Emmy Award-winning documentary that examines the quickly vanishing vagabond culture in the United States.

00:00Copy video clip URL Cut to slate and countdown for the program. A short television spot for the documentary follows. This lasts very briefly.

01:04Copy video clip URL Cut to slate and countdown for the actual program.

01:35Copy video clip URL The piece begins with a shots of trains pulling in and out of a railroad station. Audio from Radio Hobo plays under the footage.

02:13Copy video clip URL Cut to a great shot of the shadow of a hobo as he travels aboard a freight train. Compilation footage of the men interviewed for this piece rolls as an introduction. Most of the men are all smiles.

03:19Copy video clip URL Fade into a shot of an older gentleman telling the story of how he become a vagabond. While he speaks, there is a montage of number of other clips of the various characters who are showcased in the piece. One man recalls how he had gone out to buy a loaf of bread for his sister and ended up hopping aboard a passing train instead. Another man talks about gaining his sense of manhood by being on the road. Another man speaks of the positives and negatives of romanticism in the vagabond lifestyle.

04:27Copy video clip URL Fade into a shot of an uncultivated patch of grass near a freight train in Oroville, California. The documentarian is speaking with a hobo that goes by the name of Virgil. Virgil takes the crew back to his campsite which is only a few minutes away from the railroad track. Virgil talks about his time spent as a vagabond. He expresses his need for a change of scenery every once and a while. “Sometimes I’ll stop and work for a year you know, get an apartment or a room. I guess a bug hits you or something, you know. You just want to see new ground, new faces and places, you know.”

05:48Copy video clip URL After arriving at the campsite, Virgil sits down and talks about the true definition of a hobo and emphasizes the importance of having respect for the working class. Virgil’s friend Don talks about theft from other hobos. Virgil also talks about the danger of other hobos getting violent with one another. Only a week before this interview had taken place, Don had been attacked by another hobo with a skillet. The interview ends with Virgil talking about getting the traveling bug out of his system.

07:41Copy video clip URL Fade into a shot aboard a freight train as it enters into a tunnel which is used as a transition into the next segment.

07:58Copy video clip URL Fade into a compilation of archival footage of the old railroad and some of the hobos of the past. “Hobo Bill” Mainer begins to talk about a poem he had written about the death of “Hobo Bill.” He then goes on to talk a little bit about the history of hobo culture. The videomaker includes a number of pictures from 19th century America after the Civil War.

10:45Copy video clip URL Cut to an interview with a hobo by the name of Little Red. Red talks about his constant need to be nomadic and how it has helped him gain his manhood. He explains that his nomadic tendencies have become habit because he has been traveling for so long.

12:31Copy video clip URL Cut to some archival footage of the early construction of the railroad system. Many hobos had been involved in the construction process. Jim Stein, former hobo who had traveled on the railroads throughout the twenties, talks about hobo culture of the 1920s. He explains that the hobos were the primary source of farming labor at the time.

14:33Copy video clip URL Cut to an interview with Frying Pan Jack, who had ridden the rails for over fifty years. Jack talks about hobo culture and how it has changed over the years, specifically in regards to the respect for one another’s belongings. In the past, hobos had been fairly respectful of one another’s property, but in this day and age, that respect has been thrown away due to “downright meanness.”

15:54Copy video clip URL Cut to a group interview with several different hobos who are discussing the perils of hobo lifestyle. The interview takes place in Marysville, California near the side of a railroad line. The hobos discuss their personal resources for food, money, and travel. At one point two of the hobos get into a rather violent fight which is kind of hard to watch. Finally one of the hobos emphasizes his need for prayer in his life.

19:50Copy video clip URL Fade into an interview with Reverend Ernest Klein, Director of the Galesburg Rescue Mission. In the interview, Klein talks about his mission and how he sees a lot of younger people come through that have completely romanticized hobo culture. As Klein talks about the younger generation of hobos, the videomaker cuts to some interview footage with a couple of younger vagabonds. Frying Pan Jack eventually makes another appearance and talks about the danger of hobo culture for the younger generation.

22:50Copy video clip URL Portland Gray, a middle aged hobo, talks about the advantages of taking on a romanticized image of hobo life.

23:25Copy video clip URL Cut to some footage from the 1980 National Hobo Convention in Britt, Iowa. The convention seems to be a rather large celebration as many hobos ride through the town aboard a parade float. One of the hobos talks about his opinion that a lot of the meaning of the festival has been lost as it has become more of a tourist attraction. Each year at the festival, a hobo king and queen is elected. The interviewer talks with Steamtrain Maury Graham, who had been crowned Hobo King three times in the past five years. At the crowning ceremony, Sparky Smith and Cinderbox Cindy are named king and queen of the hobos.

27:49Copy video clip URL Fade into another part of an interview with Little Red talking about giving up the hobo lifestyle. The credits then begin to roll.

29:45Copy video clip URL Tape ends.


1 Comment

  1. John Dennis. says:

    I watched this here, years ago. Once, I tried to watch it again, and it was not available. When it was available again, I posted it to a site called reddit, and many others enjoyed it and thanked me for linking to it. I see again that it is unavailable. You mentioned that if someone wanted to see this remastered digitally, to email you or leave a comment. I think this is a treasure, and that you should certainly make it available again; the version I saw was more than fine, if you’d put that up again. Thank you so much for your efforts to save this stuff. I can’t be the only one who enjoys and appreciates this. Thank you kindly.

    John Dennis.

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