This column, provided by the Churubusco History Center, was published in the Churubusco News in the 1990s.
You don’t see any hobos walking down Churubusco’s streets anymore, or perhaps we just don’t recognize them like we used to. Maybe they done dress in ragged clothes and have their belongings tied up in a bag slung over their shoulder. But once upon a time, Churubusco seemed to be a favorite stop-over for them.
There was a hobo who always seemed to breeze into Churubusco just a day or two before bad weather hit the town and so Jim nicknamed him “Blizzard” and eventually everyone called him that. It seemed to please the old fellow.
Blizzard always made the Tri-County Truth office his first official stop to see if Jim had written anything about him in his column, “Off ‘n’ On Main Street” during his absence, or if Jim had any work for him to do. Since he always seemed to bring a lot of snow with him, Jim would give him the job of shoveling it. The most interesting itinerant I heard about was the one Herb Rapp described. It was a lady tramp who passed through Churubusco every year, leading a white horse. Her sack of belongings was tied by a rope to the horse’s middle, and the sack dangled down between the horse’s legs as it walked.
Herb’s father, George Rapp, was marshal in town when tramp named McCormick used to stop over every summer and the marshal would allow him to sleep in the town jail. McCormick had lost both legs and navigated himself around by using a skateboard and pushing himself along with his gloved hands. No one knew how he lost his legs, but we all speculated it might have happened while he was trying to hitch a ride on a train.
The most well-known and well-liked tramp was Andy Harris who like Churubusco so well he stopped his roaming and stayed there. He had a room for sleeping and did odd jobs around the town, like washing windows and sweeping the sidewalks in front of businesses downtown. Andy liked to plant flower seeds around the old library and the old bank buildings. The were usually moss roses which reseeded themselves in subsequent years to remind us of Andy. A Spanish-American War veteran, he was buried with honors when he died and had his obituary on the front page of the Tri-County Truth.
Still another, a former circus performer, chose Churubusco as home. Marion Mayberry, owner of Mayberry Furniture Store, let him use a room in the back of the store. Mayberry gave him a job of riding along in the truck to help him move furniture.
You don’t hear much about hobos, tramps, itinerants, these days. Perhaps they are classified today as “homeless” and are finding refuge in missions and places created especially for them.
Pepper Kirtley, former columnist of “Salt & Pepper” passed away in 2013.