The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer's Search for Meaning in the Great Depression
At the beginning of the worst of the Great Depression, Plennie Wingo, a lunch counter owner in Abilene, Texas, found himself out of his job and desperately in need of a source of income and inspiration. He found both in a stunt (at a time when stunts like fog pole sitting and flying around the world were popular and captured a beleaguered population’s attention and vision) that no one had attempted or even thought of. From 1931 through 1932, Mr. Wingo attempted to walk backwards around the world. He managed to get all the way across the United States and through a good chunk of Europe before heading home.
In this fascinating history and memoir, Ben Montgomery captures the depression era perfectly, with all its craziness, using stories that are woven through his main character’s backwards walk. As Mr. Wingo walks across the United States we learn about him and his struggles, as well as the struggles of the country during those tumultuous times.
No one has yet to break Mr. Wingo’s record of 8000 backward walking miles. This is amazing because Wingo is just an ordinary guy, with no special gifts or education, who decided to do something extraordinary. He made it all the way to Turkey, but was convinced by government officials that the political climate was too dangerous in that part of the world to continue. Still he returned and walked from LA to Fort Worth, TX, where he started, to complete walking backwards across the US and most of Europe. Amazingly he left with little money and funded his trip by selling postcards and relying on the kindness of strangers.
This gem is a history book, inspirational tale, and madcap adventure all wrapped into one.