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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, History, United States History, Children, Teens, Railroad, Trains, Hobo, Homeless, Dust Bowl, New Deal, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Great Depression


Errol Lincoln Uys

Author Errol Lincoln Uysabout this book: "A remarkable story! A riveting book of hope and hardship during one of America's bleakest eras. The reader can all but hear the lonesome wail at every whistle-stop." – Boston Globe

At the height of the Great Depression, a quarter of a million teenagers left their homes and hopped freight trains crisscrossing the country. They were looking for work and adventure; some wanted to leave their homes, and some had to. They grew up fast in speeding boxcars, living in hobo jungles, begging on the streets and running from the police and club-wielding railroad guards.

By summer 1932, the "roving boy" had become a fixture on the American landscape. The occasional girl was sighted, too, most passing unrecognized in male garb. Girls especially did not make 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.

The restless youth of the boxcar boys and girls, many who went from "middle-class gentility to dirt poor" overnight, is recaptured in the new edition of Riding the Rails: Teenagers on the Move During the Great Depression by Errol Lincoln Uys.

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 scarcer. Riding the Rails draws primarily on oral histories of three thousand men and women who hopped freight trains, their incredible journeys illustrated with rare archival photos.

Self-reliance, compassion, frugality, and a love of freedom and country are at the heart of the lessons these teens learned. Their memories are a mixture of nostalgia and pain; their later 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 paints a brisk, colorful, fast-paced portrait of lean times and high hopes." -- Tulsa World

• "With more than 500 interviews and stunning archival photographs, Uys thoroughly recreates the wretched conditions the boxcar boys and girls endured." -- Chicago Tribune

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

• "As gripping as it is well-researched." -- Denver Post

• "Riding the Rails is entertaining and inspiring, recapturing a time when the country was "dying by inches." – Amazon History Editor

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