The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Crack in the Boxcar Door

There's still lots of people out of work, but insofar as I know, nobody has decided to hit the rails. Yet.

Back in the '30s lots of out of work guys and others who just wanted avoid it did just that. There was a fellow on my mother's side of the family, one of her aunts' husbands who lost his job, left his family, and hit the rails. He hoboed arround and never came back. Until about 40 years later. Just showed up one day and knocked on her door. She had remarried and her second husband had died leaving her an elderly widow. The old hobo may have wanted forgiveness, I'm not sure. And I don't know if he got it. All I know is he didn't come back around after that.

There are plenty of songs about hobos. Most of them romanticize the life. Some of them offer insights. Hank Snow's "Crack in the Boxcar Door" is a romanticized view of the freedom that the rambling hobos were said to enjoy.

Jimmy Rodgers "Hobo's Meditation," is still a bit romanticized but does provide the listener with some insights into hobo psychology. I especially like the line..."will we have to work for a living...?"


  1. One wonders if there would have been as many hobos in the way-back if we had had the same sorta welfare state we have today.

    Very interesting story about your great aunt!

  2. Probably not as many, Buck, but maybe.

    Dan, I did a post a while back. In the comments, my friend Nancy (a schoolteacher from Florida) gave me a little education on hobos.

  3. Buck, I wonder the same and I wish I had more details about my aunt's story, but sadly I was too busy or didn't realize what it might mean to me later to ask my aunt or her children for details. Those who might know the full story are all gone now.

  4. Andy, thanks for the info on that post, I'll check it out right now.

  5. Hard times made hard people!
    I imagine the "Boes" life was pretty rough.
    The railroad bulls made sure of it if they caught one in a boxcar. Saw it first hand a few times when I worked for the R. R.