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Columns

November 23, 2013

Famous hobo discouraged youths from becoming wanderers

A-No.1 made an appearance in Oneonta 80 years ago this week.

While this might sound like a good name for a rap artist in today’s hip-hop music world, Leon Ray Livingston was considered a world famous hobo in the early 20th century. Livingston traveled far and wide under this nickname. While this was a lifestyle he’d once preferred, he also spoke out against youngsters following it.

A-No.1 had a capacity audience on Sunday evening, Nov. 19, 1933, at what was then the Lutheran Church of the Atonement at 12 Grove St., now the Community Gospel Church. 

The Oneonta Star reported that Livingston told the crowd, “Runaway boys and girls should be assisted to return to their homes, even if it is necessary to arrest them in order to get them back.

“Himself a runaway from home at the age of 11 (1883) and a wanderer for 30 years, Mr. Livingston said it would have been a genuine help to him had someone been enough interested in him to have him arrested and sent back to his home city of San Francisco.”

Livingston said that a “comparatively unimportant incident” had caused him to leave home. Before returning to San Francisco 16 years later, he had wandered all over this country and had gone to Europe as a stowaway. When he finally did get back to California, Livingston found that his parents had died, heartbroken, after spending nearly all their fortune in the unsuccessful effort to find him. After all those years of wandering, Livingston was converted through the influence of a Christian worker whom he later married. By 1933, the couple had two teenage children and made their home in Erie, Pa.

While Erie was called home, A-No.1 often got back on the road, this time to urge youngsters not to take on the “glorified” life of a wanderer. There were plenty of transients or hobos passing through Oneonta during the Great Depression, and one of their means of transportation was by the D&H Railroad.

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