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The Missing Ticket Stub

Every trip on the train was a totally new experience. You never knew who you were
going to meet or what was going to happen.

One night I got on the train at Cresson to go to Sweetwater. Whenever you got on the
train the conductor would take your ticket, in my case check my pass, and put a ticket
stub in a clip over your seat with a number on it corresponding to the station where
you were to get off. That way if you arrived at your destination in the middle of
the night and were asleep, the conductor would awaken you so you could get off the train.

This particular night the train was crowded and I had to go to the third car before I
could find an empty seat and it was next to a sailor. After the train got on its way
we started talking and I found out he had just gotten out of the Naval Brig in Dallas
and was headed back to his base at San Diego, California.

I told him that I was getting off at Sweetwater and taking a bus to Colorado City to
visit relatives. He said that he had family in Big Spring and he had 5 days before
he had to be back on the base so he would get off when I did and go visit them for a
few days.

It was customary at that time on long train trips to get off at various places along
the way, do a little sight-seeing and get on another train later to continue your
trip. In order to do this you needed to tell the conductor that you were getting
off and wanted to continue your trip later and he would remove your ticket stub at
the stop and give it to you so that you could use it to continue your trip.

When I told the sailor that the train arrived at Sweetwater at four in the morning he
said for me to wake him when the conductor woke me to get off, which I did. We got
off the train together, he said nothing to the conductor about getting off and
wanting to continue his trip later, and went into the depot to get a taxi into
town. (The depot at Sweetwater is on the main line about five miles outside town.)

Before we hailed a taxi the sailor went over to the ticket agent and asked him about
getting his ticket for the rest of the trip to San Diego. The agent asked if he had
his ticket stub with him.

“What ticket stub?” the sailor asked.

“The one the conductor placed in the slot over your seat,” replied the agent.

When told that he didn’t have the ticket stub the agent said that he was sorry but he
couldn’t give him another ticket without it. The sailor looked rather perplexed and
asked what was he to do about getting to his base in San Diego, that the government
had paid for his original ticket.

“You will just have to buy another ticket yourself,” the agent told him.

The sailor dropped his head, turned and followed me out to where the taxi was waiting.
We went to the bus station and got on a west bound bus together. I got off at
Colorado City and he stayed on headed to Big Spring. I’ve often wondered if he made
it back to his base on time.

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