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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: A freight-hopping college kid gave his account of life on the run

 (S-R archives)
(S-R archives)

Ronald Robertson, a Spokane college student, went on a summer excursion via “side-car Pullman” – that is, he decided to hop a freight train in North Dakota and return to Spokane, since he had only $2.06 in his pocket.

He learned being a free-rider wasn’t easy, because railroads had hired so many extra guards due to the ongoing yard strike. U.S. marshals were patrolling the yards.

He wrote a whimsical account of his adventures for The Spokesman-Review, which included this passage: “Running along the tops of the cars, I collided with a thud with one of the representatives of Uncle Sam. … I started to make my way to the rear of the train, but unfortunately, this member of the law happened to be somewhat more adept in the use of his pedal extremities than the other. As I was getting aboard for the second time, he was rude enough to seize me by the leg and jerk me off with no uncertain firmness. He then proceeded to enlighten me as to just exactly why i was not to take this train. … His elucidation on this subject was interrupted when he suddenly discovered several other culprits and became occupied with them. This was my chance, I broke away and ran with the fear of the fugitive giving wings to my strides and boarded an ‘empty’ just in time to hear a shot as I pulled my hind foot into the car. I spent the next 10 minutes trying to determine whether I had been killed.”

He arrived safely back in Spokane.

From the Prohibition beat: The Prohibition law curtailed business at a Spokane boarding house.

The landlord said neighboring buildings had been constructed so close to his windows that his dark rooms had been suitable only for “saloon drunks.” The S-R referred to it as a “store house” for drunks.

Now, since the state had gone dry, “there is no patronage and the property is worthless.”

The city’s board of equalization agreed and slashed his assessment.

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