Well, I’m not so sure about the gypsies and the thieves, but definitely tramps – a whole collection of ‘em.
This photo was taken in the back yard of my parents’ house up in the West End of Portland, Maine. I think it’s the fall of 1956; if so, I am ten years old (I’m the fourth from the left, white shirt, string tie and mustache).
The Gang – a motley collection of best friends. We all went to elementary school together at the McClellan School – we walked along brick sidewalks to school every day, came home for lunch, walked back in the afternoon. We played together after school: rode our bikes together in a loose pack down to Dudley-Weed Drugstore for popsicles on hot days, went trick-or-treating on Halloween, climbed the monkey bars and gave the swings a workout, roller skated, hop-scotched and jump-roped in the schoolyard, shimmied up street poles and twisted the street signs around (our worst offense, I’m sure).
Some of our fathers were doctors; some were civil engineers, bankers, teachers, lawyers…our mothers were, mostly, “stay-at-home moms,” although we didn’t call it that back then – it was simply a given, a natural state of affairs in the decade after WWII.
Our parents were all friends. They partied together: I remember a progressive party they had: one house for cocktails followed by a walk through the neighborhood in their formal dinner clothes to another for appetizers and more cocktails, a third stroll to a third house for dinner, down the street to the fourth for dessert, a final trek to the last house for coffee! They took us caroling through Portland’s West End at Christmas time (with an upright piano in the back of a pickup truck and the rest of us walking in the street, singing; a light snowfall made the whole event even more magical) and they went sledding with us on the Western Prom.
We were all friends – both parents and children.
All the parents are gone now (save one, who is 100 this year); all of these tramps are still alive as far as I know, although we seldom see each other.
Yesterday, I had lunch at a low-key restaurant in a nearby town with two of the other Tramps in this photo who are up here for the summer months – the second from the left (M., in tuxedo and high-top sneakers) and the fourth from the right (P., underneath a broad-brimmed hat). We ate and talked, caught up on each other’s lives, congratulated ourselves for being in pretty good shape as we push into our 70s (I was the only one with an Artificial Body Part!).
We laughed and wondered, waded in and out of various childhood memories – most of them happy (one of them this gathering of hobos); we’ve sorted out the troubling ones, packed them into handkerchiefs, tied them onto gnarled poles and moved on…
…still tramping together after sixty years!