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Personal Stories People riding in a boxcar.
Riding the Rails Title Graphic
Hobo Poem
 Carl Sandburg
While researching the film, we received over 3,000 letters from people who had first hand stories of riding the rails in the 1930’s. We have listed a few of them below.

If you or anyone you know has a story to share please contact us. We are collecting an archive to further document this period of history.

—Lexy Lovell
The American History Project

Clarence Lee Photo “I wanted to stay home and fight the poverty with the family, but my father told me I had to leave. It hurt very badly, but he meant I had to go. But I didn’t have it in my mind to leave until he told me, ‘Go fend for yourself. I cannot afford to have you around any longer.’”

—Clarence Lee
(Age 16 in 1929)

Guitar Whitey Photo “If you see the movie, Wild Boys of the Road, some movie like that showin’ kids travelling on trains, well that put the idea in your head: well, I could do that too. I wouldn’t mind doing that. I'm not going get my leg cut off like that kid did in the movie.”

—Bob "Guitar Whitey" Symmonds
(Age 16 in 1938)

Rene Champion Photo “We got off the train and on the outskirts of town the first building was a diner. And we saw the proprietor standing in the doorway. When we got to where he was standing he called over to us and said, ‘I’ve been watching you walk up that road and you have a hungry walk about you.’ I think the fact that I was young softened the hearts of many people.”

—Rene Champion
(Age 16 in 1937)

Peggy Photo Napa, Idaho
August 3, 1938
Dearest Mom,

“Just a line to let you know I’m OK. The police picked up Irene and I last night and put us in a cell. We sure made use of the cots. I hope they turn us loose soon so that we can go again. This is the third time they’ve picked us up. They all think we are runaways. Fooled eh what?”
Love and kisses,
Peggy Eaton

—Peggy De Hart
(Age 15 in 1938)

Charley Bull Photo “As much as the romance might have been there, it was never as good as Richard Halliburton made it out to be. It was never that romantic or that adventurous. It wasn't worth the pain and the suffering. I wouldn’t do it again now for $100 a day, I probably wouldn't even do it for $200. $500 - you might talk to me.”

—Charley Bull
(Age 19 in 1930)



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