The Original Hobo Band,
sporting its mismatched uniforms, performs at a Mullica Hill parade for its first professional gig in 1946.
The Original Hobo Band of Pitman New Jersey is an internationally-renowned community band, donning the garments of the American hobo. The Original Hobo Band is unique and will attract attention to any event due to their unconventional dress and their lively music.
But the Hobos were not always the Hobos...
The band got its start when many of the original members graduated from Pitman High School in 1934. The high school musicians wanted to continue playing after graduation, so they formed a band. They obtained a sponsorship from The Tall Cedars of Lebanon in Glassboro, NJ, a Masonic organization, and became known as the "Cedar Chips Band." The Masonic sponsorship bought them bright green-and-white uniforms, and they practiced wherever they could -- in a garage, in the lobby of the Pitman National Bank -- even in a vacant jail cell at the Pitman police station.
The Cedar Chips Band performed until World War II, when many of the band's members went off to war. When they came home in 1946, the group of returning war veterans could no longer fit into the old Cedar Chips uniforms, and no money would be available to purchase new ones.
They were asked to march in a Halloween parade, and wthout proper attire, they jokingly decided to wear whatever mismatched articles of clothing they could find. A newspaper reporter covering the event mentioned in his article that "they looked like a bunch of hobos." And thus began the transition to the Original Hobo Band that they've been known as ever since. The band adopted the wardrobe of the American hobo as their official uniform.
Around 1952, after much difficulty finding a consistent poace to rehearse, the band decided it was time to build a hall of their own. They bought a parcel of land in a peach orchard on Lambs Road. For a few years, the band would harvest their peaches and market them at the Cowtown Rodeo and elsewhere to raise money. And the band would play a tune for whoever bought a basket of peaches.
The Original Hobo Band has performed all over the Delaware Valley; in South Jersey, in eastern Pennsylvania and even into New York State. Twice, in 1972 and 1974, the band traveled to Europe to perform in competitions.
The last original member of the band, Ralph Miller, played until he passed away on January 29, 2010, at the age of 90. "Playing in the band keeps me young," he would say. "I love it. If I didn't have this, I don't know what I'd do. Not only does it keep me busy, it's the socializing and the fun that we have."
The band celebrated its 65th year in 2011, and is looking forward to many more. Continuing to aid in the development of young talent through the the Summer Youth Band Programs, the Original Hobo Band continues the mission of serving the area communities with parades and concerts.
All wind and percussion musicians are encouraged to participate. All levels of musicianship are welcome. There are NO auditions. Come on over to the Hall on Thursday evenings, enjoy our hospitality and have fun making music with us.