Hobo week is the second week of August. As much of hobo history comes from the Civil War to the Great Depression, this is a topic that might be of interest to those in senior living communities. It’s time to make a pot of Mulligan stew, serve it in tin cans, grab your hobo bag and remember the hobos among us hoping hard times come again no more…

When you hear the word “hobo” what comes to mind? A bum, tramp, vagrant, a beggar…lots of less than positive labels.

Hobos are tied to the railroad in the minds of many. Steam Train Maury and Box Car Willie are famous hobos whose names exemplify the tie.  Woody Guthrie tried to capture the hobo life in this song:

The people of Britt, Iowa have a hobo convention. Their site has a collection of symbols that might have been used to mark something about a community or household.

Like many cultures, a jargon has developed over the years. Poetry and stories include these characters. (Check out “Face Upon the (Barroom) Floor” and Tales From the Rails for inspiration.)

Three hobos, Chicago, 1929. Informal three-qua...

Three hobos, Chicago, 1929. Text on image reads: Hoboe’s ‘Jungle’ Under Loop Street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hobo’s of one type or another can be found in songs including:

  • The Gambler
  • Waltzing Matilda
  • This Old Man
  • Big Rock Candy Mountain
  • Hallelujah, I’m a Bum
  • Ramblin’ Man
  • King of the Road

Remember the times, recall the stories and the songs. Explore stories of encounter with or lives lived as hobos. 


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