Second World War: Hitchhiking Soldiers

Woman recalls her family helping hitchhiking soldiers on leave during the Second World War.

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During the Second World War, my parents moved from their farm to Kansas City, Kansas, 120 miles away. 

We often made weekend trips back to our hometown for holiday dinners and short visits. It was a common sight to see a soldier hitchhiking to get home or back to camp. My Dad never passed one by. We enjoyed meeting all the young men, learning where they were stationed and about their homes and families. We felt the gesture was our patriotic duty and looked forward to it.

As soon as they stowed their baggage and settled in, introductions were made. My brother and I, early grade schoolers, sat spell-bound in the back seat listening intently to the conversations up front. We strained our ears as Daddy said, "Hi, where you going?" The polite soldiers were regarded by the two of us as heroes.

One severely cold night, a hitchhiking soldier soon fell into a deep sleep, his head falling over on my mother's shoulder. She dared not move and awaken him, affording him the chance to rest. My brother and I remained unusually quiet as he slept. When Daddy reached our corner to turn off the highway, we were approximately 50 miles from the soldier's destination, Camp Crowder, near Neosho, Missouri. Daddy pulled the car to a stop and regrettably woke our passenger. "I'm sorry, we'll have to let you out here." Sadly, we drove away, leaving him beside the road hoping to catch another ride soon.

There was no reason to fear a stranger or hesitate to offer a helping hand. I can still see a man in uniform grab his duffel bag and hurry to the car as Daddy pulled over onto the shoulder. A smiling young man climbed in and said, "Hi, sure nice of you folks to give me a lift." We all smiled back at our new friend.

Janice I. Kinman
Carthage, Missouri

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.