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Eddie Smith helps his friend, Tommy Gordon, sneak into a high school dance dressed as a girl because Tommy cannot afford the price of admission. Tommy confides to Eddie that because his mother has been unable to find work, he is planning to leave school to look for work himself. Eddie asks Tommy to wait until he speaks to his father about helping the family, but arrives home to discover that his father also has lost his job. Eddie sells his car to help, but when his father still cannot find work, Eddie and Tommy decide to leave home together. On the train, they meet Sally, another teenager, who is going to live with her aunt in Chicago. As they head toward Chicago, more and more children join them on the trains. Although the Chicago police turn people away because there are no jobs even for those who already live there, they allow Sally and her traveling companions to continue because Sally has a letter from her aunt. Sally's Aunt Carrie is happy to see them. Her business, a brothel, is doing well, and for a few minutes it appears that the children have found a home. While they eat, however, the brothel is raided, and the children find themselves on the road again. Along the road, the traveling children encounter many hardships. One girl is raped, Tommy's foot is mangled by the train and has to be amputated, and he and the others are kicked out of a camp in Columbus, Ohio. Finally, the trio ends up living in a dump in New York. Eddie finds a job but needs new clothes in order to keep it. Sally, Tommy and Eddie panhandle for the money. Then two men ask Eddie to deliver a note to a movie theater cashier. The note contains a demand for money, and the cashier screams for the police. The children are arrested and appear before a judge who has children of his own. He offers to get them jobs, dismisses the charges against them and tells them they will soon rejoin their families.