Many of the people who showed up at someone’s back door for food were men who rode into town on the rails—the train. They jumped aboard a train when it slowed down or stopped. If they were lucky, they could get into an open box car, but sometimes they rode holding on to the outside of the train. One man remembers how he rode with one foot on one car and the other foot on the other car. When the train sped up, his legs stretched far apart. He rode that way from the state of Georgia to Alabama.
Historians believe that million and half people rode the rails, and about 250,000 of them were young people in their teens, many who left home because their parents couldn’t feed them.
Riding the rails was so tough on the teens that the United States government under President Franklin Roosevelt set up the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to house the teens and give them jobs to help the environment. In this picture, teens transplanted beavers to better, less populated spots where the beavers could build dams to help control water flow. Life on rails taught the teens to be tough and independent, but the life in the CCC taught them to be kind and work together.