An excerpt from the first chapter of Waiting for the Train, by John MacDonald:
“That Depression was one of those depressions that hit everybody, so that made it still more difficult to get at least enough work to eke out a mere existence.
There was only one consolation in regards to the whole situation, and that was [that] you yourself were not the only one up against it. In my own case, I was perhaps not so bad off, for I had no immediate responsibilities like a great many had. But when you are hungry and without shelter, you feel these things personally and start to turn against the fates, and [against] those whom you feel could have found some way to avert such conditions.
Any sudden or drastic change is bound to have its reactions. For some, it was a tragedy and [they] thought suicide the only way out, while in the case of others, they clung on to life and worried it out, and trudged along in their suffering and mental anguish, sometimes to the point of insanity. For the latter class, those that clung on hoping and worrying, I have the greatest sympathy, for not even on the battlefields of France did I worry or go through so much mental anguish as I did in the early part of the upheaval caused by the Depression.”From Waiting for the Train, a journal by John MacDonald.
John MacDonald’s story starts in the early part of the Great Depression. Although he was a combat veteran of World War I, he likens the difficulty of enduring this tumultuous time as being harsher than a literal battlefield. It was a period of hardship for most everyone in the United States at the time, and the uncertainty it brought to the status quo was the same impetus that began John’s own travels.
Having no particular reason to stay where he was, and seeing no future in his employment prospects, he made the decision to simply leave his life behind for a measure of freedom. This is the start of his experiences as an honest hobo, riding the rails across America. Look for more of his story in excerpts like this, and Waiting for the Train, a collection of John MacDonald’s journals, to be published by Warner House Press later this year.