Kohei Akio and Penny Corbett

Recorded August 5, 2005 Archived August 5, 2005 01:21:47
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mbx000375


Kohei tells his mother, Penny, about hopping trains, adventuring, and having a son.


  • Kohei Akio
  • Penny Corbett


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00:06 My name is Penny Corbett. I'm 58 years old. It's August 5th 2005. We are in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the great storycorps Airstream bus and I'm sitting here with my son.

00:24 My name is kohi Akio. I'm 29.

00:28 It's August 5th 2005.

00:33 In Ann Arbor, Michigan USA Earth

00:38 With my mother

00:47 Tell me about your train-hopping summer.

00:50 Well

00:53 Decided to go in search of Adventure and took off and travel without West on recommendation from a professor in college in.

01:07 How old were you think I was just around 18?

01:13 Just turning 18. Actually. I'm

01:16 Meta

01:18 Interesting women on the Greyhound on the way out to

01:23 Oregon

01:25 But we went to

01:29 I went to Oregon and ran into folks there and when train hopping out of four again or first train that we took

01:44 There are about maybe seven of us.

01:50 And only

01:53 Two of us have gone shopping before what is train hopping freight train going.

02:07 Wherever you want to go.

02:10 Very cheap way to travel across country.

02:15 We were on our way in Eugene, Oregon.

02:22 Seven of us and

02:26 One dog

02:28 Random or one of us

02:32 Yeah, we split into a couple groups and we are hitchhiked out to Eugene and

02:40 Met up in in the train yard.

02:44 We all got there and

02:50 I found a box car and were told by some workers there that that was the one we wanted going down in California.

03:02 But this other train started moving as we were all in the Box car with two other hobos and them.

03:11 And I we were like, let's grab the other chain and we all just jumped off the boxcar and went sprinting for the other train and most of us and never have to train before so we didn't know where to hop onto and we just hopped on where we could and we are.

03:36 Mostly just hopped onto.

03:41 Ladders on the side of certain cars and there was nowhere to go from there. So we were kind of screwed.

03:50 But what about the dog? I'm getting there. Okay?

03:55 We got it. We were all spread out all along the train and the one guy who and hot before one of the guys at grab the dog and threw them onto the boxcar and then he jumped onto the Box Car.

04:13 And then the dog got scared and jumped off the boxcar. So he jumped back off the boxcar and kept running and through the dog back on and he jumped on and then to two miles down the track the train stopped and we all got on a walk two miles back to the other box. That was our first train hot for my first train often.

04:40 It was pretty fun.

04:43 Where did you sleep?

04:47 Weed sleeping

04:52 Wherever we could find.

04:55 A little clearing in

05:01 Mostly under Stars

05:05 Some days we wake up soaking wet.

05:08 Howard sleeping boxcars when we

05:13 We're riding in boxcars.

05:17 The pretty bumpy road not very

05:21 Cushioning

05:23 You said the train workers told you which card to get on but I thought you had to avoid when you have to avoid the ball and the ball is the the sheriff and he always rides a big pickup. But I mean you can figure out what trains to go anywhere from old tramps train ride. Hold on.

05:50 Some workers will tell you, lie to you. So

05:57 What about the old timers you meant? Did you meet a lot of Old-Timers new generation of tramps? Okay, and what were they like what was their stories didn't really get to hear any of their stories.

06:19 Serta laughed at us and you know and fun.

06:26 Where from where to where did you travel other than, Oregon to, California?

06:33 I'm train from Oregon to California to Minneapolis, but

06:45 I ended up taking a bus from

06:51 I think around Salt Lake City in Utah was that because of the sheriff caught you were something everyone else? Okay, I see but you said you told me one story about the sheriff. Where was that some?

07:17 Right after I sprained my foot there were I think like 14 of us end on this trip then time to dachshund.

07:33 Arduino they're the two dogs didn't make it on this trip, but they were good number of us three three of us weren't actually asked, you know, there were other Hoppers who were elsewhere but

07:52 We all snuck up onto the engine and there were three engines pulling the strain.

08:01 But I recovered the whole floor with people and there was one of us, you know, we take turns going to the bathroom cuz it had a bathroom. Wow.

08:20 Yeah, I mean we wouldn't take showers or anything for six months in bathrooms were a novelty item.

08:28 We are but I guess the bathrooms triggers an alarm to the front engine or something cuz one of the

08:37 Workers on

08:39 Came down and another they can get in big trouble if we're on the engines so they came down and kicked us out. But he opened the door and saw, you know a sea of kids squatting down and he was like a pretty funny for him to see no 12 kids just squatting down hiding from him, but he kicked us all on

09:07 I had to go back cuz I forgot my shoe.

09:16 We got back on the train and the same train like further down.

09:26 And then

09:28 I guess I mean you're not going to just catch another train.

09:34 Yeah.

09:37 We stopped at the Amtrak station nearby.

09:43 And we were all on garters and the

09:48 Big parts that hold cold and so forth are like big bowls. That's that's the type of car you were on the other went to the other and we were at the Amtrak station.

10:06 One of us was making some hot cocoa and going back and forth. And I guess the Amtrak person noticed us and called the police station.

10:20 There were like four or five police cars that came up and kicked us all off the train because we were trespassing and

10:34 Call Lester.

10:36 Walk to the highway and hitchhike out of town after.

10:42 Taking all our IDs and so forth and we got two blocks before someone called the cops on us again, and they came back and telling us well.

10:56 I didn't reckon the see you folks for at least another two weeks and 9.

11:01 Red Sox playing. Well, we're hungry and I'll since we're here. We thought we'd look for some food and dumb.

11:08 No.

11:10 They were just like well, what are we going to do with y'all and

11:15 One of the wise ass is that we were with us some food or give us some food from your presence and they said you always have to put you in prison give you that food and I don't reckon you want that.

11:36 And I'm saying well we could drive you 60 miles out in the middle of nowhere and let the Rednecks shoot y'all we said no. Thank you to that one either. Also and

11:50 And they are after calling a couple churches and

11:56 Checking in with other folk, they decide to buy us all lunch from Hardee's and

12:03 Got our orders and gave us a ride.

12:09 They brought the Patty wagon down for us and

12:14 Also bought us all a train tickets out of town from Greyhound and that's where they were shipping us to the Patty wagon and you know where that put us in the Paddy Wagon.

12:28 For routine or whatever they had to pattisall down and they said if you have any of you know sharp objects or weapons, you know, put them on the ground here. Now, there are twelve of us I think and everyone started pulling out and like brass knuckles and buck knives and locks and chains is just ridiculously huge pile of flea.

12:59 Self defense mechanisms

13:04 You know, they put them all in the back of that pickup and Patty wagon and drove us out of town to the very edge where they had a but they didn't commit in the rest. Anyone they gave us all back or self defense mechanisms and

13:22 They told us to be on.

13:24 I'm very good to the people at the Greyhound stop. It was just a small and quaint little gas station with them.

13:36 25 cent coffee and

13:41 We all made our police pot food and

13:46 Waiting for the Greyhound bus and they threatened us and said if we gave him any slack. They showed us a little.

13:54 Who threatened to call the cops if we gave them if we gave the people at the kind of gas station and you slack or black that are?

14:08 Being a big put us in the back of the pickup over there something in on trailer.

14:18 But we were all fine. Greyhound bus game.

14:23 No wasn't enough room on the Greyhound bus, but we all just a few of us just squatted in the middle of the

14:33 Florin Road away

14:37 The sheriff we're pretty nice to you. Yeah. Yeah. We had quite a few run-ins with Sheriff's.

14:47 And it's usually more paperwork if you've got 12 people, you know.

14:52 It's better to travel in numbers.

15:04 Were you ever arrested?

15:08 Yeah, I was arrested for trespassing from train hopping abandoned building rear storage warehouse and we will all about the same age where you all 18.

15:30 Mom, probably I mean not quite a teen night.

15:39 Off and on 5-10 years difference baby. How do you how do you physically train hop? What do you do?

15:49 There is numerous different ways I call you can find out where which drains go anywhere and just sit on it and wait for it to move or

16:00 You can see a train that's moving hop on and see which way around the bend it goes and see if if that's the one you want to take. I'm like boxcars. They're all closed and it seems now that those what did you call him breeders the graders they got they have Tops on them to have they changed. Do you think since you did this so decade ago so that people can't train hop, like they used to so many places to sit on a train. I know it has changed a little bit but there's always people there. Well, I mean

16:47 I think it is harder now than it was 10 years ago the next

16:52 Here is much more common, you know 50 years ago or so.

17:00 I was very tickled by your offer to take me trade housing. That was really sweet of you.

17:12 There are a few dangers in it and I've met people who have flushed feet and so forth trying to jump on a train drunken.

17:27 Slipped underneath and their foot when

17:32 Even though you didn't hear the stories of the Old Timers where they had they been moving around by trained for years or we only did occasionally, I mean hits

17:48 I mean there's in a home bombs to just stay in one town for most their life and

17:59 Live around towns there and there's others who to, you know, hobos and tramps who just go from town to town or to travel around get bored and every play every couple months in.

18:14 And go see something else somewhere other than kind share speeding you how did you eat? You didn't you didn't have much money did you know you can get so easily through garbage people throw away so much food here. Just asking people if you see someone with leftovers, they're usually happy to give it to somebody.

18:40 They often times you find people who are looking for someone to give food to and there's lots of churches that have feedings. There's food not bombs. Just a great program and there's the Hari krishnas.

18:57 Aren't you happy that be happy and happily give people food?

19:07 Do you have anything more you'd like to talk about your train-hopping experience that I haven't asked you?

19:21 I don't know. It was a great time now very

19:29 Wonderful feeling to just

19:33 Free free we move about continent

19:39 You took your camera with you. I know and you took some beautiful pictures.

19:44 I am the sum of the trammps. I mean you'd get stories more like mornings like you wouldn't really talked about like reminisce with them about traveling that just more tell you like all this train. If it goes around this then you know, it goes to hear or

20:08 You just ask people who written those trains before?

20:14 Random

20:16 Dog lets you and I

20:20 What's going on? Where are you at? If you go to certain towns where all the trains meet up, you know, you're most likely to find people who ride the trains there. We rode from Eugene to Roseville, California. What's known as a milk run because it stops at every single stopped and took us over 24 hours. And we and we all carried like gallon jugs of water in 2 liter bottles, but they are in 24 hours on a hot train riding through the mountains. We are all ran out of water at 1 milk run stop and buy

21:04 Right behind the box car was a junkyard. So I volunteered to go fill up all the water and took everyone's jealous and ran to the junkyard and asked him if I could get some water from them and they said Sharon pointed me towards the faucet and I was just filling up the last bottle and screwing on the cap when I started hearing and people yelling. And so I took all the water and I started booking and

21:37 Felt like I was in a movie cuz

21:40 My friend from high school who I ran into in, Oregon.

21:48 It would be extended his hand out to me. And I threw the Water Into The Boxcar and grabbed his hand and jumped on just as the train was kicking in the high-speed. That was pretty funny.

22:02 And I

22:04 And then we took the milk run all the way down in Roseville.

22:11 Yeah.

22:13 We were everyone went to sleep except for me and another guy in.

22:18 We had both both of the doors were looking on the boxcar. There's a few rules, you know, you don't open doors on box cars because that's breaking and entering and felonies. If you're just riding on it. It's just trespassing, you know, it's a misdemeanor in it.

22:41 Not as bad, you know, we're nice buck. We're trying to be good.

22:48 Follow certain rules and

22:51 But I'll be worth. Anyways, we are looking at it was nighttime. Everyone's asleep, and we are stopped for a minute and above.

23:03 Road in Autumn bridge and

23:06 Or overpass or something and we could see a convenience store and we were both drooling at Kahala food luxuries.

23:19 All of a sudden from behind us. I stopped stopped at one of those big lights that police have signed their light right into the boxcar and we both just flattened against the walls and didn't move.

23:40 So they didn't see you don't think so.

23:45 Good thing they're just

23:51 How quite an adventure that was fun.

23:56 I went to my friends who I am.

24:00 That friend of mine from high school.

24:04 He's still out there traveling, but he's

24:07 I've pretty much given up trains. I think he he did a hawk thing thing and build a raft with his friend traveled down the Mississippi and his first draft fell apart and

24:24 They are both another one and bought another boat. They're out there and they're trying to make a seaworthy vessel that they've got a movie nerve work on a movie now and so forth, but

24:40 Have I said I would so love to just go out and

24:45 Travel on his boat for a little while. Maybe that will be a while because you have a child now, too.

24:54 Teach me how to swim at the bus and then go out on a little bit. Keep talking. That's interesting cuz I might be okay, but

25:15 How did it work Penny? How did how did you let your son do this? And and go ahead like are you worried about your mom wearing about you when you're out there? It's always going to worry. I've had some Adventures of my own when I was about that age. We went through.

25:37 I think the most important part of this by the time he reaches 18. We went through. He's my oldest of two children kohei, and and so I experienced all the parenting things with him first and

25:58 Of course, he stretching his wings. I have to learn how to let him him fly to so we a couple of years before that. We went through a difficult time. He took off one week and I didn't know where he was and I had to deal with that and he actually his father is Japanese and living in Japan and the and I actually called up this is his dad and said help and so he decided to he said sure and he said send kohei to Japan So Co he went to Japan for his junior year of high school and then came back for his last year of high school.

26:39 And during that. Of time go ahead and I had a lot of talks. We probably had more talks on the telephone from Japan to the US then we had the whole summer before that and the one of the things that I had to reach.

26:54 In my understanding as a parent is kohei is now an adult and making his own decisions and some of those decisions might be so difficult that they could lead to his death and I had to actually consider that although you can imagine how difficult that is for a mother to think that about her own children, but once I could think that and say, okay I pass the responsibility for his well-being from what I did for him as he was growing up to him and now he's responsible for his well-being and then I could let go I could I could say

27:39 You know, he'll be okay.

27:42 And there was one other thing that happened when he was not even one year old. Well, yeah when he was about one-year-old he had been walking since he was seven months. So he's physically extremely or you are I suppose I should say you are extremely physically Adept and you were climbing a wall once when you were a year old a little bit older than that and you got up the wall with slanted so it went higher and higher away from the ground. Is it got as it got higher and you climbed up to the point that was a little bit too far for you to drop to jump down and then you turned around and you went back a foot or two to the just exact place that I would feel comfortable. I would feel it was safe for you to come down but I didn't tell you that was the place you decided that was the place and then you jump down and you knew that it was too high.

28:42 Stupid printer up and I felt so from when I was when you were one year old I felt he really knows his physical body. He really knows how to take care of himself. And so I had to recall that when you were 15 or 16 or 17 in order to say, you know how to take care of yourself and so in answer the question, how did I let him go it was a struggle and but you know, he he reassured me in some ways.

29:16 Shall we continue with different questions?

29:23 Oh we meant we talked about Japan. What does your name mean?

29:35 Akio is the light in peace in this Autumn always liked a also tail end of autumn go ahead play in peace. My son is a kiyoko's a witch.

29:56 I kill cause a Nigel.

29:59 And kousei means

30:04 Late to the world and Nigel is like dark warrior.

30:14 Dark warrior the end of autumn bringing light to the world type of thing.

30:23 Can you describe the moment when you saw your child for the first time since you're talkin about? Kosei Nigel?

30:31 Well, I know.

30:35 Something I think everyone needs to experience in order to

30:41 Understand how have you changed since you became a parent?

30:48 Well, I suppose I have a couple more responsibilities and

30:55 Life in the

30:59 Need to do things more.

31:02 Grown-up diaper stuff there's so many things. I guess that have changed.

31:14 Can't really talk about your beautiful with your son.

31:21 That's not a question. I know what was life like for you before you became parent.

31:37 I wanted to do I actually wanted to do Many Adventures 2.

31:44 And

31:47 Course, it was the sixties then and there was a lot of Adventures happening all around me and I participated in as many of them as I I could at the time.

32:01 Hi, I was learning I was in and out of college. I certainly felt I learned much more out of college than in college. Although I went back after you and your sister Irene were.

32:15 Little then I went back and finish my college degree, but I enjoyed much more of my Adventures.

32:23 Probably

32:27 The biggest thing of course was going to Japan not well, maybe not the biggest thing but one of the biggest things was going to Japan and changing my life because of that even before you were you were born.

32:44 What was life like for a skinny blonde woman in Japan, you know back 200 years ago or what year was it 1972 72 and then we came back to the United States United States for four years. And then you were born here and then we went back again and 76 and stay there until 80 81.

33:23 It was different I meet we was.

33:27 It was much less International than it is. Now at that time. The assumption would be if there was a Caucasian walking around the Assumption was in Japan that they wouldn't be able to speak Japanese now, I think for many Japanese people if they see a Caucasian person a non-japanese person. They assume that they can speak Japanese. That's a big difference from 25 years ago.

34:00 There were many things about Japan that I loved but there were also many things that were very difficult especially for a rebellious American woman who considers herself a feminist the it's not that Japan is necessarily a sexist society, but it has very separate roles for men and four women, so fitting into those rolls and therefore separating yourself from other roles with something was hard.

34:35 BM

34:37 But there are some things about being an American that I learned I didn't like and that I like the Japanese way of of doing things much better example. I member of interaction with my mother-in-law when this was actually the second time I came back to Japan.

35:00 She will just come back. We were taking a walk with her. We went to the grocery store. We're walking home from the grocery store and she asked me and I started asking her questions in a very American way, even though I could speak a little Japanese by then.

35:19 So ask a question about this person ask a quick question about that person and ask her again too soon. I wasn't listening to her. I was being too insistent and the more questions I asked her the shorter and shorter her answers until finally had enough of my questions and just basically didn't answer me anymore. And I finally put yes, I'm being very American. I'm pushing myself for what I'm being aggressive. I'm asking my questions. I'm not listening. I'm not waiting. I'm not hearing, you know, non-verbally which is so much communication in Japan.

36:02 And as soon as I stopped and asking my questions and waited, maybe half an hour then she started talking with me and she started filling me in on what it happened, but it was at her place and at her speed and at Etta inter-action a bit more of a Japanese interaction rather than a more aggressive American interaction. That was a very important lesson about how I acted in Japan.

36:39 Is there anything else that?

36:41 But you'd like to talk about I just ask you about your train-hopping experiences, but there anything at all that you'd like to talk about?

36:51 I like hearing about your past.

36:56 Nice. Goodnight. Is there anything you'd like to talk about?

37:05 But more about Japan.

37:08 What was it like being where you like? The only did you know any other plans and Japan when you were there well in Tokyo, yes, but then we move to we moved to a town outside Jaco. Day in Hokkaido town called nacho, and that was a little village and in Hokkaido in in Jaco. A the city there were maybe 5 westerners. I would say and including a a Jesuit priests who have lived there for 20 years. So they were very very very few of us. So nobody I spoke English to your to your dad, but I hardly you say you were a liberal feminist type in Japan.

38:06 How does it differ from you said they're not sexist, but they are very role oriented. How is that different from the US?

38:17 Well 20-25 years ago. It was I would say it more similar to what my grandmother's life might must have been like that women, you know where the Homemakers and the housekeepers and the the men were they wage earners went out to work until the rule the world were offering separate.

38:49 I had experiences that your papa didn't know anything about because I would get together with The Neighbourhood women and we were we would we went we would have a whole schedule that men weren't part of and I remember your papa told told me once that women didn't say certain words because it was men's language and women's language and I said they can never say those words. I never said those words or they never say use those that construction. It's a grammatical construction and in some cases and he would say no absolutely not course. I would find when I talk with the women. Yes, they did. They just didn't use them around the man. So it's a real separate life and the good life more like a village because everyone is working together.

39:45 In the countryside it's a little bit different because the countryside were there farmer families the women and the men have to go out and farm and they do a lot together.

39:58 So there they share their Life's a lot except the women just work more worth Walker get up earlier stay up later, but they often do that in this country, too.

40:12 Well, what about you? What about living a how is in 30 seconds? How is living Japan different from Living in America so you can have the last word?

40:26 Home is where I lay my head. I don't think I looked at strange and get questions wherever but

40:37 I just live my own life and

40:41 Don't let others interfere.

40:44 Thanks for your time.