Riding the Rails: Teenagers on the Move during the Great Depression

By Errol Lincoln Uys | Go to book overview

John Fawcett 1936

John Fawcett's journey began on a freezing night in February, riding the blinds of a passenger train. It was to change the sixteen-year-old's life forever. The son of a prosperous ophthalmologist in Wheeling, West Virginia, Fawcett lit out partly for adventure, partly to rebel against the forced conformity of Linsly College, a boys-only military institute that he attended in Wheeling. His first road trip lasted one weekend. At the school year's end, Fawcett and a friend struck out through the heartland to Texas. His experience among the homeless and poverty-stricken in June and July 1936 made him a lifelong fighter for the underdog and the oppressed.

I hardly knew there was such a thing as the Great Depression, because we never had it hard. At Christmas my mom would take us kids down to a local settlement house with baskets of food for the poor and their families. My dad would send my older brother to do collections for overdue fees on Saturdays. Other than that, I'd no idea of what was going on in the country. We still had two automobiles. We went on summer vacations to the eastern shore of Maryland. We lived the good life.

I went to public school for four years. Then my dad sent my two brothers and me to military college. That's where he and his brother went. Fawcett boys attended Linsly and that was that. We got to wear a uniform, which was a big thing for the first year.

-67-

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