At the age of seventeen, Emil's room at the church was needed for other purposes. At the same time, his younger brother Rudolf turned sixteen and was no longer eligible for foster care. A large group of makeshift huts had formed across the street from Old St. Patrick's Church. It was called Father Cox's Shantytown. Emil and his brother gathered junk materials and built a shanty of their own.
They had a roof over their head but could not find work of any kind. Emil sold his illustrations but couldn't support the two of them. They soon exhausted the few relief programs available to them as well as Emil's meager saving account.
In desperation, they began a journey across Depression-era America. Having no money, they traveled by hopping trains, riding the rails and living the hobo life. Emil was deeply impressed by his travels and experiences and the people he met. From notes he made during the trip, Emil drew the map shown at left that depicts his route from coast to coast.
Of course, as he crossed the nation, Emil encountered the same hard conditions everywhere. After a year the brothers found their way back to their hometown. Emil got a job in a factory and remained in Pittsburgh for several years until the city was submerged under water by the St. Patrick's Day Flood of 1936. Emil then decided to seek his destiny in Los Angeles, California.