During the Great Depression, my father worked to put himself through the University of Minnesota. The grand college adventure at the time wasn’t running with the bulls in Pamplona Spain, but something equally, or quite possibly more dangerous, and much closer to home. The adventure was spending the summer riding the rails with hobos. Only the wealthy college boys could afford this as others, like my father, spent their free time hoisting heavy grain sacks onto a conveyor belt at the Pillsbury Mills. Those who worked listened, with some envy, to the stories that were told.
So, believe it or not, in 1952, as a young child, I was allowed to talk to the homeless men that were known to some as the Vineburg Winos. I couldn’t set foot in their dirt lot, but if I sat quietly on the wooden sidewalk, I could put my feet in their lot and listen to their adventures. They were great storytellers. Everything you wanted to know about prohibition, bootlegging, and riding the rails was discussed with great authority. I still find the 1920’s and 1930’s fascinating.
– J. Wilson