One of the best stories of the year to me (and it’s still early!) is that of Ted Williams, the homeless panhandler in Ohio with the golden voice. In the viral video, a reporter drives up to the scruffy Williams on a corner. Williams is wearing a tattered camouflage jacket and a warm smile, and carrying a sign letting to-be donors know he has been blessed with a beautiful voice. Williams’ story seems to be taking a turn for the awesome, and I am just thrilled for him.
Panhandlers had specific names in the Tudor time period. “Abraham men” claimed to be lunatics, broken free from the asylum. “Demanders for glimmer” told tall tales about having lost all their worldly possessions in a fire. “Fraters” collected cash by pretending they were taking up alms for hospitals.
“Bawdy baskets” brought girl power (or, powerlessness, as it were) to the streets. The more loose and unmarried of those were called “walking morts,” not “hookers” as they may be today! No, back then “hookers” reached into windows at night with a long hooked staff, snatching goods while the homeowners snoozed. “Doxies” were the girlfriends of vagabonds, because vagabonds need love too.
“Palliards” could be male or female. Males would make today’s cutters proud, as they inflicted themselves with sores to gain more sympathy. Females were Münchausen-by-proxy before its time, pinching their babies and children to make them cry for more coins. (The term comes from the French “paille,” meaning “straw;” the inference being that these beggars slept on straw.)
No word whether the Tudor printing presses got hold of any of talented ones, making them the chat of the pub crowd!
* As a side, I’d like to suggest that (short of calling the local news station in the case of a talented individual like Ted Williams), you consider a sandwich, soup, or coffee for a homeless individual you encounter in what you perceive to be a safe situation. Just my opinion, but I feel there is more dignity in shared food or drink than in wads of cash. The harassing kiosk people at the mall, however? Not a thing! When they step into my personal space and shout, “Excuse me, can I ask you a question?!” I say, “You just did” and I keep walking. There ‘s my ‘how to handle panhandlers and kiosk people’ tip for the day.