Spectrum 798. Hobo camps and gandy dancers
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Jerome Cvtanovich interviews Roly Venis who was a stoker on the coal-burning steamships that sailed from the River Tees in Middlesbrough, north Yorkshire in the 1940s.
Through the war Venis had met multiple seamen from the American Great Lakes so decided to sign on to a ship in Buffalo, New York. Due to a strike after three month’s work however, he and a mate, a professional hobo, Andy Hayden from Minnesota, decided to head west as ‘gandy dancers’ [track labourers] to Dakota.
One day of poor food at camp was enough for them to make a swift exit and head on to the nearest hobo camp at Fargo where they could jump on a freight train and travel further west. Venis describes two ways hobos travel by train, the items that distinguish hobos and gives an example of the trouble he found himself in amongst them.
Venis discusses both the dangers and status gained from riding the American manifest goods trains and refers to Kilroy the “pimpernel of American railroads”. He says the hobo camps had laws and describes what makes a Camp Kingpin. Venis acknowledges for a young man without ambition he was happy with little and got a lot of laughs.
Reference number 15055
Media type AUDIO
Collection Sound Collection
Cvitanovich, Jerome, Interviewer
VENIS, Roly, Interviewee
Date 08 Aug 1993