Posts Tagged ‘American writers’

Jack London: a hobo in City Hall Park

October 22, 2009

Writer and San Francisco native Jack London is usually associated with California, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska, thanks to novels like White Fang and To Build a Fire.

But he spent some time in New York City too. While hobo-ing around the country in the early 1900s as a young man, London lived for a few months in City Hall Park downtown.

JacklondoninchairHe recounts a typical day as a park vagrant in his autobiographical memoir, The Road, published in 1916:

“It was during a week of scorching weather. I had got into the habit of throwing my feet in the morning, and spending the afternoon in the little park that is hard by Newspaper Row and the City Hall. It was near there that I could buy from push-cart men current books (that had been injured in the making or binding) for a few cents each.

“Then, right by the park itself, were little booths where one could buy glorious, ice-cold, sterilized milk and buttermilk at a penny a glass. Every afternoon I sat on a bench and read and went on a milk debauch. I got away with from five to ten glasses each afternoon. It was dreadfully hot weather.”

London goes on to describe a nearby game of “pee wee” played by some “gamins” before the cops broke it up. It’s a pretty neat glimpse into daily life in downtown New York City at the time. Read more from The Road here.