Jun

1

On Hobos, from anonymous

June 1, 2016 |

 I hope the topic of hobos remains fair game for the Specs, in the same manner as commodity pit hand signals and tip sheets and various other anachronistic and tenuous links to rudimentary communications of the past:

"Anthropologist Follows Los Angeles Trail of Century-Old Hobo Graffiti"

Phillips had uncovered a peculiar, almost extinct form of American hieroglyphics known as hobo graffiti, the treasure trove discovered under a nondescript, 103-year-old bridge spanning the Los Angeles River. At the time, she was researching her book, "Wallbangin': Graffiti and Gangs in LA."

"It was like opening a tomb that's been closed for 80 years," the Pitzer College professor of environmental analysis said of finding the writings and occasionally the drawings of people who once signed their names as Oakland Red, the Tucson Kid and A-No. 1.

"There's an A-No. 1, dated 8/13/14," she said, pointing to a scribbling during a recent visit to the bridge just around the bend from a modern-day homeless encampment.

Although all but forgotten now, A-No. 1 was the moniker used by a man once arguably America's most famous hobo, one of the many itinerant wanderers who traveled from town to town in the 19th and 20th centuries, often by freight train, in search of brief work and lasting adventure.

"Those little heart things are actually stylized arrows that are pointing up the river," Phillips said, pointing to markings next to the name. "Putting those arrows that way means 'I'm going upriver. I was here on this date and I'm going upriver.'"

Upriver would have been in the direction of the city's sprawling, wooded Griffith Park, in those days a popular jumping-off point for hobos looking for a safe, common gathering spot.

Bo Keely writes:

There are many groups having the adjectives you describe of subculture, anachronistic and tenuous, but hobos step out from the rest in learning to survive a harsh environment on the rails. Therefore they are also self-sufficient, hardened, and deal instantly with new bends in the road. 

My hobo sign since 1985 has been the blue head of a mouse with a toothy smile and a teardrop in the corner of one eye. I got it at Tattoo Pete's in Denver. My mentor, Hobo Herb, suggested I slip myself a Mickey at a a local bar since I didn't drink, and to stagger into Tattoo Pete's for a discount and to cut the pain of the needle. However, I walked in sober and gladly selected a mouse head from a stencil album and had him add the smile and drop. The left shoulder tattoo became my symbol across America, where you may still find it written in chalk, charcoal or magic marker at the Denver BNSF yard on a then sapling, a wooden bridge strut at the Salt Lake DRG yard, a bridge pillar in the Roseville, CA RR yard, and some peoples' basements to form a colony of mice from coast to coast. 


Comments

Name

Email

Website

Speak your mind

Archives

Resources & Links

Search