks for the great story!

enigma4ever said...

AZ: hmmm stencil graffetti...lovely....thanks for coming by...

Blueberry: wow- that is very powerful about your mom...and interesting about the gypsy's and the vanishing middle class is soooo true, according to census records I am not middle class anymore...that was stunning to realize..