Secret symbols of hobos…

My granddaughter Gracie showed me how to use “emoticons” when texting…you know, those little symbols that “say” something without using words.  It’s fun… kind of like a secret language!   Sometimes I’ll get a text from her that will just be those symbols…like a secret message just between us!

I thought that this was some new high-tech invention…but the hobos perfected these “secret symbols” way before we ever heard of texting, or cell phones, or “emoticons.”

HOBOS…we don’t hear that term too often these days.  They were itinerant workers…travelers…adventurerers…who road the rails in search of whatever lies just around the bend.  And…it was often more about the “journey” than the destination.

It was hard life…and…it was also a “brotherhood”…kind of a “secret society”…and they even had…yes, “secret symbols.”

They would etch these symbols on the side of buildings or in the ground…to tell their friends what to expect.

IMG_2265“Kind-Hearted Woman”

The VL’s MAN tells how so many of these men would stop at their house…and always left with a full stomach and smile on their faces.  His mother never turned anyone away…surely there was this symbol etched nearby.



No doubt there were challenges…and for every woman like Grandma Dunn…there were probably a few who had this symbol near their house!




“Will Get Cussed Out”




It had to have been so hard…
And they had to have been scared, and lonely, and sometimes sad…but this was their life…
So, they came up with this symbol…to give them strength…and encouragement…and to keep them focused on what lies “just around the bend”



“Never Give Up”


A symbol for all of us…as we ride the rails of life…


4 Comments on Secret symbols of hobos…

  1. Lisa
    April 9, 2014 at 5:07 pm (3 years ago)

    Fascinating bit of cultural history! Love the personal connections. Look forward to reading more of your blogs!!

    • Cindi Dunn
      April 18, 2014 at 10:00 am (3 years ago)

      Thanks Lisa – I appreciate you kind comments!!

  2. Kristine Kennedy
    April 9, 2014 at 11:18 pm (3 years ago)

    Wow, lovely write up. I keep getting more and more stories gathered about these symbols. It’s such an interesting part of our history and I’m happy to be one small part of it. I wonder how many people who read this have family that rode the rails or helped out those who did?

  3. Cindi Dunn
    April 11, 2014 at 9:51 am (3 years ago)

    Thanks Kristine! You got all this started!!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *