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

By Errol Lincoln Uys | Go to book overview

Clydia Williams 1932-35

In 1932, when Texas-born Clydia Williams was seven, she began hopping freights with her cousins, two boys of eight and a half and ten years. For three years, the trio roamed Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arizona, and California, sometimes with relatives follow-ing the cotton and fruit harvests, sometimes riding boxcars for hundreds of miles on their own.

An only child of mixed descent, Clydia went to live with her relatives in Longview, Texas, when her mother remarried. The younger of her cousins lived with his mother in Texas; the older boy was in Oklahoma with his father. The boys frequently hoboed back and forth between Texas and Oklahoma, and Clydia began to ride the rails with them.

We lived in small one- or two-room places with a well in the middle of the yard that rented for twenty-five or fifty cents a week. My relatives would be gone for days at a time workin' someplace or lookin' for something to do. They left my cousins to baby-sit me. When they started riding freight trains, I went with them.

In 1932 there weren't as many people as were traveling later: maybe ten or fifteen on a train. We saw children our age riding alone and others who were with their families.

An empty boxcar was always our first choice for a ride. Sometimes we had to travel in cattle cars. The animals would bawl all

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Riding the Rails: Teenagers on the Move during the Great Depression
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Preface 9
  • Introduction 11
  • Catching Out 45
  • John Fawcett 1936 67
  • Arvel Pearson 1930-42 82
  • Phoebe Eaton Dehart 1938 90
  • Hard Travelin' 99
  • René Champion 1937-41 122
  • Clarence Lee 1929-31 131
  • Tiny Boland 1934 138
  • About the Photographs 144
  • Hitting the Stem 145
  • James San Jule 1930-32 185
  • Jan Van Heé 1937-38 191
  • Clydia Williams 1932-35 201
  • The Way Out 207
  • Charley Bull 1930 246
  • Jim Mitchell 1933 255
  • Robert Symmonds 1934-42 264
  • References 271
  • Acknowledgments 289
  • Index 291
  • About the Author 303
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