Tramps and Hobos

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Exhibitions of Tramp or Hobo Related Artifacts Sponsored by the Main Street Museum

Tramps, Hobos, and Transients at the Edge
Special Events and Special Exhibits At The Main Street Museum
May through July, 2009

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune
Here a great personal deed has room ... The road is before us! —Whitman

I'm a man of means, by no means - King of the Road —Miller

What is a hobo? We're all familiar with the ragged figure with a bundle on a stick, traveling by freight train. But a more interesting question might be, "who is a hobo, and why?"

The tramp, the hobo, the wanderer - the unemployed, uprooted American, or simply anyone who can't rest easy without knowing what's around the next bend in the road - have a social pedigree that runs from the wilderness and Walt Whitman's "Open Road," right through to the songs of Bruce Springsteen, and today's news headlines about migrant workers, homelessness and economic upheaval.

In a groundbreaking series of special events and special exhibits this May through July, the Main Street Museum will investigate and celebrate the American wanderer with readings, movies, concerts, cookouts, lectures and more.

We are located in White River Junction, Vermont, a gritty and historic railroad town that is easily reached by Amtrak and is just minutes from Interstates I-89 and I-91.

A full schedule of special events is attached and is also available on our website. Our special exhibits will be on display May 1 through July 31, 2009. You can learn more about our programs at, or call us at ___-2776.

Supported in part by the Vermont Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Vermont Humanities Council.

The Curious Case of the Haitain Hobo of White River Junciton, Vermont, by James Sturm. 2009.

Schedule of Events for May, 2009

  • Friday May 1 (May Day!)—”Hallelujah, I’m a Bum!” First Friday at the Main Street Museum. Opening Reception 6 - 8 p.m., “Tramps, Hobos, and Transients at the Edge,” a series of special events with exhibitions. Reception features readings and discussion of museum displays. Plus “Mopey Dick and the Duke,” original artwork by Denys Wortman showing tramps on the loose in America in the 1930s, from the archives of the Center for Cartoon Studies. Jazz with the Goog Smith Trio! Cupcakes, champagne and snacks! Free admission.
  • Thursdays, May 7, May 21, and June 4 at 7 p.m.—Spring ARTifacts Film Series. Rare vintage features showcasing Rovers, Road Trips, Tramps and, yes, Hobos. Plus! Charlie Chaplin as “The Little Tramp” on all dates! Presented by the Center for Cartoon Studies Movie Club. With introductions and discussion by film historian Stephen R. Bissette. Free admission.

Supported in part by the Vermont Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

  • Saturday, May 16—The Hobo Film Festival, with Shawn Lukitsch. Part One: 4 - 6 p.m. Dinner break, 6 - 7 p.m. with Hobo Stew/BYO-BBQ on the Museum Riverbank. (You bring the food. We supply the hot coals!) Part Two: 7 - 9 p.m. Each film presentation will be accompanied by discussion and question-and-answer sessions. $8 per person, or “pay what you may.”

Supported in part by the Vermont Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

  • Saturday, May 23—Songs of the Open Road with Pariah Beat and Friends. A do-it-yourself outdoor concert with Hobo Stew and BYO-BBQ on the Museum Riverside, 6 - 8 p.m. Bring a song and a musical instrument! Afterwards “Tramp Rock” with Pariah Beat and Friends on the Museum Stage.
    9 - 11 p.m. $8 per person. Includes Stew!
  • Thursday, May 28-Illuminated Slide Lecture, “White River Junction and the Curious Case of the Haitian Hobo,” an imaginative local history by cartoonist James Sturm. Opening reception 6 - 7 p.m., Lecture 7 - 8 p.m. Question-and-answer session to follow. Free admission.

Supported in part by the Vermont Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

  • Saturday, May 30-Hobo and Tramp Musical Jamboree, featuring Sundown Songs/Broken Bottle Band and friends from New Orleans, 8 - 11 p.m. on the Museum Stage. Real tramps and members of the bands talk about tramping and The Open Road.
    Plus! “Stumpz Duh Clown!!” $8 per person.
  • Thursday, June 11-Panel Discussion on Tramps, Homelessness, Poverty and the Open Road featuring experts on history, contemporary social issues, and the law. Opening reception 6 - 7 p.m., Panel 7 - 9 p.m. Free admission.

Supported in part by the Vermont Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Programming also made possible with the support of the Byrne Foundation and by Main Street Museum members and friends.

Panel Discussion Personnel

"We have it! You want to see it! And it's worth the trip!"

Alex Banks

  • Alex Banks is a staff attorney and assistant professor of law at Vermont Law School's South Royalton Legal Clinic, where he supervises the law students who represent low-income clients. Alex joined Vermont Law's faculty in 1995, after several years of service at Northwestern Legal Services in Farrell, Pennsylvania. While in Pennsylvania Alex represented low-income clients and also worked to support low-income housing, a community center, and a homeless shelter. He served as lead counsel in an important Pennsylvania unemployment compensation case, Meyers vs. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, and pushed to expand the pro bono legal assistance lawyers offer to low-income clients.

Alex's areas of expertise include access to justice, clinical legal education, community economic development, disability law, domestic violence, and poverty law.

Nick Charyk

  • Nick grew up in Thetford, Vermont, and currently lives in Boston, where he is finishing his undergraduate degree in international relations at Harvard. Nick has worked with at-risk youth in White River Junction, and he knows how young people can get in trouble, and how they can work their way back from the edge.

Nick also plays guitar and writes songs for Pariah Beat, a fine New England band playing country-punk, with a longstanding interest in the outsider's perspective and experience. Pariah Beat is a hard-working band that cares about their audience and their community. And as a traveling musician, Nick has seen what's out there beyond the other edges of everyday life, on America's highways and byways.

  • David Hammond

David is a native of Washington, D.C., with family roots in Vermont. He likes to say that although he has not traveled widely, he has traveled deeply, and several years ago, this habit brought him to the Main Street Museum. For the last few years David has worked with the Museum on special projects including fundraising and program development, and special exhibits on Nixon masks and souvenirs from the Watergate Hotel. He has also served on our board of directors and our advisory council. At home in Washington, D.C., David is associate editor of Street Sense, D.C.'s "street newspaper" covering poverty and homelessness. He writes about those topics and about the lives and perspectives of the homeless men and women who find a low-barrier employment opportunity selling the newspaper. David conducted a good deal of the research and writing for the Main Street Museum's current special exhibits on tramps, hobos, and transients. Tonight he will act as both panelist and moderator, and when we are done with the introductions I'll turn things over to him.

Tom Ketteridge

  • Tom stepped down on March 31st after nine years as Managing Director of the Upper Valley Haven here in White River Junction. The Haven operates an emergency shelter for eight families, and a food shelf and clothing room open to the entire community, and also provides educational programming to people struggling with poverty. They are now building a new facility that will provide shelter and help to men and women who are not accompanied by children.

Before coming to the Haven, Tom worked in the insurance, biotechnology and pharmaceutical fields. He is a CPA and an Army veteran and has lived in the Upper Valley since 1985. Tom is a founding Board member of the Center for Cartoon Studies, and also serves on the board of Valley Court Diversion Programs, both located in White River Junction.

Peter Money

  • Peter is a poet, teacher and publisher who lives in West Windsor, Vermont. Locally, Peter has taught at Lebanon College, the Center for Cartoon Studies, and the Writer's Center here in White River Junction. Peter is the editor and director of Harbor Mountain Press, a Vermont-based publisher that is "interested in poetry near and far."

Peter's poems and articles have appeared in several collections of his work, and also in The American Poetry Review, The Wallace Stevens Journal, and many other journals and anthologies. His poetry has also been featured on National Public Radio. One important starting point for Peter was his time as a student of the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. And Peter knows the road well. His waypoints include India, New Zealand, Australia, Egypt, Cyprus, France, Ireland, and other places.

Michael Stahler

  • Michael is an associate at Kenlan, Schwiebert, Facey & Goss, a law firm in Rutland, Vermont, where he works in the litigation department handling injury and liability claims. Michael is a native of Lyndonville, Vermont. He is an Eagle Scout and has volunteered with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Michael is a graduate of Middlebury College and Vermont Law School. He was selected as Vermont Law's first Jeffords Scholar.

Michael has worked and studied in Boston and in Scotland. He knows not only Vermont, but also Vermont communities. He has a longstanding commitment to community service, and while a student at Vermont Law, he worked in the South Royalton Legal Clinic, providing legal help to low-income Vermonters and other vulnerable members of society.

For those presentations receiving support from the Vermont Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities, any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in those programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Vermont Humanities Council.

Tramps and their Cars. Denys Wortman 1930. From the collection of the Center for Cartoon Studies.

A Gallery of Hobo Images

Some of the images of the Tramp we have assembled over the course of a year or so. Some are real tramps, or documentary photos. Others are images from the popular media, and so represent our changing ideas of the tramp and the nostalgia of the hobo. Enjoy.

The Tramp as seen by Dorothea Lange in the 1930s.

Vermont History Expo, 2007. Tunbridge, Vermont

World Tours, Hobos and Gypsies; Artifacts from Transmigratory Cultures in Focus The Main Street Museum, White River Junction, Vermont, 2007

The Main Street Museum offers for your education and contemplation, an exhibit of transient objects and souvenirs of trips from our permanent collection — things brought back from abroad by Vermonters. World Tours were undertaken by middle and upper class Victorians for education, health, and in a more limited sense, cultural exchange. These same goals are often associated with Hobo life and the life of gypsie encampments to the present day. Just as there is a long history of Hobo life along the state of Vermont’s railroads, this culture continues today especially in our home town of White River Jct.

Founded in 1992, the Main Street Museum has been located in four different locations in the town of Hartford. Therefore the museum itself can be seen as a kind of gypsie. We have been in motion but are now entering into a state of rest. Well, not rest really, but at least we can say that we are more composed now than we used to be.

Items in this Category:

The Evolution of the Hobo; Images of a Non-threatening Wag

Tramps or Hobos; you decide...