PCHA seeks info on transients from the pastBack in the early days of mechanized transportation, there were people who “rode the rails,” but they had to watch out for the railroad yard security guys who tried to catch them and throw them off the trains.
Back in the early days of mechanized transportation, there were people who “rode the rails,” but they had to watch out for the railroad yard security guys who tried to catch them and throw them off the trains.
These transients were called “hobos” and they had camps in known locations—they had a kind of system they used to signal fellow travelers about a variety of things. Sometimes they did come to homes in both rural and town areas—asking for food or jobs done in exchange for food.
The years of the “Great Depression” were the years they were most frequently seen, walking the roads, dressed in pretty poor and ragged clothing with perhaps a stick over their shoulder with a bag at the end, which held goodies. Today, they might use back packs.
They continued to be seen into the late 1940’s, if not longer. But that type of activity was changing. Hitchhiking occurred more often than riding the trains—unless traveling between bigger cities, as railroads no longer reached into the smaller towns—service having been discontinued.
The question is—does the reader remember seeing them or perhaps having had contact with them? They were present in Pierce County and the Pierce County Historical Association (PCHA) would like to know.
Taking a step farther back in history, in earlier times, itinerant craftsmen or salesmen also moved around doing jobs or selling goods—tin smiths would stop and make things like a new pot or pan for the lady of the house, or sharpen scissors, and sell clothes and so many items.
Gypsies could also be seen—they, too, camped and sold goods. There were horse traders and, in more recent times, truckloads of fence panels and gates were sold.
This was perhaps not as common around this area, but those sales people were the early traveling salesmen. Later on, they drove cars. The Watkins man was pretty common. And now it is Amy or Avon or whatever.
But there were also the insurance company salesmen who came to homes to sell policies on life and property.
Plus, piano tuners also came to homes, seeking business.
These things do not occur very frequently any more. Just like doctors no longer make house calls.
The PCHA is seeking memories—names—photos—whatever anyone may know relating to hobos, and salesmen, etc. Send to the PCHA, P.O. Box 148, Ellsworth, WI. 54011
And another type of salesman who existed well before Schwan’s were those from Eastern Wisconsin. They had frozen fruit in five gallon tin containers, perhaps even vegetables, and definitely fish. The brand name or company name escapes the writer’s memory, but someone reading this might recall it. They were around until about the mid-1950’s or so. More common in the rural areas.