ST LOUIS BLACKIE

ST LOUIS BLACKIE
(ST. LOUIS, FEBRUARY 1933)
“To you he is just a bum, a bit of human flotsam drifting down the current of existence. But to a strange, derelict world of tremendous freedom, he is St. Louis Blackie, the division skipper, an aristocrat of the hobo jungles from Jersey to Frisco.”

— St. Louis Globe-Democrat, February 12, 1933

A ‘division skipper’, incidentally, was a hobo who only rode fast trains, or ‘hot shots’.

John L. Craft was a professional upholster and an amateur painter. But in the hobo jungle of Edwardsville, a metamorphosis occurred: Craft became St. Louis Blackie, Hobo — spending summers hopping freights and eating Mulligan stew with Circus Red, Broken Nose Brooks, Patty the Pig and Nosey Jim.

Some were there for the adventure, some to find work. And some because they were on the lam. “Fifty percent of men on the bum have hit the road because of woman trouble,” Craft estimated.

You’ve got to see the guy’s face, though, cutting right through all the years.

“Carpe Diem,” St. Louis Blackie whispers: Seize the day.

“A bearable existence to one,” he opined, “may be living death to another.”

He deserves a star on Delmar. Or his own railroad tie.

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