wordless wednesday (postcard to the past)

Dear Past,

Remember our favourite halloween (or anytime, EVER) costume?

The hobo? Remember?

Dad’s work pants and shirt, a pillow stuffed underneath to look like a chubby tummy, though why a homeless person would be characterized as chubby is a bit odd now, in retrospect. But then so much is. Odd.  In retrospect.

Mum’s kerchief bundled with something and tied onto a stick, which I carried over my shoulder.

I loved being a hobo.

But what I’ve learned since then is that I could easily have been taken for a tramp, or even a bum.

The difference, I’ve learned, is that a hobo is constantly on the move, working odd jobs along the way, while a tramp works ONLY when they have to, and a bum doesn’t work at all. The thing that unites them is that they’re all homeless. But the thing that makes them different again is that some of them are okay with that.

Or course as with any groups, no matter how bohemian, there are arguments among them as to which are superior.

The word ‘tramp’ comes from Middle English and means “to walk with heavy footsteps”, while ‘bum’ comes from the German bummeln, meaning to stroll about, doing not much of consequence. A low level kind of strolling.

No one knows for sure where the word ‘hobo’ comes from.

What I’ve discovered since I was that happy hobo for halloween, is that…

a) I continue to have tremendous respect for a certain bohemian way of life, especially one that includes occasionally working for one’s keep, and b) the band Supertramp took its name from the title of a book by William Henry Davies, a Welshman, who wrote The Autobiography of a Super Tramp in 1908.

Davies also wrote a poem called ‘Violet and Oak’, which I found a thousand years ago in an old schoolbook belonging to my sister. It was the first poem that I remember being in love with….  about a violet next to a fallen acorn and how that acorn grows into a tree and remembers “when [it was] weak and small [and its] sweetheart was a little violet in the grass.”

When I was that eight or nine or ten year old hobo I had no idea of any of this.

And yet…

…here we are.

Isn’t life just the craziest thing?

(oh, and p.s., Past… in 19somethingsomething we SAW Supertramp… remember???)


Other (not always) wordless friends:

Allison Howard
Elizabeth Yeoman



6 thoughts on “wordless wednesday (postcard to the past)

  1. I learned a few things Carin! I would have guessed that “bum” came from the perception (wrongly) that some out of work people sit around on their bums so now I’ve learned a thing or two. Interestingly I don’t remember my costumes – the choices seemed to be limited to ghosts and hobos as far as I can remember. Princesses too I guess, but I didn’t have the trappings for that. And boys got to be pirates. Ghost costumes did the job – easy, old sheet thrown over the head that could cover all the clothes you needed to wear. And, who knew the origin of SuperTramps name? Not me! Enlightening as always Carin!

    1. Me too. Bum. Sitting on. But no… so much better than that. Am familiar with the word ‘bummeln’ and heard it often growing up (Austrian parents). Never connected it though. Re dressing up. I’m happy to say I was never a princess. The only ‘silly’ costume I ever wore was a French maid one year, to a party, in my early teens. Last minute, borrowed from my sister who’d made it from an old waitress uniform. I so wanted to be a waitress! Anyway, she was much older and, ahem, filled it out. On me it looked quite different, sagging and billowing where it wasn’t meant to. I was a proper stick insect of a French maid. I had NO IDEA at the time that it was intended to be sexy. And it wasn’t. People asked me what I was supposed to be and when I answered they said…. “oh”.

  2. I recall the famous comedian Red Skelton portraying a very likeable hobo in his TV show and it’s that image I see when I think of a hobo. Your halloween costume would\’ve been authentic indeed and reminds me of the days when we made our costumes. It cost nothing and activated our imaginations.Life was simpler. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  3. (I left a comment but it seems to have disappeared….Happy Halloween?) My dad had a 78 recording with the Big Rock Candy Mountain on one side and The Bum Song on the other. I was fascinated (age 10). Lots of indolence, evading the cops, puns, little streams of alcohol a-trickling down the rocks. I couldn’t imagine a better existence at the time and did sew a big patch on my brother’s old jeans and tied a polka-dot handkerchief filled with crumpled paper on a stick for trick or treating one year. I clearly remember sorting out my parents’ house when they died in 2009/2010 and finding the folio of old 78s broken to pieces, probably from an earlier move.

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