home | many pasts | evidence | www.history | blackboard | reference
talking history | syllabi | students | teachers | puzzle | about us
search: go!
advanced search - go!

Lending a Hand: A Woman Remembers Hoboes of the 1930s

Vagrants were one of the most troubling—and most obvious—signs of the Great Depression. Lora Albright remembered the many hungry men who came to her door in Idaho during the depression. She responded with compassion and help. In Albright’s oral account, she recalled that she even let one hobo use her husband’s razor.

Listen to Audio:

Lora Albright: Yes, Yes, Oh, yes, We had what we called bums. We were living in a half-finished house here, and the bums were riding the railroads, and they would be in the jungles at Arrow, you see, because there was the railroads that come down both ways. And I never refused to feed anybody that came to my door and asked. And Raleigh sometimes felt that if they were young and healthy that they should do something to help earn it. And there was always things on the ranch from chopping wood to hoeing that they could do. And one day there was a family, a young man, I suppose he was in his middle thirties, because there was four children that were walking, and the wife was carrying a baby, which would be five children, and they had to get to Troy, Idaho. And they had come up through Southern Idaho, just catching rides just anyway that they could. And they had no money when they got here, and that man was carrying what clothes they had. He must have had two hundred pounds on his back, I was aghast; and they were trying to get Troy to her uncle’s, as I understood it, and they had lost a business down in the middle part of the state there. Well, what could you do but bring them in? And so, when Raleigh found out about it, we were getting ready for a load to take it up there and we brought them in, and the man hadn’t been shaved for a long time; he’d had to throw his razor out. I mean, a razor was something that he could throw out because they had to have clothes for the baby and they had to have the children’s clothes and shoes and the things, and they had to have a little food along, And the father and mother, I found about it afterwards, were not eating, and the father carrying a hundred and fifty pounds on his back without sufficient food in order for the children to live. I mean this sort of thing. So, we kept them all night and fed them. I even—this was a little squeamish—I let him use Raleigh’s—razor!

Yeah. We kept them all night and then Raleigh put ‘em on the load and took ’em to Troy the next day, and they went on from there. All these little things, because I don’t think that you have a right to deny any human being—I’m saying this and thinking about some people that might chisel you, and take advantage of you. And I have had to settle to my own mind—Should I resent or should I judge, or should I just be an easy mark and let 'em get by with it? And this again, is situation ethics. I play it by ear, and if I think that they’d been too demanding because, I am sure in the old days that some of those bums made—left some kind of mark out here, that we were easy marks. Because we had so many and they never passed us up, they all stopped, They always did. But I never turned them down either, because we had—the Lord was good to us, and we always had milk and we always had bread and we always had vegetables,

Interviewer: I was just wondering whether you found it a struggle during the Depression.

Lora Albright: Yes, we did. And yet, we always had shelter. We always had food. We always had medical attention. I have always said- maybe this is not correct—and I might stand corrected in my older years—but through the years, I’ve always said that if you honestly put forth an effort, you’re not going to be slapped down entirely. That you may not get as much as you had hopes on, but effort is always repaid, or—what’ll I say,—acknowledged. Is always rewarded. Let’s put it that way, effort.

Source: Oral history courtesy of Latah County Historical Society