The April meeting of the Current Event Club was hosted by Robyn Small on April 12 in the fellowship hjall of St. John’s United Church of Christ.
Seventeen members were in attendance. Agnes McDonald passed the president’s gavel to Barbara Warncke, who will serve as the president for the 2019-20 club year.
Judy Dally presented a program on the book “Hobo Quilts” by Debra Henninger. The book describes the lives of hobos who rode the rails. Dally displayed a small quilt she created to further explain the lives of the hobos.
“Hobo Quilts” contains 55 quilt blocks based on the secret language used by those who hitched rides on trains to find work during the Great Depression. A personal account from either someone who rode the rails or someone who encountered the riders accompanies each block.
Thousands of men, women and young people left their homes and illegally rode the rails hoping to find work in other communities. They became known as hobos. A quote by Arthur Huneven in “Hobo Quilts” hints at the vast number. “The most impressive sight I ever saw was a fully loaded freight train winding through the mountains of the southwest with several hundred people on the tops and side cars.”
Hobos marked fences, signs, buildings or trees with symbols that gave directions, told of the condition of the water, where to find food, work, or a place to sleep, and whether they would be welcome. Some examples cited in Henninger’s book of this visual language are the following. A loaf of bread or a table symbolized a place to find food. The letter C with the opening to the right let them know no one was home. Three horizontal lines, one above the other let them know they would be fed, if they did some work.
A square with a short rectangle sticking out of the side was a warning that a beating might await in that location. This simple secret sign language helped those who rode the rails cope in their unsettled world.
The final meeting of the club year will be the annual outing, to be held on May 3 in the gathering room of St. Paul United Methodist Church.
Betty Bohlmann and Pat Squire will be the hostesses.