Chapter: Challenges and Hardships

Signature of St. Claude jail prisoner

"Hoboes as 'guests'"
1912-30 St Claude jail wall signature, Nova Scotian 'rider of the rails' (or prisoner) Rail rider gaol wall signature


This is a signature on the wall of the St. Claude jail wall left by a Nova Scotian "rider of the rails" (or prisoner) sometime between 1912-30. The inscription reads "William Walsh, Springhill, Nova Scotia, Can."

Research shows no records of Walsh ever living in Saint-Claude but, since he proudly left his name and address, this is an interpretation:
"During the great depression years of the 1930s, it was common to see men jump (onto) trains to travel from one point in the country to another, usually in search of work. In cold seasons justice authorities were obligated to offer overnight refuge to hoboes who had no money for a hotel room- so 'rail riders' would stay for free overnight in the local lockups. Those persons would be offered to bunk in the gaol cell with door unlocked with the added right of a meal."