Monday, 8 June 2015

hobohemian

Collectors’ Weekly took a field-trip to the Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa—an old railhead and switching station back in the days when locomotion was a form of social-safety net, and returned to share a really engrossing, in depth look at the lifestyle, code-of-conduct, origins and legacy of these itinerant workers who comprised a sizable demographic of America’s population spanning a huge historical swath from the aftermath of the US Civil War all the way through the Great Depression and the onset of World War II.

Returning, aggrieved from battle to find homesteads overrun, many men discovered themselves homeless and continued to soldier on in look of employment—this mobile workforce, not seeking hand-outs and wanting to preserve their reputation, helped to create the infrastructure, like the railways that created commerce and opened up westward expansion and became the conduits that the hobos relied on themselves. The culture of these migrant workers was a rich and nuanced one, fraught with danger and discrimination at times, and in addition to the formative force it was for America, it has also left behind some expressive fossils in American speech, like yahoo (a brute who’s proud of his wanton ignorance—possibly in deference to Gulliver’s Travels), working stiff (for those unfortunates tethered to a fixed home and job), junkie (an addict), chow (for food) and hunky dory. The article is certainly worth the read in its entirety and it always pays in spades to check out the website that celebrates curators of all sorts of stories.