Forgotten Wagners -- Now with Hobo Joe!


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Hobo Joe shows a little Jackie Gleason around the edges.
Good ol' Hobo Joe: May his sole rest in pieces.
Hobo Joe shows that you never know... ... who might be Phi Beta Kappa.

(Φιλοσοφια Βιου Κυβερνετης well describes the character of the hobo whose postcards claimed him to be a "World Traveler, Philosopher, and Connoisseur of Good Food.")
Update (sep2006): Kevin C. writes in with further information—

Date: Thu, 7 Sep 2006
From: Kevin C.
Subject: some info for you about Hobo Joe

Hi -

I read your webpage with interest. Several corrections:
the auction you refer to was for one of the life-sized statues, not the huge one

i thought that was what i said [...checking...] "each Hobo Joe's had its Hobo Joe (like this one, auctioned in 2001, which was from the Hobo Joe's on Main Street in Scottsdale").

the plaque is misleading. I don't know who Marvin Ransdell is, but he did not build the statue. The sculptor was Jim Casey, my father.

very cool. did you get free grabs from the hobo pirate treasure chest? if not, you were robbed.

He sculpted all three sizes of the statue, and his company did all the casting and painting of the originals. At the most, Marvin may have reassembled one or perhaps cast one if he'd gotten his hands on the mold somehow.

i've never seen a hobo joe that massive elsewhere. do you know of other instances of the statue the size of the buckeye one?

also, any idea who marvin ransdell was?

I enjoyed checking out the various links, especially the article on the owners of the restaurant chain. I have vague memories of Herb Applegate from around 1967 (I was 13 years old) ... the most vivid one was accompanying him to the beachside home of Lana Turner in the Malibu Colony and playing pool with her. Her husband was a business associate of Herb's.

lana. turner.
very nice.
don't suppose you got any photos of her, did you?
i have no idea why there is no giant statue of lana turner in buckeye, arizona.


Update (sep2007): Brenda fills in further details—

Date: 14sep2007
From: Brenda

Thought you might like to know, or not. My sister and I googled my father's name, Marvin Ransdell, and ran into pictures of Hobo Joe. My dad owned the fiberglass company that cast the boothes and statues for the restaurant. Casey was indeed the artist that worked in his manufacturing plant. He was not an employee. There was another statue the size of the one dedicated to my father but it burned down many years ago. Applegate and gang never paid my father for most of his work. That is why he retained possession of the giant Hobo Joe. It sat behind his manufacturing plant for years. When he died, his life long friend Ray Gillum asked if he could have the statue. Ray put it on his property. That raised quite a bit of trouble with the Buckeye City government but Ray won. Just wanted to set the record straight. Casey was a fine artist but my dad actually cast the statue so Casey and my dad worked together very closely.


From: Tom
Date: Thu, 2 Oct 2008

I see on the site I saw someone asking about Marvin he was my dads uncle I also see the Brinda he daughter pasted a response on the same page what I know is my dad worked for him and helped on making the molds for the Hobo Joes and for the booths inside which later became the spa bench of the Polypools that Marvin build here in Phoenix.

My Dad helped him on those also now I am the 3rd Generation working with the fiberglass making molds and resurfacing swimming Pools Here in Phoenix.

Hobo Joe

As part of Meghann Marco's Nigh! project, I went to Buckeye, Arizona to photograph Wagner with the sign for an outfit I found listed online: Nigh Systems, International.

What a cool photo that would have been. Unfortunately, Nigh Systems, International turned out to be nothing but a broken-down, ramshackle former O'Malley's lumber yard in downtown Buckeye.

I'd have tried calling before going to Buckeye, but I was afraid I might find no Nigh Systems, International there, and though this may surprise residents of Buckeye, I didn't want to be dissuaded from going to Buckeye. It's easy to be dissuaded from going to Buckeye; ask anyone. But I knew I wouldn't go empty-camera'ed from Buckeye, for Buckeye has a giant monument to a bygone Arizona restaurant chain, Hobo Joe's.

Two things about Hobo Joe's coffee shops: (1) if you were a kid and you ate everything on your plate, you could pick a toy from a giant pirate treasure chest (everyone knows the well-established link between pirates and hobos); (2) as each Big Boy restaurant had its Big Boy statue, each Hobo Joe's had its Hobo Joe (like this one, auctioned in 2001, which was from the Hobo Joe's on Main Street in Scottsdale):

Why a monument to Hobo Joe's coffee shops is in Buckeye is unclear. There seems to have never been a Hobo Joe's coffee shop in Buckeye.

Glean what you will from the statue's plaque:

HOBO JOE
BUILT BY AND
STANDS IN MEMORY OF
MARVIN RANSDELL
(1928-1988)
BY
HIS GOOD FRIEND
RAMON GILLUM
JULY, 1989

I don't find either of those names in the murky Hobo Joe's swindle story related in this excerpt from a book called The Arizona Project, but there are other interesting Arizona names there, such as murdered Arizona newspaper reporter Don Bolles, and Robert Goldwater, brother of that other Goldwater.

I'm going to have to go over to the Arizona Rail Museum and get a shot of Wagner with this tableau: Hobo Joe being hassled by The Man:

This could be the start of something: Wagner with mascots of defunct restaurants.

No, no. I guess it would be the continuation of something:

Big Boy
Doggie Diner (2) (3)

 

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