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PEOPLE : Brother, Can You Spare a Memory?

January 17, 1994|DOUG ADRIANSON

American folklore hums with the romance of hopping a midnight boxcar on a freight train bound for glory.

But back in the 1930s, riding the rails was a grim way of life for many who had lost jobs, homes, even families to the Great Depression.

Now, the American History Project wants to hear from those who spent childhood or teen-age years wandering. A documentary film on the era is in the works, and all stories are welcome.

"We've done telephone interviews with about 300 and their experiences are amazing," co-producer Michael Uys said.

Among them: A wealthy youth "de-princed" at 16 when his millionaire father lost everything. He wound up drifting west to become a dock worker and labor leader.

And a woman whose vivid memories of being hungry, weary and homeless still flare up as nightmares if she skips dinner or becomes too tired.

"Our missing piece is people of color--African Americans, Native Americans, Asians and (Latinos)--so we can include as many voices as possible," Uys said.

To participate, send a letter or audio tape to Uys and co-producer Lexy Lovell at the American History Project, 300 Hicks St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201.

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