Hobos in Wallington (1930 – 1950) – Page


From the book  Arms’ Crossroads – Wallington  pp 62 – 65 and page 81 by The Wallington Cobblestone Schoolhouse Restoration Committee 1982

Just west of Schaefer’s you will find a quaint neighborhood bar, the Airport Diner. The diner was built by Charles Smith and then sold to Margaret Nichols and her first husband Charles VanLoan.

Margaret had a lot of contact with the hobos who camped where the creek goes under the railroad bridge south of the new Route 104 (near the old railroad pump house). They would “pick” the dump at the back of the property, but always knocked at the back door to ask if they could have the “treasure”. Of special interest to them were pieces of glass large enough to hang in the crotch of a tree for shaving at the “camp”. The hobos worked locally when they could with many employed cutting cabbage for the Camp’s to the south of Wallington, Margo would trust them for a sandwich and coffee until payday, which in her words “kept them on my side”. They would also stop in for a drink, but knew that was a cash deal. The hobos left many fond memories with wallingtonites, including sharing pop and some good baseball with the local boys. Both Don Fisher and Richard Wren remember the long hours the hobos spent teaching them how to pitch. Hobo John was particularly well-known in Wallington and stayed at Duncan’s boarding house for thirty years. John was the reputed leader of the hobos and always wore a long black overcoat. Margaret mentioned a clever trick he had of making it look like he only had one arm. She said he did this when he didn’t want to work. He would fix his coat and go “uptown to Sodus” and sell pencils. She laughed at how often this worked, since the next day he would go “uptown” with the same coat and two arms.

Another hobo story comes from Miss Katherine (Katie) Olmsted who was the kind hearted owner of the Normandy Inn in Wallington:

Hobos were a good source of short-term, capable help for Katie and she always had a good meal ready. Dorothy Norris remembers a tall, thin gentleman, with a stick and all, just like a typical picture, coming to the door one evening. Katherine instructed her help to “fix up the best turkey dinner we have”. After partaking of his feast, the “hobo” asked what chore he could do as payment. Miss Olmsted explained that she had nothing urgent and was “Just glad you enjoyed your dinner.” The “hobo” insisted he must pay something and pulled from his bundle a pair of wooden shoes that hung for many years on the parlor mantel.

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