main stem n.
1. (US) a person of importance, the boss.
|Fables in Sl. (1902) 24: I was just Thinking what chance have I got to grow up and be the Main Stem, like Mr. Jeffries.|
|Guilelmensian (Williams Coll.) 289: Some one asked him if he had ever seen a baseball, to which he replied that he had been the Main Stem of the Prep. school team.|
|Life In Sing Sing 256: Main Stem. Head person.|
|Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).|
2. (also big stem) the main street of a town.
|Powers That Prey 250: One can complete investigations that have been begun in ‘the main stem’ of towns thousands of miles away.|
|Road 160: The kids began ‘battering’ the ‘main-stem’ for ‘light pieces,’ or, in other words, begging for money on the main street.|
|Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 181: It’s got me wingin’, too. I keep right on workin’—I lift a boob for $106.60 on a mainstem caboose yesterday.‘Canada Kid’ in|
|Hobo 3: They call it ‘The Main Stem,’ a term borrowed from tramp jargon, and meaning the main street of the town.|
|Ten Story Gang Aug. [Internet] As gold diggers they could chisel nicer and dig deeper than any two chippies on the big stem.‘Clip-Joint Chisellers’ in|
|Don’t Get Me Wrong (1956) 60: It is twelve o’clock an’ a sweet night, an’ I am walking down the main stem ponderin’.|
|Really the Blues 138: Tin Pan Alley was soon to be the main stem in the music world.|
|Mad mag. June–July 27: A dingy two-by-four office on the main stem.|
|Walk on the Wild Side 67: I go down the main stem and I’m on my way back to The Home by morning.|
|World’s Toughest Prison 808: main stem – The main street or a town or city.|
|Ghetto Sketches 24: Saturday night ... any Saturday ... the main stem sizzles and crackles with the flicker of neon lights.|
|City in Sl. (1995) 41: The main drag or main stem originally was the main thoroughfare of hobohemias, such as the Bowery, rather than the principal and most central street of a town, such as Fifth Avenue or 42nd Street. But the terms in slang were generalized to the main street of a city, or to the main thoroughfare of some part of a large city.|
|(con. 1940s–60s) Straight from the Fridge Dad.|
3. (US black) attrib. use of sense 2, stylish, sophisticated.
|Pittsburgh Courier (PA) 29 Apr. 11/1: Mae Diggs [...] is being hired by a main stem nitery.|
|Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1969) 384: He has on tight black pants, black shark toe slip-on shoes, a soft black sweater and open-neck shirt . . . dressed Main Stem hipster, in short.|
4. (US tramp) the most important street of a town in the context of tramp society and standards.
|Main Stem 17: We are now on the ‘stem’ or ‘main stem’ or ‘main drag’ [...] The main stem is the principal street from the hobo’s point of view. It is not the main residential street; it is not the main business street; it is the hobo’s street [...] It is on this street that the homeless have put their stamp of approval.|
|Milk and Honey Route 209: Main stem – The chief hobo street in town.|
5. Broadway, New York City.
|Morn. Call (Allentown, PA) 8 Dec. 10/5: Broadway is known as ‘The Main Stem’.|
|On Broadway 31 Jan. [synd. col.] Loudspeakers in front of Main Stem music shops pouring out romantic tunes.|
|New Hepsters Dict. in Calloway (1976) 252: apple (n.): the big town, the main stem, Harlem.|
|City in Sl. (1995) 41: The main drag or main stem originally was the main thoroughfare of hobohemias, such as the Bowery, rather than the principal and most central street of a town, such as Fifth Avenue or 42nd Street. But the terms in slang were generalized to the main street of a city, or to the main thoroughfare of some part of a large city. The theater district along Broadway was once called The Main Stem.|
6. attrib. use of sense 5.
|On Broadway 18 Aug. [synd. col.] His wham click at the Capri is Main Stem gab.|
to beg along a town’s main street.
|Gay-cat 301: Buzz, or mooch, or work the main drag or stem—to beg or bum along the main street.|
(US tramp) walking the main street of a town, begging for subsistence.
|Hobo 54: These clothes are usually solicited from the public, and the men on the ‘stem’ believe that they are entitled to them.|
|Adventures of a Scholar Tramp 236: One old floater had said to me, ‘Kid, you kin get yer three squares a day, booze, and lots o’ jack on the stem.’.|
|Coll. Stories (1990) 247: Ted said he wasn’t on the stem and Tony looked relieved.‘Every Opportunity’ in|
|Never Come Morning (1988) 207: She asked him for a quarter for luck, but he only looked dour and muttered something about being on the stem himself.|
|DAUL 209/2: Stem, on the. 1. On the main street of a town or village; on the highway. 2. Engaged in, or by means of, panhandling.et al.|
|City in Sl. (1995) 41: The phrase on the stem is hobo jargon for walking the main street of a town, sometimes panhandling and begging.|