At the height of the Great Depression more than 250,000 teenagers became Hobos, living on the road. These children often faced the threat of starvation, physical and emotional isolation, and feelings of anger, alienation, and guilt. The objective of this exercise is for students to read first-hand accounts by Hobos and their plight and then create their own fictionalized account of a day (or longer) in the life of a Hobo.In this assignment you are to write from the perspective of a Hobo who is "riding the rails." Use your knowledge of the period and your creativity to create a story (250-500 words) about a day in your life as a Hobo.
Here are some questions to help guide your story: How old are you? Where are you from and why have you left home? Are you traveling alone or with someone? Who? What possessions do you have? What are your plans? What are your concerns? How are you feeling, physically and emotionally? What happened to you today? How did it make you feel?"
Here's an example. The following story written by a 10th grade student in response to this assignment:"My stomach’s empty but it don't hurt and my back’s near broke but it don't ache. Can’t feel nothin’ right now -not my tired feet that won’t stop bleedin’ or the on’rous weight of the dust in my lungs. The physical sufferin’ ain’t nothin ‘pared to the hurt in my heart.When you’ve gotta worry ‘bout starvin’ and freezin’ to death you forget to keep track of what day it is, but I’d estimate today’s the 15th of December, year 1932. It took me near three weeks to get here. “Here” is Lancaster, California. I left home in Kansas when Dadi told me he’d got word from Aunt Sarah in California. “Aunt Sarah’s got a place for you to stay with her and she’s found you a good job in a shop downtown Lancaster,“ he said. “You go put your things in the bag that I’ve left you upstairs and I’ll take you to the train in the morning. ” I had never met Aunt Sarah, let alone heard mention of her in our house before the day that Dadi told me I’d to go live with her. Things were hard for us then. Not just hard for my family but for all the farmin’ families in Kansas that depended on the crops. Ever since the topsoil started blowin’ ‘way nothin’d wanted to grow. No crops, just dust. It meant no money, empty stomachs, cold bodies.At 14, I was the third oldest of Mama and Dadi’s kids. My brothers Jake, 16, and Tom, 15, left a few months before I did to find work and s’port themselves on account of mama and dadi could hardly feed themselves. Before Dadi’d told me I’d be leavin’ too I’d thought about gettin’ myself a job. I felt awful guilty all the time ‘bout bein’ another mouth for Mama and Dadi to fill. It was almost relievin’ that I’d be leavin’. My absence’d be improvin’ for Mama and Dadi and my sisters. I kissed Anne-Marie, Sue, and Emily goodbye and went to find mama to do the same but Dadi said, “Listen, Sarah, you don’t say nothin’ to your mother. Good-bye will break her heart so you just let her be.” It broke my heart not gettin’ to say bye to her but I thought Dadi was right so I let her be like he said to. I put a pair of socks, a blouse, skirt and my doll, Jenny, into the canvas bag that Dadi’d left at the foot of my bed. The next mornin’ Dadi walked me to the train station. He gave me 20 cents, told me which train to take, and left. I like to think Mama cried when she found out what Dadi’d done the next mornin.I made quick friends with a hobo ‘bout my age named Jim. He warned me ‘bout the railroad bulls and told me where the hobo camps that made the best mulligan stew were on the way from Kansas to California. I didn’t spend more than a day with Jim but he taught me things my life’d come to rely on later.I spent ‘near three weeks ridin’ the rails, walkin’ on route 66 to get from station to station and stoppin’ at hobo camps in between. Pretty much ‘came a ‘bo myself. Today I arrived in Lancaster, California. The prospect a’ my arrival here’s what kept me goin’ all the time I was trav’lin’. Imagine my disapointment ‘pon findin’ there really wasn’t no Aunt Sarah. That there wasn’t no warm place to stay, no good job like Dadi’d promised. I know now that I was a burden that Dadi made up his mind to get rid of. If the poisnin’ mulligan stew I’ve been livin’ off the past three weeks don’t kill me, this feelin’ in my heart will."
Here is a comment posted by another student:"I loved your story ! Your use of dialect seemed accurate and enhanced the diary-like tone of the story. I also liked how you conveyed the hobo's feelings of helplessness and sadness. You were able to get a lot of the things we had been talking about in class about hobo's in your story...the mulligan stew, the hunger, the dreams for a new job, etc. It's so suspensful, I really want to know what happens next...good job!"
This assignment is thanks to Teaching Literature and History with Technology and can be found at: http://thwt.org/NewsletterE2-hoboblogs.htm