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Hard Travellin' : The Story of the Migrant Worker [Paperback]

Kenneth Allsop
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

4 Mar 1993
Twelve miles from a crossroads store and gas station, given on the map the unwarranted importance of being named Spotted Horse, and fifty miles more from the nearest small town, a dilapidated 1950 Plymouth is juddering along the switchbacks of Highway 14 between the rocky hills of Wyoming. The Plymouth's fender and chrome radiator grill hang and shake like a broken jaw, and across the flaking eau-de-Nil paintwork on the doors, boot and bonnet is stencilled in black capitals six times over WORK ANYTHING WANTED.' The hobo was the shock-trooper of American expansion, the man who free-lanced beyond the community redoubts, building the canals and roads, spiking rails, felling timber, drilling oil, digging mines, harvesting wheat and fencing prairie. His origins go back to the early pioneer days and his spirit survives to the present. But during the years of the Depression he became a legendary figure. Revered and romanticised by some as the prototype of the free man, he was hated and feared by other for his nonconformity. His tough, reckless, radical and sardonic style has deeply impregnated his country's culture and outlook. Kenneth Allsop travelled 9,000 miles through America in his reconstruction of the old hobo routes. He talked to contemporary nomads - the rootless, the alienated, the outsiders of the Great Society. He gives us the history of the hobo and his place in the American dream. Harsh and turbulent, it is also a vital and compelling story.


Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New edition edition (4 Mar 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712656936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712656931
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.6 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,724,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bumper Book of Bums 6 Dec 2009
By S Wood TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Kenneth Allsops 1967 book "Hard Travellin': The History of the Migrant Worker" has sadly been out of print for over a dozen years. It is a lyrical account of the American migrant worker from the early years of American independence to the period when the author put pen to paper.

Allsop weaves his way between the idealised myth of the Hobo and the shadowy depictions of him as a threat to the established order to get at the real man or woman, or not infrequently the boy or girl, and the reality of their lives. Main Street U.S.A. has always had a love/hate relationship with the Migrant worker or Hobo, it has envied them their "freedom" and required them for seasonal labour at harvest time, or for heavy and temporary labour such as the laying of the railroads. But when the work is finished the response is to drive them elsewhere, often with the threat of or indeed actual violence. One article that exemplifies the brutal attitude towards the Hobo that the author quotes from at length includes the advice - "The simplest plan, probably, where one is not a member of the Humane Society, is to put a little strychnine [rat poison] or arsenic in the meat and other supplies furnished the tramp. This produces death in a comparatively short period of time, is a warning to other tramps to keep out of the neighbourhood. . ." Such are the ways of civilization, and this sage advice is not in some anonymous pamphlet but the Chicago Tribune.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bumper Book of Bums 6 July 2012
By S Wood - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Kenneth Allsops 1967 book "Hard Travellin': The History of the Migrant Worker" has sadly been out of print for over a dozen years. It is a lyrical account of the American migrant worker from the early years of American independence to the period when the author put pen to paper.

Allsop weaves his way between the idealised myth of the Hobo and the shadowy depictions of him as a threat to the established order to get at the real man or woman, or not infrequently the boy or girl, and the reality of their lives. Main Street U.S.A. has always had a love/hate relationship with the Migrant worker or Hobo, it has envied them their "freedom" and required them for seasonal labour at harvest time, or for heavy and temporary labour such as the laying of the railroads. But when the work is finished the response is to drive them elsewhere, often with the threat of or indeed actual violence. One article that exemplifies the brutal attitude towards the Hobo that the author quotes from at length includes the advice - "The simplest plan, probably, where one is not a member of the Humane Society, is to put a little strychnine [rat poison] or arsenic in the meat and other supplies furnished the tramp. This produces death in a comparatively short period of time, is a warning to other tramps to keep out of the neighbourhood. . ." Such are the ways of civilization, and this sage advice is not in some anonymous pamphlet but the Chicago Tribune.

The book captures the precarious existence of the Hobo, from the excitement and danger of "riding the rods" (climbing onto the support beams under a railroad wagon of which there is a photograph in the book and frankly it doesn't look either comfortable or safe- one slip and you are under the wheels) to the more mundane such as sitting through a three hour sermon at a mission in order to get some grub.

Other subjects the author goes into are the music, poetry and the writing that originated from the hobo culture - from Woody Guthrie to the Blues, the autobiographies of tramps to the apologetics of Carnegie and Pinkerton. Each chapter is generally prefaced by an account of a modern (1960's) migrant worker in their own words before the author delves into the past. Amongst the most fascinating parts of book is that on the Wobblies (members of the International Workers of the World); they organised the migrant workers in the period prior to World War One. They had considerable success in improving pay and conditions for the harvest hands, particularly when the surplus of man-power was curtailed during World War One; but were eventually broken, during the "red-scare" that followed on the footsteps of the war. Broken by the extreme violence that was a feature of American labour relations until recent times. Being shot, beaten up, judicially executed or being dropped off in the Nevada desert are some of the methods of the forces of law and order.

There is much more to the book than I can cover in a short review and though out of print it can still be picked up 2nd hand and I wouldn't hesitate for a second to recommend this lyrical account of the Migrant Worker which will fire your imagination and indignation for many a long hour.
5.0 out of 5 stars Allsop's story of Hobo life 25 Jun 2013
By Arkansas Red - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book by the late Kenneth Allsop is a must read for anyone wanting to know about Hobo life. It is well written and dispels the myth about the so-called "romantic life" of the Hobo. Allsop writes about the good times and the dangers. Hard Travelin' is a great title. I highly recommended this book, and am glad I own a copy. It's a welcomed addition to my library of Hobo literature.
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