|Hitchinghiking Since the Depression
In the decades after the 30s, hitchhiking for a time became quite popular and then receded again.
During World War II, it became almost a patriotic duty for drivers to pick up hitchhiking soldiers trying to get to town on a three-day pass. The "Defense Victory Ride Program" was organized by the Good Neighbor Association. It set out to enlist "an army of civilian motorists engaged in giving the uniformed men a lift, to and from their destination, whenever possible." Even the mistress of manners Emily Post wrote in her newspaper column that female defense plant workers were justified in hitching to and from work, especially in the days of gasoline rationing.
During the 50s, Jack Kerouac romanticized the American road and produced one of the seminal works of Beat Generation, On the Road. Traveling at the mercy of others became a way to learn about a country despite strong criticism of hitching from conservative politicians and writers.
The hippy culture of the late 60s and 70s rediscovered Kerouac's book and developed an entire ethos in which hitching was a way of rejecting the materialistic culture they were rebelling against.
Hollywood hopped on board with films like "The Devil Thumbs a Ride" (1947), "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1946 & 1981), "Easy Rider" (1969), "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" (1994), "The Lost Highway" (1997), and "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" (2000).
In the first years of the 21st Century, hitchhiking seems to be less popular in the United States, but it remains a great way to get around Europe. There are clubs and publications devoted to traveling via thumb throughout Europe.
Written by Bill Ganzel of the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.