Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Of Hobos

Ancient Hobo Graffiti Found in L.A.

Some of you may remember hearing about hobos when you were children. Before I knew about real homeless folks, I learned that in olden days, wandering men used to tie up all their belongings in a big red handkerchief and loop that over a stick. Then they'd hop onto a railroad car and go wherever it took them. Such was the tale; I have no idea what life was really like for these guys.

While looking for this picture, I learned that hobos were working men, not to be confused with simple vagrants. Important point.

Well, anthropologist Susan Phillips, who studies gang graffiti academically, stumbled upon some marks made with grease pencil and dated from the early part of the 20th century. Right here in Los Angeles. Expert that she was, she realized that these were signatures of well-known hobos.

On this picture, near the top right, you can see  "A NO 1" the hobo name of Leon Ray Livingston, a man who actually wrote and illustrated a couple of books before his death in 1944. A date of 8-13-14 is there too: August 13, 1914.

Those sideways hearts are really arrows, pointing upriver, according to Phillips. Probably, the man who drew them was headed to Griffith Park.

The rare graffiti was scrawled and even carved under a bridge over the Los Angeles River channel. It survived largely because after a major flood in 1938, that channel was dug down deeper and covered in concrete to prevent future flooding. That put the old graffiti far above anyone's reach and sight.

The LAist also reported it.

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