SomeChum’s a Bum!


One Halloween, sometime in the mid-‘70s, I distinctly remember wanting to dress up as a bum.

Not a “bum” as in “derriere” or “backside.” A “bum” as in “disgusting derelict who doesn’t bathe and wanders the streets without purpose or value to society.”

Nothing like aiming high in life.

I’m not quite sure if bums were the trendy costume of the day or if I just didn’t feel like imitating Joe Namath or some other overhyped sports hero. All I know is that I wanted to transform myself into a dirty, nasty man. And that’s what I became – complete with scraggly beard (created by mom’s eyebrow pencil); baggy, strategically torn clothes (courtesy of dad’s ready-to-go-to-Goodwill wardrobe pieces); and a bindle (fashioned from a kerchief tied to the end of a long stick).

In retrospect, it must’ve been a pretty sweet deal for my folks. There was no overpriced costume to buy, and the entire ensemble could be jerry-rigged from common household items. Three cheers for the low-maintenance son!

I’m sure my parents’ biggest concern was that my dream costume didn’t foretell some longer-term career aspiration.

Of course, living in our upper-middle-class neighborhood in a small-town suburb of a modestly sized city, we knew no actual bums. They weren’t welcome at the grocery store, didn’t appear at the post office and never showed up at the town library.

It would be many years before “bums” were rebranded as “homeless persons” – and brought to the forefront as real individuals who didn’t just exist in Dickens novels.

I’m guessing there won’t be many bums making an appearance this Halloween.

That’s probably a good thing.


A photo depiction of my parents’ worst nightmare.