Eastern Utah
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Monday, January 21, 2013

Riding the Rails

Although I often express my dislike of television, I acknowledge that once in a while a worthwhile program is shown, and I watched one of those last night.  PBS's American Experience featured a program on the Great Depression and those who left home in desperation, riding the boxcars to wherever they took them in search of work.  What I didn't realize is that a huge number of these "hobos" were teen-agers, and a good number of them were girls.

During my childhood my dad often told us that he had been a cowboy.  I knew he had hopped the freight trains and traveled to the West Coast and back.  He didn't tell his children much about the hardships of that year, but my Mom told me that he had once been arrested and spent a night in jail for vagrancy , I think in Texas.  He always spoke well of New Mexico, and I believe he enjoyed it most of all the states he traveled through.  Born in 1910, I think he was probably a young adult and not a teen when he set out on his great adventure.

The program went into the great numbers of those riding the rails into the Civilian Conservation Corps, although many of them were suspicious of it to begin with but finally realized the opportunity to get work with a safe place to sleep at night, 3 meals a day, money for their families as well as $5 a month for themselves.  All of us who have traveled anywhere have no doubt seen some of the work of the CCC in our parks and cities.  In Cincinnati where I grew up there is still a retaining wall  that was built by the CCC along Columbia Parkway.

I often wish I could go back and talk with my parents and ask them questions about their experiences during the Depression.  They told me a lot as I was growing up although I didn't realize how important it was at the time.  My mother grew up on a farm and there was always something to eat, even if it was just biscuits and gravy.  My dad knew the hunger and hardship of living in the city at the time.

I am loving the comments I'm still receiving about farm and growing-up experiences, and ask that readers who remember hearing from parents and grandparents about the Great Depression, to share their stories.

I will probably be going to Lassen to get settled in the cabin sometime during the first part of June.  My campground is at one of the highest elevations of C/G's in the Park, and it always depends on when the snow melts enough to open the place up to visitors.  I'd like to be there several days in advance of opening to the public so I can get settled and help get ready for the season.  Hopefully I can get better at using my camera and get some good photos for the blog.  I really did better with the older style cameras.  Yes, the technology is superb with the new models, but I'm an older model myself (and am happy with who and what I am), so I just prefer to stick with the (for me)tried and true.

I'm waiting for the Inaugural parade to begin.  Watching today's events unfold makes me a bit homesick and nostalgic for the Washington, DC area.  Forgetting politics, the city is the most beautiful in the world in my opinion.


As for my new Macbook Pro, I think I will really be happy with it.  It's much lighter in weight than my older and larger laptop.  I can't say I like the newer look of all the software, but I am swept over the cliff by what developers seem to think everyone wants.  My feeling will always be, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", and often there is no apparent reason for changes (such as the Blogger interface, Gmail, AOL, etc.) except for the continuing employment of developers.  The trend seems to be to make the screens as spare and empty as possible - "just guess where to click to do what you need to do".  I can't fight it any more, and at least I'll be at Lassen for the summer and won't give a damn about technology (except I sure hope the radio works in case I need to call out for assistance).


  1. A lot of hem road under the cars. Could be a dangerous mode of travel. My Grandpa was an engineer back then and didn't loose his job during the depression.

  2. I have a MacBook Pro and love it. You can get a inverter thingy that fits in your cigarette lighter for charging.

    You have to be sure to get one for a Mac because of the two I already had? neither worked for a Mac. I thought my Mac had died... but read the inverter thing and it said in tee tiny print... not for Macs. oh, great.

    meant to find out why ... maybe I'll do that now ... ;)

    Gawd! how lucky you were... your parents talked with you??? poor pitiful me... I don't think I ever had a conversation with either parent.

    I remember asking Mother one time because a teacher had asked us to talk to our parents about our ancestry.

    My Mother just said ... American. I asked my Grandmother and she said her parents came over from Ireland and Mother just ... we are American ... that's all you need to know.

    talk about sigh ...

  3. Oh, and I loved watching the inauguration stuff today ... still watching... it's parade time.

    and Mother, yes... I'm American.!.

  4. I remember my parents talking about the way life was during the depression. They made a pair of shoes last for about 3 years the way they tell it. My father tells of being sent by his parents down to the corner grocery store to beg for an end of bolony. They were darn near starving and thought a five year old would draw some sympathy.

  5. My Mom told me several stories about the Depression. She told me they ate eggs all the time and nothing went to waste even the fat off meat was consumed. Her stories of the war was really interesting too, how they had to use coupons to get any sugar or panty hose. One year I sat my parents down and filmed them talking about their lives. It is over 2 hours long, all the way from their childhoods, to the depression, war, their courtship, marriage, etc. Then I had duplicates made and gave them to my brothers for Christmas that year. That tape is priceless to our families.

  6. My Mom didn't like to talk about the depression,said it was too hard that they worked all day for a farmer for a piece of cornbread.
    A great blog is ' I AN NOT AFRAID OF WINTER' the young girl who writes it has great stories about her life riding the rails.She has a book for$2.99 on amazon Ten Thousand Miles on a Train.Carrot Quinn is her name ,very sweet person .

  7. Hi bargirl~ haven't seen you in a while! YES ... I used to read Carrot's blog daily ... she is fascinating! She quit writing for a while and I started nonstop traveling so I haven't read her blog in some time....

    She finally did write her book! outstanding ... I'll check it out.

    Gypsy? that kiddo Carrot is something else. I think you would really like her rail riding accounts ... something else!

  8. In the small town of Tavistock in southern Ontario we lived only a few hundred yards from the train station. My Mother, Uncle & Grandfather would talk about the 30's & how the hobos as they were called then, would sometimes be seen hanging around the train station. Several came to the house asking if they could do a little work for some food....I'm in the same boat you are with all the fast paced & many times unnecessary changes going on in technology. My mind was once able to kind of keep up with stuff, but not so much anymore....:((

  9. My grandfather was a mechanical engineer ( designed steamships) during the depression. He told of being on a business trip by train, and having to leave his meal in the dining car to use the restroom. He left a note, as a joke that said "don't eat my dinner I spit in it" When he returned there was another not that said "so did I " He said farmers never missed a meal, but city folks had it rough.