Read Riding the Rails: Teenagers on the Move During the Great Depression by Errol Lincoln Uys Online


During the Great Depression, more than 250,000 teenagers left their homes and hopped freight trains crisscrossing the United States. They were looking for work and adventure; some wanted to leave their homes, and some had to. They grew up in speeding boxcars, living in hobo jungles, begging on the streets, and running from the police and club-wielding railroad guards.The rDuring the Great Depression, more than 250,000 teenagers left their homes and hopped freight trains crisscrossing the United States. They were looking for work and adventure; some wanted to leave their homes, and some had to. They grew up in speeding boxcars, living in hobo jungles, begging on the streets, and running from the police and club-wielding railroad guards.The restless youth of these boxcar boys and girls, many who went from 'middle-class gentility to dirt poor' overnight, is recaptured in Riding the Rails: Teenagers on the Move During the Great Depression. Whether as runaways or with blessings of parents, these boys and girls hit the road and went in search of a better life.Illustrated with rare archival photos and drawing primarily on letters and oral histories of three thousand men and women who hopped freight trains, Riding the Rails brings to life a neglected saga of America in the 1930s. Self-reliance, compassion, frugality, and a love of freedom and country are at the heart of the lessons these teens learned. At journey's end, the resilience of these survivors is a testament of the indomitable strength of the human spirit....

Title : Riding the Rails: Teenagers on the Move During the Great Depression
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780692302118
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Riding the Rails: Teenagers on the Move During the Great Depression Reviews

  • Ken Dowell
    2019-02-27 14:53

    I picked up this book for a buck at a second hand bookstore. It was stamped “discarded” by the Brown County Library in Nashville, Ind. I don’t know what the folks at the Brown County Library are thinking about because this is a really good book.Riding the Rails is the story of American teenagers during the Depression, some 250,000 of them. With no prospect of work, no perceived reason to stay in school and a desperately shrinking home environment, they hit the road. Or, to be more precise, the railroad. They jumped on, stowed away in and rode atop freight trains, travelling the country looking for fruit to pick, lumber to chop and grain to harvest. And maybe for a little adventure along the way.WGBH/PBS produced a documentary called “Riding the Rails” in 1998 as part of the “American Experience series. In researching that film, the producers solicited letters from survivors of the experience. They heard from about 3,000 of them. It was the content of those letters that was used to produce both the Peabody Award winning film and the book. So, oddly, this is a book that was based on a TV show. It was published by TV Books, a publisher whose goal was to do just that. They’ve since folded.Those who survived a hobo adolescence in the 30’s remember it as a moving, life-changing experience. But at the time not a happy one. Hopping on and off trains is dangerous. Some lost their lives and some lost their limbs. These guys and girls were hungry, tired, broke and scared. Mostly hungry. As one of them noted: “One of the sad things about kids on the road was that they didn’t know how to play. Life was earnest, life was hard.”Here are a few of the people I was introduced to in Riding the Rails. Arvel Pearson lived behind a railroad station in an Ozark village. By the age of nine he was working in a strip mine. When the Depression hit, the mines closed. Arvel was on the road at age 15 and stayed there from 1930 to 1942 picking up a few days work here and there as a migrant farm worker in the summer and a coal miner in the winter. In 1939 the National Hobo Convention named him “King of the Hoboes.” Clarence Lee was one of six children in a Baton Rouge, La., family that was forced through hard times to go into sharecropping. Clarence was sent out by his father who told him he could no longer support him. As a black teenager he had to confront racism as well as hunger, cold and danger. By working on a dairy farm for 10 cents an hour he was eventually able to buy his parents out of sharecropping. The film shows Clarence in his eighties still working as a groundskeeper at a school in California.  Unlike most of the kids who rode the rails, John Fawcett left a comfortable home in West Virginia looking for adventure. “I didn’t see suffering until I ran away from home. It would be a cold and unfeeling person who wouldn’t be stunned and angered at the squalor of the streets and migrant camps.” He devoted much of the rest of his life to fighting for human rights. A member of the ACLU he was active in the antiwar, women’s rights and gay rights movements.The movie includes interviews with many of these survivors. It also has 1930’s newsreel footage with some of the adolescent transients. The black and white images of the railroads, the Chicago Worlds Fair and a “hobo jungle” are accompanied by a score of blues and folk music of the era, including Woody Guthrie and Brownie McGhee. There’s also some original songs by “Guitar Whitey” who himself was riding the rails in the 30’s.The book has a lot more detail than you can get into a one hour+ documentary. My only issue with the book is that it is imperfectly edited, with a couple instances of a missing word or broken off sentence. But it is so interesting. Reading it made me wonder why when history is taught in our schools they don’t teach high school kids the history of people their age. Surely it would be more compelling and more meaningful for them. Riding the Rails is now more than 15 years old. You’re not going to find it on the front tables at the Barnes & Noble. The publisher is out of business but there are still quite a few copies available on Amazon both new and used. Or maybe your librarians had a little more appreciation for this story than the ones in Brown County, Indiana. The documentary is available on YouTube and through PBS.

  • Geoff Mcdowell
    2019-03-11 20:11

    This is a brilliant book and an amazing reflection of hope, spirit, determination and adventure!

  • Luke
    2019-03-21 15:07

    Less interesting than it sounds. Riddled with statistics. More of a resource book than an intriguing read.

  • Peter Pactor
    2019-03-24 18:05

    This is an extraordinarily good book about the life of teenagers on the road looking for work during the Great Depression. I thought the book brought out every emotion in the reader. It shares why teens hit the road, how families couldn't afford to keep them, how families suffered when the father lost his job and lost his pride. There was indeed adventure riding the rails, but there was often hunger, thirst, little comradeship, danger and fear. The kids couldn't always trust the authorities. And yet as they traveled many people were generous and shared with them what little they had.This book has been based on first-hand accounts of people who road the rails during the depression, why they did so, and how and why they left. Everyone should read this book.

  • Megan
    2019-03-19 20:15

    Goodreads Giveaway Review:Great historical read about a unique group of people in the Dpression Era. We have all heard of hobos riding trains and movies and TV show them in a comical light usually, but this book uses facts intermixed with first hand accounts to give us the turth about these riders and the times they lived in. It is a real eye opener to the conditions of our country and the resilience of our people between the Stockmarket Crash and WWII to those of us who have only learned bits and pieces in our high school History classes.

  • Phillip E Maynard
    2019-03-24 19:58

    Interesting and entertaining I enjoyed this book very much. The personal stories and memories of riding the rails keeps you interested throughout. This is yet another look at the Great Depression that will certainly open your eyes wide to the struggles and devistation that is caused.

  • Lauri
    2019-03-12 23:20

    I enjoyed this book for awhile and then got bored with the repetition and dryness of the narration. Could have been a much more interesting read.

  • Beth
    2019-03-06 15:57

    The topic and stories were interesting, but this book got repetitive and I quit halfway through. The lack of photos in my Kindle edition was disappointing.

  • William Matthies
    2019-03-25 19:50

    The 1930's is probably best known for the world-wide depression. A byproduct of that in the US was the mass exodus from home of millions who moved from one place to another all hoping to find a better life. And not just adults, kids too, many as young as 8, on their own or traveling with others no older. This book describes that era and those kids. Mostly a collection of stories of those who rode boxcars from one end of the country and back. What you learn of them would be hard to believe were it not so well documented. But while you know they rode you probably don't know what that was like. Read this book and you will know.I initially rated it three stars because the personal accounts became repetitious and were seemingly random. But after thinking about it more I've increased the rating to four stars because that is indicative of what that time was like. The rail riders often didn't have a destination in mind; if a train was leaving, and they didn't like where they were, they'd climb aboard and go where it was going, hoping for something better.If there is any good to have come from the period 1929, when the depression began, and the end in 1941, it would have to be how it toughened what was to become known as The Greatest Generation for their next big challenge, WWII.

  • Mathias
    2019-02-23 20:03

    The book i have read is "riding the rails," by Errol Lincoln Uys, this was a tough read for me because i am a mystery or adventure kind of guy, but this is a great book if you would want to learn about the history of kids in America back during the great depression.During the Great Depression, There were many teenagers that rode on trains to different towns or cities looking for work. These teens left their homes because they felt their families didn't want them or some ran away because they felt ashamed of parents without any jobs. They thought they could find a better life. These teens didn't understand that they were stepping into a world of danger and not all excitement. Some of the teens stuck together, so they could survive and care for one another. This book lives on through their past.This book provides pictures in the very middle to show how life was tough, where they would live, and what these people looked like. This story has showed me the dangers that are just out our front door, and Some ways we might be able to prevent ourselves from getting hurt. This book was hard for me because i am not the best reader but if you want to know about the teens during the great depression, this is the book for you "Riding the Rails."

  • Ryan R
    2019-03-15 18:15

    Ryan Reilly March 23mp2 book review Riding the Rails The book Riding the Rails was not one of my favorites. This was a difficult read, there are many long words that i did not understand. There really wasn’t a plot, it was more of a informational read. Which i do not enjoy. The writing style of the author, Errol Lincoln Uys was hard to comprehend. The book jumped around from fact to story to characters. Also most characters were only mentioned once or twice, i wouldn’t even refer to them as characters. This is most definitely a higher level novel that i shouldn’t have chosen. Although i didn’t care for this book i did take away something from it. I think this book teaches a wonderful lesson on how children and teenagers these days are very ungrateful. We need to be lucky for what we have. Still, i would not recommend this book to someone my age, or any one that enjoys reading exciting, senseful or horror, I might mention it to a adult who enjoys learning about the past.

  • Carol
    2019-03-03 16:15

    I like to read books on the Great Depression to find out life was like for my parents. My father always mentioned that his family was so poor that he had to ride the rails when he was a teenager. I had a very vague idea of what that would be like. This book told of the many physical dangers of getting in the train car, the railway guards and the desparate search for food and water in order to survive. Also of the code between all railriders, because it was important to know whether you would be shot at or welcomed with a hot plate of food in the homes of the people that you passed by. It is hard to believe that my father, the only one to venture out in his family with three brothers to be as brave as he was. The little money that he earned doing odd jobs for the people who lived near the railroads helped make survival more possible for his brothers and sisters. This book makes me very proud of my father.

  • Dawn
    2019-03-20 20:59

    This is a collection of oral histories from teenagers and young people who road the railroads as hobos looking for work during the Great Depression. It was fascinating, especially given the financial conditions we face now. Several of the individuals remembered being children of wealthy families before the market crashed, and then the families had nothing, nowhere to live, and the kids (both male and female) felt it would be better for the family if there was "one less mouth to feed." Often it was with the blessing of the parents that they left, sometimes they ran away on their own. Their stories of hardship on the road were harder to read because they were true. This was a good book to read right after I read Water for Elephants, which was also train related in that era.

  • Judy
    2019-03-05 17:00

    If you like oral history and Studs Terkel you will enjoy this book about teenagers on the move during the Great Depression. This book is a result of all of the research done for a PBS documentary a few years ago (well worth your time). Because there was so much material solicited from the public there was enough to fill this book.It's amazing how many young people just left home so there would be one less mouth to feed.I was especially interested to read about the CCC camps that FDR started which helped many of these teenagers work for $30 a month (but they had to send $25 home). My father was the commanding officer of one of these camps as a young second lieutenant in the army back in the 30's. He loved that duty assignment and I was glad to see how many young people appreciated the work and life in those camps.

  • Joy
    2019-03-13 23:05

    Very interesting book , I couldn't imagine living the rails - hard life from my point of view but from some of the people in this story that lived this life by choice and not because they had to they preferred this life style. I can't imagine not knowing where I would or if I would find my next meal , sleeping outside in freezing temps , how they did it is beyond me. Very strong ppl and some made it out of this lifestyle and made good life's for them selfs and their family. Some went home (kids) to happy welcoming very worried parents swearing they would never do that again - lesson learned. At any rate , very good book :)

  • Richard
    2019-03-14 21:05

    The stories in "Riding the Rails" were tremendously moving to me. It gave me a perspective of the Depression and of Hobos I hadn't had before. The personal stories were incredible, and the lucidity of expression by these people looking back on those difficult years was accurately relayed in the book. More than once I had to stop reading because of the tears in my eyes. I know this must sound melodramatic, but this book really moved me. But also, I must say this book reaffirmed my faith in human kindness and the perseverance of the human spirit.

  • Lorin
    2019-03-16 17:54

    Well written, with statistics interspersed with narratives of people who spent time as hoboes during the depression. This book did a good job of presenting the challenges faced by different groups of people, including women, minorities, families, and young teenagers as they rode the rails, in addition to including info on people who took to the trains for adventure and those who rode out of desperation. My only complaint is that there wasn't a glossary of terms.

  • Kelsey
    2019-03-15 14:59

    Very interesting, firsthand accounts about the Great Depression. Some of it can be repetitive, but the wealth of information is worth reading something two or three times. I especially liked when the people reminiscing about that time compare it to today's world, making it easier to relate to. If nothing else, this book made me feel better about the economic slump that we're in now; compared to the 30s, we're doing okay.

  • Vicky
    2019-02-28 17:12

    I saw this documentary on PBS and subsequently read the book. It really opened my eyes to the plight of the American people during the Depression. My Dad was a young man during this time, and in fact did "ride the rails" from Montana to Oregon looking for work in the lumber industry. Another great bargain table book!

  • Elaine H
    2019-03-16 22:04

    Since I am a history buff, I found this book really interesting. Lots of information I did not know about this time period in the US....some things to be proud of our country, and some that reflected in not such a good light. Overall, I enjoyed the book. I am an avid genealogist, and will be using this a reference for this time period. Thanks for providing this free book!

  • Jesse
    2019-03-24 19:50

    This is one of those books that I would like to be able to give 3.5 stars to. Four seems too high but three seems a little low. Since my Grandfather is quoted in the book I will round up. The book gives a very interesting look at the Depression but the stories get very repetitive. Nevertheless I am glad I read the book and think it gives an interesting perspective on this time in our history.

  • David
    2019-03-23 20:56

    Full Disclosure: I am the publisher of this book. But the story is that I read it and loved it and that is why I published it. And it is still a wonderful book, fully absorbing. One of the better works of historical fiction in the grand arc of history done in recent years.

  • Becky Combs
    2019-03-03 15:06

    These are first-hand recollections by some of the 250,000 teens who left home to ride the trains all over nation looking for work during the Depression. Terrific oral history and some incredible stories by kids a young as 7 or 8 out on their own.

  • Danielle
    2019-02-23 14:54

    I really thought I would learn a lot more from this book than what I did. The stories were interesting but the book format, layout and editing were so poor that it made reading the book a little painful. I was really diappointed with it.

  • Sarah Goebel
    2019-03-07 21:57

    Wonderful companion documentary by PBS as well...

  • Dillon
    2019-03-22 15:55

    for us history class

  • Rachel Gierczycki
    2019-03-01 15:51

    Reading about people hopping trains while I was on a plane flight seemed as fitting as I could make it.

  • Liz
    2019-03-05 15:56

    Interesting book. Just skip the whole introduction. Trust me.

  • Evelyn
    2019-02-27 22:09

    Gave me a better understanding of another aspect of the Great Depression.

  • Michael
    2019-03-04 17:19

    Kind of dry and too many statistics. Interesting read but leave a bit to desired in terms of flow and readability