The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of the United States 1932-1972

Manchester, William

Little, Brown, 1972

p. 22

Hundreds of thousands of people became hoboes, riding the freights, in the early 30s. Food lines at churches and Salvation Army places were good for a single cup of thin soup—once or twice. Then you had to be on your way. Malnutrition was everywhere—“prominent ribs, concave abdomens, arms and legs on which the skin was loose and baggy, hungry eyes and nervous mannerisms.” Many with these maladies were youths. Eight years later 40% of young men called to the draft were deemed unfit because of bad teeth, poor eyesight, heart and circulatory disease, mental disorders, etc. “To those were added the invisible scars inflicted in hobo jungles by thieves and drug addicts . . . Henry Ford said, ‘Why it’s the best education in the world for those boys, that traveling around! They get more experience in a few months than they could in years at school.’ If President Hoover believed otherwise, he never said so. Certainly nothing in his personal experience contradicted it. Because he couldn’t bear to watch suffering, he never visited a breadline or a relief station…He never turned his head when his limousine swept past apple salesmen on street corners.”