At the turn of the century, Baltimore’s street sweepers were called White Wings because of the fancy white uniforms they wore, complete with coats and ties and matching pith helmets.

In 1985, they were called hokey men — don’t ask why; no one seems to remember how or when they got the name — and they wear what they want, usually under a bright yellow sweatshirt emblazoned with the logo of the city Bureau of Solid Waste.

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These municipal employees are the folks who keep the city streets and alleys clean the hard way: gathering up the trash, bit by bit, a piece at a time.

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Equipped with only a broom, a two-wheeled push cart, scooper and a handful of paper bags, each of these municipal employees spends eight hours a day, five days a week — unless it snows — picking up the soft drink cans, the gum wrappers, the liquor bottles and other refuse that somehow doesn’t land in the trash receptacles on the city street corners in Baltimore.

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