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Book: Riding the Rails - Teenagers on the Move During the Great Depression by Errol Lincoln Uys

Book: Riding the Rails - Teenagers on the Move During the Great Depression by Errol Lincoln Uys

categories: Book, United States History, Teens, Railroad Travel, Children, Stock Market Crash, Hobo, Economic History, Boxcar Boys Girls, Trains, Family History, Roosevelt New Deal, Great Depression

Errol Lincoln Uys

Author Errol Lincoln Uysabout this book: At the height of the Great Depression, two hundred and fifty thousand teenage hoboes were roaming America. Some left home because they felt they were a burden to their families; some fled homes shattered by the shame of unemployment and poverty. Some left because it seemed a great adventure. With the blessing of parents or as runaways, they hit the road and went in search of a better life.

By summer 1932, the "roving boy" had become a fixture on the American landscape. The occasional girl was sighted too, mostly passing unrecognized in male garb. Girls especially never took the decision to hit the road lightly, for they were stepping into a world filled with danger. It was the same for young African-Americans, for whom the beckoning rails could be doubly perilous.

One of the vital, neglected sagas of America in the 1930s, the story of the boxcar boys and girls has seldom been told. First-hand accounts of individuals who endured those trying times are even more scare. Riding the Rails: Teenagers on the Move During the Great Depression draws primarily on letters and oral histories of 3,000 men and women who hopped freight trains, their incredible journeys illustrated with rare archival photos.

Riding the rails was a rite of passage for a generation of young Americans and profoundly shaped the rest of their lives. Self-reliance, compassion, frugality, a love of freedom and country are at the heart of the lessons they learned. Their memories are a mixture of nostalgia and pain; their late musings still tinged with the fear of going broke again. At journey's end, the resiliency of these survivors is a testament to the indomitable strength of the human spirit. It is also an inspiration to all of us who share a nostalgia for the road and the freedoms sought there.


• Uys so thoroughly recreates the wretched conditions the boxcar boys and girls endured that the reader can all but hear the cadence of the trains on the tracks, and the lonesome wail at every whistle stop. — Boston Globe

• As gripping as it is well-researched, with more than 500 interviews and stunning archival photography. — Chicago Tribune

• A riveting document of hope and hardship during one of the nation's bleakest eras. — Arizona Republic

• An elegantly presented and quietly moving collection of firsthand reminiscences, capturing a unique moment in American history. — Library Journal

• One of the most poignant memories of the wandering youth of the Great Depression. — Sacramento Bee

• A remarkable story — Kansas City Star

• Colorful, sometimes funny, often poignant and tragic stories...are told with gusto and style... Uys researched the era with empathy and skill. — Indianapolis Star

• Riding the Rails sets out to tell about the 250,000 teenagers who hopped freights and lived the hobo life in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash... Uys paints a brisk, colorful, fast-paced portrait of lean times and high hopes. — Tulsa World

• Whether you're a "gaycat" (novice rider) or a "dingbat" (seasoned hobo), Riding the Rails is entertaining and inspiring, recapturing a time when the country was "dying by inches." — review

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