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Friday, January 30, 2009

A code to live by

I have to admit an ongoing fascination with all things hobo. I know this comes from my love of 1930’s era movies and that my vision of the hobo lifestyle is highly romanticized so I have determined to learn more about the topic and to see hoboes in the harsh light of day. (I just read that sentence and it sounds as if I might be joking but I’m completely serious.)

I’m currently reading "The Hobo: The Sociology of the Homeless Man" by Nels Anderson. It is a very odd book in that Anderson must have spent a good amount of time hanging out on the “main stem” in Chicago. His text is a simple reporting of what he found there in early 1920s but he creates a very vivid image. I suspect I may post some of the more entertaining ideas in the future.

For now, here is the Hobo Code. I’m pulling this content from www.hobo.com . It is attributed to the 1894 Annual Convention Congress of Hoboes which was held at the Hotel Alden on Market St. in Chicago. Market St. is the “main stem” that Anderson mentions. The “main stem” is the main street for hoboes in any given town.

You’ll see the phrase “jungle” used as a verb. A hobo jungle is when hoboes collect in one place to compare stories and to learn from each other’s experience. “Boil up” means to literally boil your clothes so that you kill whatever might be on them.

1.-Decide your own life, don't let another person run or rule you.

2.-When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.

3.-Don't take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.

4.-Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but insure employment should you return to that town again.

5.-When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.

6.-Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals treatment of other hobos.

7.-When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as bad, if not worse than you.

8.-Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.

9.-If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.

10.-Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.

11.-When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.

12.-Do not cause problems in a train yard, Another hobo will be coming along who will need passage thru that yard.

13.-Do not allow other hobos to molest children, expose to authorities all molesters, they are the worst garbage to infest any society.

14.-Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.

15.-Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.

16.-If present at a hobo court and you have testimony, give it, whether for or against the accused, your voice counts!

I don’t think I have the internal fortitude to ever tramp. I like my couch and television way too much. Still, I have to say that I think the world might be a better place if we all followed the Hobo Code.


Anonymous said...

It's two minutes before one of my favorite television shows come on (All My Children), but I did want to agree with you that if all of us in society would follow the rules and laws of the hoboes, we'd be much better off. It's amazing at what one can learn from another person because I'll be completely honest, I thought you were just joking since I had never heard of the word 'hobo' before except for the store. So, thanks for mentioning this and for teaching me something that I had no previous knowledge of. Now, I've gotta go visit that website after I watch my show. Off I go..........


Dan B said...

Andy, you've read Woody Guthrie's Bound for Glory? I loved that book...it really captures the migration era of the 30s. And for a great action 'hobo' movie, how 'bout Emperor of the North, with Lee Marvin & Ernest Borgnine. Like you, I might have the hobo spirit, but my body likes creature comforts much more than rovin' and roughin' it.