Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hobo History - My Grandfather

I guess I could keep calling it Cheddar, but remember how I wanted to have some really wild and creative names?  Stephanie got me to thinking when she said she called blocks like the ones with the shirts Hobo blocks.  So I did some Hobo research.

Hobos are different from tramps and from bums.  Bums don't work or travel but they take from someone else.  Tramps are those who travel and seldom work .  Hobos are those who travel to work.  Hobos don't like bums or cities but they love trains  A Bridger is a Hobo who rides both steam and diesel locomotives.  In Britt Iowa there is a Hobo Convention every year where they name the Hobo King and Queen, which is quite an honor. 

Hoboes show respect for their dead by tapping their walking sticks on gravestones.When a Hobo dies, it is said they have "caught the Westbound".  Hobo graves are revered by others and they show respect by tapping their walking stick on the gravestone.

A hobo jungle is a place where hoboes camp.Hobos have a whole language that is portrayed by signs.  For example a cat sign says, "A kindhearted lady lives here."  The Hobo Creed says, "When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts."  Many Hobos have incredible skills at woodworking, jewelry making and other portable crafts.  They take the Creed very seriously.

Hoboes have their own creed, and they take it very seriously. Hobo is not a derogatory word.  Some Hobos are actually rich.  Adman owns a big ad agency in Chicago and rides the rails when he can.

When Hobos hitchhike it is called Rubber Tramping.  When Hobos get married both the bride and the groom carry rhubarb.  They toss the leaves into the fire because the leaves are the bitter parts.  It symbolizes letting go of the bad things.  That was pretty cool.

My grandfather was a hobo.  He was from Kansas, rode all over the US in trains, was a a true Jack of all trades.  His Hobo name was actually Jack of All Trades but his real name was Merle Lester, He also hitchhiked across the country at least once a year until he was in his 80s to visit his surviving family members. He could  fashion any part out of anything and fix whatever was broken.  He never had anything new but it always worked.  He and my grandmother traveled around the country working as wheat farm hands in Kansas, fruit pickers in Arizona, fix-it guys in New Jersey, dairy farmers in Florida, mechanics in California.  My grandmother was a flapper girl.  I would imagine she did some saloon girl work, she was very pretty.

When they settled down they were in their 40s and they had my mother.  My grandmother was a couture seamstress for the Mardi Gras Krewes and grandfather rebuilt old cars, worked throwing mail on the Illinois Central and took in teenage runaway boys.  He taught the boys how to fix cars and then talked them into going back to their families if he could.

I guess this quilt would be in his honor.  Thanks Stephanie, for reminding me of my Papa.  I so loved him.  I spent my first 6 years almost entirely with them.  My mother was preoccupied with having more babies, and she kept losing them.  So she was sickly most of the time  Every time she held me she broke out in horrible rashes.  When she had my brother they had what they really wanted -- a boy.  But my Ganny and Papa loved me with all their hearts!

Names.  OK.

Hobo Village
Hobo Lane
The Hobo Makes a Cheddar Cheese Sandwich
Mulligan Stew
Hobo Jack Takes the Westbound

I kinda like Hobo Jack Takes the Westbound.  My grandfather did ride the train from  New Orleans to Houston.

What do you think?

Don't forget to go back two posts and see my new invention.


  1. :o) I'm sure whatever name you choose will be meaningful to you. Thanks for the in depth Hobo lesson.

  2. I like Hobo Jack Takes the Westbound . . . great post, BTW

  3. I like Hobo Jack Takes the Westbound. Like riding off into the golden sun of that background. Loved this post.

  4. So very cool , thank you for sharing :-)

  5. What an amazing and interesting post. I hope you will make a label for the quilt that references the person for whom it is named. It will become part of the history... thanks for sharing this.

  6. I really enjoyed your story! Very very interesting. The quilt is super cool! :)

  7. I think Hobo Jack takes the westbound is the best name! The quilt turned out wonderful! I am glad to see you are back sewing again! I enjoyed the information about hobos, tramps, and bums. I remember that once in awhile we would get knock on the door from a man who rode the rails asking for something to eat. My mom would make him wait outside and fix him some p&j sandwiches. Money was tight at out house with 8 kids living in a tiny 3 bedroom house so it was generous of my mom to feed this fellow, but she just couldn't say no to anyone who was hungry. She called him a hobo, but I don't know if that is what he was. Nowadays most people would threaten to call the cops.

    I don't like square quilts either!


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