Hobos in Sodus – Page


Excerpts from “A Gathering of Memories – Images and Recollections of Wayne County, New York” by Andrea T. Evangelist, Page 122. As told by William Bishop (1984)
My father also employed hoboes. Back during the 30’s when the railroad was still active, we
had a couple of passenger trains a day go by, and a couple of freight trains. There was a lot of rail
traffic in and out of Sodus. We had a number of hoboes, and in fact some of them worked on some of
the local fruit farms around here too. Very often they had a particular spot that they would go, and
there were a couple of them who showed up just as regular as clockwork. They would work for us
during cherry season when they knew we would put on extra men. They’d work up until it got cold,
and boy, the first two or three really cold days, they would just disappear. They would get their
checks, sometimes they would say goodbye and sometimes they would just disappear. I bet over the
years we had a dozen or so hoboes work for us.
They were basically good workers too. They wouldn’t come looking for a job like this
unless they were willing to work and work pretty darned hard, because back at that time it was still
all hand labor. Some of them were hoboes because they had a drinking problem, or something like
that. Occasionally that got in the way of work. They might not show up, or if they did, they might
not be in very good shape because they had been drinking cheap wine, or something like that all the
night before. Those fellows would sort of weed themselves out. They got to be known and
nobody wanted to hire them.
We used hoboes during the war. I think some of them were probably ducking the draft. You
know, they were sort of nameless people. That sort of thing. I don’t recall many after World War II.
I think the hobo population, at least around here, began to decline during the war. I remember them
more when I was just a little kid back in the l930’s. Some of the hoboes around here were sort of
neat guys. Golly, they’d get up and do all sots of tricks and magic and stuff like that. I remember
one fellow that used to work here was quite an artist and for a long time there were chalk pictures
that he had drawn on the walls in the rooms—but then the walls finally got painted. Of course they
were full of tales-—probably most of them lies. But to a 9 or 10-year-old kid, that was pretty good
stuff-—listening to those fellows tell their tales.
There was this thing called a jungle, a hobo jungle. There was a woods out behind the plant
out here and there were a number of them who lived out there. They made makeshift cardboard
shelters and had campfires. Sort of an era that’s long gone now, I guess.