Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hobo Marking Systems

"I never told you about, some of the tramps we used to have, did I? The ones that came to be well known around here were all odd characters. I suppose you might say some of them weren't right, though that's matter of opinion. Maybe they was smarter than folks who looked down on them. Maybe they got more satisfaction out of life in their own way than some who were better off."
Connecticut Clockmaker as interviewed by writer Francis Donovan 12/31/38 (?)Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.

Photograph: Two hobos walking along railroad tracks, after being put off a train. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Riding the Rails and all that that entails!

I'd purchased Rudy Rides the Rails by Dandi Daley Mackall (Illus. Chris Ellison) a few weeks ago. It is another picture book set during the Great Depression that was published after my book came out and which I plan to review.
Simply by its title, the reader knows what the book will be about. So it comes as sheer coincidence that I spent the better part of last week and the weekend reading about rail riding and hobo life during the 1930's. I was conducting research for another project, reading such works as Sister of the Road (an autobiography of Box-Car Bertha), The Tramp in America, Boy and Girl Tramps of America,(author Thomas Minehan actually road with the train-hopping hobos and offers amazing insight), and works by noted writer and sociologist, Nels Anderson (see bibliography below).
Mackall's book touches on many of the themes i.e. the various ways a person could ride a train, hobo jungles, begging.
What is fun about her book, for me, at least, is that the hobo she features in her story actually rides a train through Waterloo, Iowa, a city just east of where I live. She also has her main character travel through Britt, Iowa, which bills itself as home to the National Hobo Convention. The city of Britt even houses a museum.

I'll expand on this topic in the next couple of entries!


Anderson, Nels On Hobos and Homelessness. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Bruns, Roger A. Knights of the Road : A Hobo History. New York : Methuen, 1980.
Cresswell, Tim The Tramp in America. London : Reaktion Books, 2001.
Minehan, Thomas Boy and Girl Tramps of America. New York : Farrar and Rinehart, 1934.
Reitman, Dr. Ben L. Sister of the Road : The Autobiography of Box-Car Bertha. New York : Harper Colophon Books, 1975.

No comments: