I remember hobos. As a child I used to watch trains pass and cross my fingers in hopes I would see hobos in the empty cars. (Oh boy, I just aged myself, didn't I?) Often, we would stop our game of baseball or tag to wave and they would usually wave back. We were taught to stay away from the hobos if they left the train because they were strangers but there was something mysterious about them and we tried very hard to see them when a train went by.
My father worked for the railroad and I loved trains and anything to do with them. The next best thing to getting a hobo to wave to you was being able to get the guy in the caboose to wave to you!! I can remember being a little jealous that the hobos got to ride on the train whenever they wanted. I used to think I would be able to jump on a moving train too!!! I'm glad I was an obedient child and never actually tried that!
I was intrigued when I saw this book: Hobo Quilts 55+ Original Blocks Based on the Secret Language of Riding the Rails by Debra G. Henninger. I don't know if I will ever make one of the quilts from this book but I am very happy I bought the book as it is very interesting reading. Besides telling many stories and showing many pictures of the travels of hobos, it discusses the symbols used by the hobos. These symbols were used inside and out of hobo camps to inform newcomers about the area.
The symbols would tell everything from where you could find a place to sleep and get a hot meal to whether or not that town allowed alcohol and if hobos would be arrested on sight.
This book captures a piece of American History that, in my opinion, should not be forgotten.