>Hobos by Abraham Lincoln

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The railroad tracks were walked by men in worn out clothes. They looked dirty but wore their best clothes—with neckties and old vests. Mom would give them a drink of cold water if they came to the door, knocked and asked for a drink.
Sometimes mother would fix-up a plate of beans for them to eat—if they asked for something to eat. The hobos would not be allowed to come in our house; they stayed outside to eat. Mom gave them a wash pan of hot water, a wash rag, homemade lye soap and a towel. She stood there and made sure they washed their face and hands. Once they got cleaned up she would hand them a plate of food.
This painting that I did about 50 years ago was an attempt to create the generic hobo. I would often see a trail of smoke coming up from the railroad tracks north of town where we lived. It didn’t take me long to walk up the tracks to where the smoke was and I would see a hobo sitting there, smoking a hand-rolled Bull Durham cigarette, with a pot of beans or something cooking over a fire. I saw a lot of them reading an old newspaper that they carried with them to use for toilet paper. And it was also used to keep up on their reading skills. Most were friendly, middle aged men—down on their luck, mom would say.


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  1. #1 by Badge1 on December 10, 2010 - 2:16 pm

    >…And I think they marked your house so others would know that there was a friendly family there. They came to our door too and mom would follow the same agenda as described above.And when I became old enough to walk down West Third St to the old Cincinnati Northern Station I discovered the place known as the Prairie. A little farther south, probably west of the Brethren's Home, where the city well field is now, was a hobo camp. I always figured that they stayed there because it had nice grass and a small pond for water and bathing. Sometimes we would see them lighting a fire under the old pot that was always there.

  2. #2 by Anonymous on December 10, 2010 - 5:15 pm

    >My mom would always fry some eggs for them. She even kept a special plate and silverware for them on the back porch. My grandfather worked for the New York Central and she would ask the hobos if they knew him and occasionally one of them would say yes and that always led to an extra egg or two! In Arcanum, they seemed to stay near the old raquet factory beside the tracks. They had access to water there. I agree that the houses were marked as the hobos would walk by others to get to our house. Nice memories.

  3. #3 by jac on December 10, 2010 - 8:18 pm

    >Wouldn't it be great to be able to be that friendly to strangers again? Now if a total stranger came to the door we would assume he out to cause trouble or harm.

  4. #4 by os on December 10, 2010 - 8:58 pm

    >Thanks everyone who posts on these. Love hearing your memories 🙂

  5. #5 by Guest#1 on December 10, 2010 - 10:37 pm

    >I don't recall seeing hobo's in Union City as a kid, I do remember hearing stories about them though, most involved them riding to and fro on open boxcars.

  6. #6 by Abraham Lincoln on December 10, 2010 - 11:22 pm

    >They always marked our house. Mom would tell me to go out and see if the hobo who just ate had left a mark. I would go out and find a pile of rocks but it didn't look like anything to me. I guess it was though as different hobos stopped in when I was growing up in Gordon.

  7. #7 by J B on December 11, 2010 - 12:15 am

    >The painting by Abraham Lincoln is a superb painting of survival. The stories from Mr. Lincoln and from other people on this website are fascinating. These stories have inspired a interest in learning more on how they survived. What period of time where these campsites? How did they know what house to go for for food?

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