A Kind Lady Lives Here


Cynthia:  This cat symbol is hobo code for “a kind lady lives here”. During the Great Depression itinerant workers would put codes on the side of homes and businesses to let other hobos know what to expect – a meal, a temp job, hostile police, a vicious dog.

Hobo Code for A Kind Lady Lives Here

Marcy:  What’s the sign for a vicious cat lives here?

Cynthia:  It’s not about the cat, Marcy. It means a kindly lady lives here and will help you out.

Marcy:  I’m not helping anyone out.

Cynthia:  Marcy!

Marcy:  I already have to share the sunspots and Friskies.

Cynthia:  Oh, you are so deprived.

Marcy grumpily swishes her tail back and forth.

Cynthia:  Anyway, what I just wanted to say was that I think it is sweet that a cat would be the symbol for a kind and generous person.

Hobo Code for A Kind Lady Lives Here

Marcy:  That’s it?

Cynthia:  Yes.

Marcy:  That’s your brilliant analysis?

Cynthia:  Why are you so grumpy?

Marcy:  I don’t like thinking about my hobo days. It makes me mad. People are mean to hobos. Especially cat hobos.

Cynthia:  Ah… I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.

Marcy:  All we want is some food and a comfy, safe place to sleep. But when you’re a hobo you look dirty and smell bad and no one is nice.  It makes me sad.

Cynthia:  Me too.

Marcy:  I’d rather be a French Princess. Even if it’s only pretend. No one can be mean to a French Princess. We’ll chop off their head.



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  • Reply Lisa - respect the shoes April 4, 2014 at 3:01 am

    That's sweet that the cat was the symbol for a kind lady … though I can't help but to think that to some people, a cat isn't naturally equated with kind and giving so I'm curious as to why they picked the cat. OK, Marcy, now you and your kitty sister can claw at me viciously, I deserve it. ;o)

    • Reply MarcyVeryMuch April 4, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      I think it was because the older ladies who were at home during the day to give these men some food had cats. So it was more about the women than the cat. It is interesting that most of the feral cat caretakers are older women who are low on funds but extremely generous with what they do have.

  • Reply Anonymous April 4, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    Marcy, did it ever occur to you that you should be nicer to Cynthia? She saved you from your hobo life! She should have a kind lady cat drawing on her building.

    • Reply MarcyVeryMuch April 5, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      no way. too many cats will show up and we already have enough as it is for goodness sake. btw, i am nice to cindy. this morning at 5:30 am i let her pet me and then i sat on her bladder.

  • Reply Merrie K. April 5, 2014 at 3:35 am

    I like that :). Where did you learn that? (I want a cute kittie picture scribbled on my house 🙂 )

    • Reply MarcyVeryMuch April 5, 2014 at 8:39 pm

      Hey Merrie! It was just one of those random things that came across one of the blogs I read or on my FB newsfeed. I thought it was sweet so I did a little research on it.

  • Reply GnomeLover April 5, 2014 at 6:08 am

    That is so interesting! I love it! And, wow, that sign is large! Is that how big it really would have been back then? I do not know if someone painted a sign that big on my building I would be a kind lady anymore! ; )

    I do think the sentiment is sweet. And I like the symbol is a kitty.


    • Reply MarcyVeryMuch April 5, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      Ha ha! I think the symbols were much much smaller. That one looks like it was either photoshopped or done by the home owner on purpose. I wouldn't be kind either if someone put large graffiti on my house!

  • Reply Gwen April 7, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Huh, that's so cool about the hobo symbols! I did not know that. You must love that the cat was such a positive symbol. People who noticed those little scribbles probably just thought it was children playing. This reminds me of reading The Three Investigators as a kid – they would always leave a question mark in different colour chalk – each group member had their own colour – so that they could find each other. 🙂

    • Reply MarcyVeryMuch April 7, 2014 at 10:51 pm

      I do love it! It makes me so happy!
      The Three Investigators sounds like something I would have liked as a kid! I loved Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. And anything by Madeleine L'Engle.

  • Reply Susan and the gang from Life with Dogs and Cats April 9, 2014 at 12:23 am

    I used to tell my mom that I thought that symbol was hidden somewhere around our house, but in a way that animals could see it. Every stray seemed to wind up at our door, and we took them all in. Then, when I moved out, the same thing happened to me; strays always found me. I never found the symbol at any of my homes, but I don't look anymore. I just take care of whoever stops by.

    Purrs (and woofs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

    • Reply MarcyVeryMuch April 9, 2014 at 1:28 am

      Oh Susan (and gang), that is so sweet it makes me want to cry!

      There is something about those of us in rescue that are always finding animals in need. I swear I see a cat every time I go out. My husband is always shocked. I think you are right and they have a special code they communicate with.
      So you knew about this hobo code! I had only just heard about it. Fascinating!
      xo and meow, cynthia + marcy

  • Reply Whimsical Preppy April 10, 2014 at 12:12 am

    I learned about the hobo codes from Mad Men. I did not know about the cat code however, which is really quite charming. I wonder how many vintage houses still have left over codes. I have never seen a real one but it would be interesting to see.
    Thanks for sharing,

    • Reply MarcyVeryMuch April 10, 2014 at 8:30 pm

      I'd love to see one in real life too. I had also only heard about it first on Mad Men and only just recently heard about the cat symbol.
      Mad Men starts in a few days! Can't wait!

  • Reply withwonderandwhimsy April 11, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Ha! The concluding line is perfect. I hadn't heard of this with chalk drawings, but I know they did similar things during the time of slavery with quilts. They would hang quilts with different designs in the window. They would alert runaway slaves if there was a home in the underground railroad nearby, if there was a boat for hire to take them upriver, if it wasn't a safe town to linger around, etc. Brilliant, really. Too bad Marcy doesn't agree. haha

    <3 Liz

    • Reply MarcyVeryMuch April 12, 2014 at 4:42 am

      Marcy is just worried that I will bring home more cats. And as a cat rescuer, it is a valid concern for her. LOL
      I had no idea about the quilts. That is so very interesting. And so very scary.I cannot imagine what it would be like to be searching/hoping to find those quilts with the safe designs on it. My goodness. Thank you for sharing that bit of US history.

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