A Depression-era journal by John MacDonald.
Edited for grammar and clarity by Warner House Press, this document details John's experiences as a transient during the Great Depression. From the hobo life, to encounters with railyard police, all the way to battling the elements themselves, John's firsthand account delivers an engaging and authentic vision of a mostly lost piece of American history.
Waiting for the Train will be available for purchase in print and as an ebook early in 2020. For now, experience the first journal entry for free at the link below.
John MacDonald was born in New York City on September 21, 1887. Nothing is known of his parents, John MacDonald and Ida Robbins. He worked primarily as a cook and, given the difficult times of his adult life, probably held many other jobs, especially in labor and manufacturing. He served in the U.S. Army during the last year of World War I, and saw action in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which began September 26, 1918. The campaign ended when Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918. America suffered at least 117 thousand casualties during the offensive. Family members spoke of John experiencing the effects of mustard gas, which was used extensively by the Germans during the assault. However, no injuries (and no military decorations) were indicated on his discharge papers. No record survives of John’s life between 1918 and 1934. It was in 1934 that he left New York City to ride the rails and this is when his journal starts.
John died in Tucson, Arizona on March 7th, 1953. He had been at the VA Hospital there for over seven months, suffering from advanced tuberculosis. His ‘usual place of residence’ noted on his death certificate was on Hand Road in Little Neck, Long Island, New York. This was his immediate family’s residence, suggesting either that he maintained contact with his wife, Hannah MacDonald, over the years or the person who drafted the death certificate contacted the family for details.
Little beyond these basic facts of his life is known. He spent most of his adult life living apart from his family and his journal is the best resource available for who he was, filtered through his own eyes and subject to his own interpretation. His immediate family has now passed, with his youngest son, Robert (“Bob”) L. MacDonald, passing away in 2014. Bob rarely discussed his father and his own journals, kept sporadically between 1943 and 1974, never mention John. Only a short introduction detailing Bob’s last meeting with John remains, and is included in Waiting for The Train.
Waiting for the Train will be published in early 2020 by Warner House Press.
Until then, for more information or to read about our other projects, check our website and social media, or feel free to contact us at any time.
4410 E Cayuga Lane
Rimrock, AZ 86335