By Donald Wilkey

Magazine Index


During the Depression millions of people were out of work and in this era there was no such thing as Welfare or unemployment. Desperate men hearing of jobs in distant places, having no money, would "hop" a freight train. If no work was found after they arrived at their destination they would again hop a freight train to some other town. This system of seeking work was often called "riding the rails."

These men, down on their luck, were called "Hobos" and should not be confused with tramps. It is true some hobos would ride the rails for fun but most were seeking work. A tramp is not seeking work and would steal money or food to exist.

Hobos would knock on the back doors of homes close to the railroad and offer to work for a meal.

Audrey Eison Wilkey, wife of Clyde Wilkey, never turned a hobo away. If I remember correctly the meals she fed these men were most generous. On one occasion after being fed and told there was no work a grateful hobo pulled a small log from a pile of firewood and with his pocket knife whittled mother a rolling pin.

The rolling pin was not perfect by any means but Audrey used the rolling pin the rest of her life. I cannot recall her ever having another. I still have the rolling pin.