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Columns

November 23, 2013

Famous hobo discouraged youths from becoming wanderers

(Continued)

“Scarcely a day passes that from five to ten roamers do not appear at the Community house to see if they cannot procure second hand clothes or a meal ticket from the Red Cross,” The Star reported on Nov. 30, 1933. The Community House was once found on Ford Avenue, nearly across from today’s YMCA, now part of the Dietz Street parking lot. “Many of them carry discharge papers from the army showing them to be former service men.”

At the time of the visit from A-No. 1, Star readers were learning of plans being made for a form of transient welfare, including the establishment of concentration centers in the New York, Albany and Buffalo districts. When transient centers were established in many other communities and counties, the transients would be sent there. Railroads cooperated with the plan, arresting transients riding on their trains, taking them to these centers. One local center established in April 1934 was at the former Hartwick Seminary, south of Cooperstown, previously documented in this column. From here a transient could possibly be returned to his point of origin, or sent to a job once it was confirmed.

A-No.1 had been no stranger to Oneonta. The Star reported on May 5, 1913, that “the most famous tramp in tramp-dom” had returned for the first time since 1901.

“In years gone by this unique character earned sufficient money to pay for his food carving faces out of raw potatoes and his usual bed when in the city was a bag of waste paper in The Star pressroom. Now he is a guest of The Oneonta (Hotel) and dines well.” In his 1933 visit, the Star article said that Livingston also used his jackknife to help carve wooden signs and other objects, especially for the late Frank Miller, an Oneonta businessman.

Livingston had started cleaning up his act by 1913 and became an author of books, earning him a steady income. His best-known publications of the time were “Life and Adventures of A-No.1,” “Hobo Camp Fire Tales,” and “The Curse of Tramp Life.” All were aimed to prevent youths from taking up life as a hobo.

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