From Dave Bowens, the guitar player, to the hobo jungle, to the "napsack rack", the atmosphere crackled with excitement as soon as the hungry travelers entered St. Joseph's Church Hall in Gowanda. There were many guides from the "Faith and Fun Bunch" to lead the visitors to wisdom in the ways of the "mobile life."
Wilma Parry stepped out of her character "Autumn Fresh" long enough to make some introductions. Buck Parry and Michael Parry offered a little "sneak peak" of the food preparation.
Detailed research made this event educational as well. Table cards included information about symbols used by hobos to communicate with each other, slang, and the hobo code. Little boxcars and newspapers adorned each table.
OBSERVER Photos by Vicki Notaro
Both adults and children enjoyed a hobo dinner at St. Joseph in Gowanda. Left: Jayanna Osburn and Jordan Bowers-Seekins enjoy hobo camp. Right: Wilma Parry and Cindy Kerker arrive with costumes and smiles.
Each guest received a program including a menu of 19 possible items. Examples include "Barbed Wire Victim," "Poor Man's Dream," and "Jolly Green Giant." The instructions were to order 4 items at a time for a four course meal. If diners hadn't been lucky enough to order silverware, they had the opportunity to eat their peas and carrots or gelatin with celery sticks (which were fortunately part of the table decor.) It was clearly stated that anyone leaving anything on their plates would help with the dishes. The food was delicious and very filling. Costumed "Beanery Queens" and "Biscuit Shooters" took the orders and served the crowd.
After the third course, patrons enjoyed a sketch of Red Skelton's "Freddy the Freeloader." Following the final course, the Bunch showed a clip of Skelton's heartfelt analysis of the "Pledge of Allegiance." Those assembled joined together to recite the Pledge in unison to conclude the event.
The organizers of the event chose creative names including Hugh the Ringleader, Father Sandpaper, Honeycomb Fleecejacket, Rabbitscalper Ted, Willy Nilly and Trashcan Shanista
Buck Parry, one of the leaders, was quick to give credit to the rest of the committee. He said, "It's not a one man show. We're more like family - all friends."
He acknowledged the help of his wife Wilma, Cindy and Dave Kerker, Dan Johnson, Ryan Johnson, Don Johnson, Cindy Johnson, Steve Bowens, Tony and Jen Comstock, Linda and Bob Tiller, Terry Dehose, Joe and Sue Gamel, and religious education coordinator Mary Manaher.
Buck listed a number of other activities that are sponsored by this dynamic group. He said, "The biggest thing is the Sweetheart dinner. We also do a motorcycle breakfast run, square dancing, campfires, dinner theater, family bowling, Bisons' games, and a scoop dinner with a gift auction."
Our table mates offered thumbs up for the hobo dinner. "They did an amazing job! Fantastic," said Jackie.
"That was way above my expectations," stated Ben. When asked if he would be back next year, he smiled, pointed upwards, and said, "If that guy's willing, YES!"