You Just Can't Make Old Friends
The year was 1968. We had just won the Cotton Bowl, and all was good at Texas A&M. I regularly hitchhiked from College Station to my home in Boerne, Texas. On one of those Friday afternoons with my maroon bag over my shoulder, I headed out on foot hoping to get home before getting stranded in the dark. A yellow convertible mustang pulled over, and I rushed to get aboard.
As I approached, I noticed that the car was listing seriously to the driver’s side and the driver’s head stuck out above the windshield. It turns out my driver was Tom Chaffe ’71, defensive lineman, who started as a freshman in the 1967 Cotton Bowl. Tom was 6’5” with a playing weight of more than 240 pounds. After that first meeting, we became lifelong friends. Thanks for the lift, Thomas! You know “you just can’t make old friends.”
Jesse Adams '71
San Antonio, Texas
Never Ride to Franklin
In 1951, I was a typical Aggie fish trying to get home for Christmas. Several of us had made it to Hearne. As the only freshman in our group, I was the one by the curb with my thumb out. When a car would stop, it was my duty to get the destination and the number of people the driver was willing to take. The upperclassmen of course were seasoned travelers. A car finally stopped, and the driver said he would take two of us to Franklin. To my surprise, nobody wanted the ride. All I knew was that I wanted to get to Palestine and Franklin was on the way. I jumped in with great joy!
As I got out in Franklin, I quickly found that there wasn’t a stop sign on Highway 79 there. After about two hours of no one even slowing down, I was about to start walking when a 98 Oldsmobile going about 70 mph came rolling by. As I watched the brake lights come on and the car backed up, a gruff voice said, “Get in AGGIE!” As I slid in the passenger side—a little scared of the driver and not really looking him in the eye—the driver said, “I thought I was going to have some fun with an Aggie and it’s you, Horn!”
Turns out the driver was the older brother of a friend of mine! George Petrovich had been a star tackle for The University of Texas. He had played professional football for the Arizona Cardinals and at the time was back in Austin studying to become a dentist.
Needless to say, I never took another ride to Franklin. I can only imagine what that ride with George would have been like for an Aggie he didn’t know!
Jeff Horn '55
See You at Earl Abel’s
In the early and mid-1960s, few Aggies had cars. It was common knowledge that any Aggie in the San Antonio area with a car was to go to Earl Abel’s restaurant on Broadway Street to find Aggies who needed a ride to campus. I had a car, and every time I went to Earl Abel’s on a Sunday afternoon, I picked up good Ags I had never met before for the ride to College Station. This was “Earl Abel’s restaurant hitchhiking”—much more pleasant than standing on the highway :)
Dr. Clifford Fry '67
College Station, Texas
Spring Break Adventures
It wasn’t hitchhiking, but I wound up having an interesting trip with strangers anyway.
For spring break 1983, I’d been invited to share a house on South Padre Island with a group of friends. I couldn’t leave with everyone else on Friday, but I had worked out a plan with two friends: One would take me halfway there to his hometown of Victoria on Saturday and another buddy would pick me up from Victoria on this way from Houston to South Padre. Simple in theory…
We were to meet my second friend at a McDonald’s in Victoria at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, but 2:00 p.m. came and went without any sign of him. There were no cell phones, texting or emails to connect with anyone in those days. My first friend had to depart, so I had a choice: stay the week with him in Victoria (boring!) or grab a Greyhound bus headed south from Victoria to Brownsville and take my chances getting to South Padre Island from there. I chose the bus.
It wasn’t long before I got acquainted with a pair of women on the bus who had just spent the weekend partying with friends in Houston and were headed home to Brownsville. I think they were both about 25 years old, and they sort of adopted me—a wet-behind-the-ears 20-year-old—for the trip. They may have also bought a few “beverages” along the way that helped make the 8-hour trip a lot more fun. When we got to Brownsville, their husbands picked them up and, unbelievably, the group offered to ferry me from Brownsville over to South Padre. We all packed ourselves into a ’70s two-door Pontiac Cutlass and headed out. I seem to remember there was a stop or two along the way where we sort of keg-party-hopped with more friends of theirs?
A very long day of travel, adventure and much fun could have ended when we pulled up at about 3:00 a.m. in front of the address I’d been given. But—there were my Texas A&M friends—still going strong on the porch. The two groups merged and much more merriment was had until the dawn.
A footnote: Upon arrival at the house in South Padre, my second friend appeared. He’d waited for me for two hours at the McDonald’s in Victoria before he left and resumed his trip to the island. Turns out it was the “other” McDonald’s in Victoria. We had no idea there were two!
No names have been given to protect the guilty :)
Philip Carter '85
Youngsville, North Carolina
Rideshare Road Journeys
When I first came to Texas A&M in the fall of 1996, I didn’t have a vehicle. I also didn’t know anyone in town. I came from a small town about an hour northwest of Fort Worth where very few students attended college at all. To get home during the semester, I found people on boards in the dorms and the Memorial Student Center who were looking to rideshare. They were willing to drive if you shared the cost of gas. Sounded fair enough to me!
I did take advantage of this a couple of times during my freshman year. One that sticks in my memory was for spring break. I found someone willing to take me to an area of Fort Worth that was within a half-hour driving distance of my dad’s office. But she wouldn’t go any further. So, she dropped me off at an Academy Sports + Outdoors store, where I did some shopping and bought sneakers for the spring semester’s kinesiology course I was taking. The rest of the time I simply sat in the store’s vestibule, garnering attention from children and adults alike since my hair was bright blue at the time. I waited nearly three hours before my dad got off work and reached my location to take me home.
Thankfully, a friend from home brought me back to Aggieland because he wanted a tour and to sightsee a bit!
Andrea Reinertson '00
College Station, Texas
In St. Louis By Morning
During my junior and senior years, my father was commanding a squadron at Scott Air Force Base outside East St. Louis, Illinois, and my family lived in base housing. Being in uniform made it easier to get rides, so after class I would put on a Class A uniform and get down to Highway 6. With a little luck, I would be in St. Louis by morning.
Frequently, a highway patrol officer picked me up, took me to the limit of his patrol area, radioed ahead and turned me over to the trooper in the next patrol area. This way I could leapfrog across the states pretty well.
One time, as I left campus and stuck out my thumb, I got lucky when a St. Louis deputy pulled over. “Son, can you drive?” he asked. I said I could. “I just delivered a prisoner from St. Louis to Houston and haven’t slept for 24 hours,” he said. He tossed me the keys, climbed in back and said, “Wake me in St. Louis.” I drove all night with the deputy snoring in the back.
Another personal highlight: Once I was returning to Aggieland from a summer job with the Forest Service in Lufkin, Texas, when two attractive young ladies stopped and drove me to Bryan. I hated to see the campus come into sight.
In my experience, I was always more likely to be given a ride by the old Chevy pickup or the scruffy Ford with three kids in the back than the Cadillac.
Tom Davis ’64
The year was 1977 or 1978. My car was broken at the time, and I needed to get home to Houston for the weekend. I walked over to Highway 6 with my Texas A&M shirt on and within a matter of minutes, an elderly couple pulled over and offered me a ride. They took me as far as the intersection of Highway 290 and Highway 6 in Houston. From there, I had a friend pick me up. Other than being friendly, I don’t remember much about the kind souls who gave me a ride that day. They didn’t have children at Texas A&M but gave rides on a regular basis to students if my memory serves me right.
Joe Miller ’79
Remembering the Open Road
Aggies had a reputation all their own in the world of hitchhiking, and there were expectations that were widespread. Aggies were considered “safe” and dressed in uniform; therefore, they were clean in appearance. Aggies were expected to offer the driver one dollar to help with gas expenses and were also expected to share the driving if requested.
There were pick-up points on the outskirts of the Dallas area where Aggies congregated as hitchhikers, and frequently a car took more than one passenger back to College Station. It was not unusual to see a small group of Aggies numbering perhaps a dozen or more “thumbing it.” There was even a verbal quip in use which went “I am goin’ by air,” delivered with a thumb extended in the air. At Texas A&M, the pickup point was on both sides of Highway 6 in front of the Systems building for those heading to Dallas or Houston. As a traveler with a car, I often picked up Aggie passengers going to and from Dallas. The highways were practically crowded with hitchhikers when football games and holidays were on the calendar.
In 1957, I left El Paso with a known ride to Vernon, changed back into uniform and caught a ride within 30 minutes with a soldier driving from Fort Carson to Texarkana. There were five of us in the car—which suspiciously reeked of Bourbon—but I safely made it to Gainesville and bailed out when we stopped for gas. I then called a friend for the final leg home to Dallas. Emboldened, I shortly thereafter successfully undertook to hitchhike from Dallas to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and back over a 10-day period.
Hitchhiking in a sense was the travel choice of last resort, but the “open road” had a unique appeal for the audacious. Times and society were different then. In the 1960s, the “hippie” advent caused hitchhiking to perceptibly change. While truly never safe, hitchhiking took on a deservedly risky reputation not only for the person seeking a ride but also for the person offering one.
When I tell stories about hitchhiking to my grown grandchildren, I sense their questioning glances as to whether or not their 80’s-plus grandfather has departed from the truth “again.” In fairness, hitchhiking, like S&H Green Stamps, is in the past. Yet I confess to a sense of wistfulness when I pass a hitchhiker even today.
Dr. John Wynn '62
The Value of an Aggie Bag
In 1968, one of my classmates in the Corps of Cadets, Charles Crow ’70, asked me to make a spring break trip with him. He had decided to visit his girlfriend, who was a student at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, and we were going to hitchhike.
He checked the bulletin boards and saw that someone was going to Memphis, leaving on the Friday morning before spring break began. The ride was mostly uneventful, but the scenery was picturesque. We hitched another ride to Nashville and were left at a service station near the highway that went north to Clarksville. A man there noticed our Aggie bags and gladly offered us a ride. I don’t remember the name of Charlie’s girlfriend or the name of her roommate, but we had a good time.
On the way back, we hitched a ride to Nashville and stopped long enough to eat lunch before we got back on the highway. It didn’t take too long to get another ride with a man who said he could take us as far as Texarkana, and we were happy to accept.
At Texarkana, we met a few problems. For about an hour, hundreds of cars and trucks passed and seemed to ignore us. We were starting to get frustrated until an old Pontiac station wagon pulled over and stopped. I noticed a faded “Texas Aggies” window sticker, and we hurried to the car. It was a young couple who saw our Aggie bags and decided to stop. As luck would have it, they were headed back to Texas A&M, where the man was going to enter graduate school while his wife worked somewhere on campus.
Fortunately, back in the 1960s and 1970s, an Aggie bag would get you a ride almost anywhere!
Late Night Passenger
In fall 1980, my wife Sandra ’80 and I flew to Athens, Georgia, to watch the Aggies take on the Georgia Bulldogs. While the game was dreadful (a 0-42 setback), we did enjoy our trip. On the flight back to Houston late Sunday evening, a flight attendant came over the intercom and asked if anyone was traveling back to College Station upon landing in Houston. She had an Aggie who needed a ride.
So, we discussed it and volunteered to drive him back. We talked all the way back to Aggieland and dropped him off at his apartment. I don’t remember his name, but I do remember the story. We felt good helping one of our fellow Aggies that night.
Richard Hoelscher '80
Must Be Heaven
As a member of the Corps of Cadets, we were taught proper hitchhiking protocols. First, do not butt in line ahead of other hitchhikers. Second, wear your cadet uniform or carry your Aggie hitchhike bag with the school emblem prominently displayed. Finally, don’t turn down a ride even though the driver is just going one mile up the road. This is considered an insult and may ruin other hikers’ opportunities in the future.
My favorite hitchhiking story happened when the Aggies played the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs in Fort Worth in 1967. The ladies at Texas Woman’s College (TWC) in Denton traditionally sponsored a dance for the Corps during that game weekend. I didn’t have class that Friday, so I decided to hitchhike to Denton and start the celebrations early—alone. Neither school was coed back then; there were some 9,000 males in Aggieland and at least 5-7,000 thousand ladies at TWC.
After five to six hours on the road, I arrived at TWC. Oh my gosh, women everywhere! I thought I was in heaven. It was almost noon, so I found my way to the dining facility. No Duncan Mess Hall there. This place had lace curtains, unchipped dishes and doilies! I sat at the head of the table with 11 of the loveliest ladies I had ever seen. I was even served first! I kept on pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I was allowed to stay overnight at TWC and found a date with a young lady for the game. Plus, the dance was magnificent, and the Aggies won the game.
I stopped hitchhiking after my years at Texas A&M. However, if the need arises, this old codger can still hold out his thumb for a ride.
John French '68
Denied a Ride
During my freshman year in 1960, I was afraid my sweetheart back home might have forgotten me, so I decided to hitch a ride home to Corpus Christi. One of my Aggie buddies took me to Highway 6. I was in my uniform and within 15 minutes, I got a ride all the way to La Grange. I was thinking “this is going to be a lot easier than I expected.” As luck would have it, I stood there for the next hour with my thumb out and not a single car stopped to give me a ride.
So, I said to myself that if I don’t get a ride in 15 minutes, I’m turning around and going back to College Station. Fifteen minutes passed, and I still had my thumb out. So, I walked across Highway 6 and within 15 minutes, a car stopped and took me straight back to my dorm. You can only imagine the reception I got from my Aggie buddies. They teased me not only about my pitiful hitchhiking but also the fact that another man was probably out on a date with my girl.
Needless to say, I never tried hitchhiking again in my four years in Aggieland.
P.S. The girl, Carol, became my wife. We were married for 53 years before she sadly passed away four years ago.
Lynn Merritt '64
San Antonio, Texas
Thumbing It to Baton Rouge
The Aggie code in those years was to place your bag at a specified highway corner in various cities. This prevented up-streaming of potential rides going to your destination. Up-streaming, especially by a freshman, was frowned upon. If a car stopped and more than one person wanted a ride, the lead Aggie introduced himself, stated his destination and asked if there was room for more than one person. Once in the car, Aggies did not sleep, but joined any conversation to keep the driver entertained and awake. At the destination, “thank yous” were profuse.
In 1944, Texas A&M was playing Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. My roommate, James “Buddy” Powell ’47, and I wanted to go, so we walked to Eastgate and placed our bag in line. Eventually we got a ride to Houston. (You seldom, unless very desperate, would take a ride to Navasota or Hempstead as very little traffic began there. Hempstead was a bit more likely as there was traffic from Austin to Houston.) In Houston, my parents fed us dinner and drove us back to U.S. 90 for a ride to Baton Rouge. Eventually a ride developed to Opelousas, Louisiana.
In Opelousas, we encountered light rain, so we decided to eat another meal to wait out the weather. The waitress took our order and asked if we wanted a drink. At age 17, we were excited and ordered a scotch with soda. At about 9:00 p.m., we got back on the highway and an hour later, a car stopped and asked if we wanted to go to Baton Rouge. Damp and cold, we got in, made some polite conversation and then fell asleep, violating all Aggie code.
Sometime after midnight, we arrived in Baton Rouge and as we apologized for sleeping and thanked the driver for the ride, he said, smiling, “I could tell it has been a long day, and I could smell the drink you had; but being a Protestant minister, I decided to let you sleep!” We were embarrassed and again apologized profusely and found a hotel. We didn’t get a room but slept the rest of the night on the mezzanine behind a couch so the hotel detective wouldn’t see us. Other cadets were sleeping similarly hidden in the hotel.
After the game, we reversed the process and eventually returned to our dorm and slept about 10 hours before Monday morning reveille. We were young and had much fun remembering this and other events during our Class Reunions in later years.
Melvin Maltz '47
Hitching Along Highway 290
I was a freshman in fall 1961 coming from Houston. Because I didn’t have a car, my parents would often drop me off on Highway 290, known then as Hempstead Road. I had a travel bag with a big “TAM” on the side. Generally, it did not take long to get a ride. Sometimes I would luck out and get picked up by a fellow Aggie and go all the way, but other times I would end up with two or three rides. Once, my first ride was with a bunch of guys from Prairie View A&M University. We traded stories about our respective schools, and they dropped me off at Hempstead.
One of my more memorable rides was with an Aggie who happened to be a senior. Not long into the ride, I figured out that he was under the influence. I offered to drive but he refused. Luckily, we made it to campus safely. I took many other rides until I found a classmate who had wheels and lived in Houston, not far from me. After that, I never hitched a ride again.
Bob Christy '67
In spring 1964, I had bowed out of the Corps of Cadets and was living in Law Hall as a second semester freshman. I sold my 1958 Custom Ford to get spending money for the spring semester and was afoot for the first time since I was 13. I do not remember why I was going home to Dallas nor how I got to the intersection of Texas 14 and I-45 in Richland, but the remainder of the trip was remarkable.
Standing with my Aggie bag and my thumb out, the driver of a very large Chrysler Imperial pulled over and asked me where I was headed. Dallas, I replied, and he said, “Get in.” He introduced himself as “The Cajon Kid.” This moniker was repeated with a plastic stick-on strip on his dashboard. “Oh boy!” I thought, “What have I gotten into?”
I asked him where in Dallas he was headed, and he replied that he was going to the Mesquite Rodeo. “Ride bulls?” I asked, and he replied that he was the rodeo clown. That made me feel a little bit better. He let me off at the corner of Loop 12 and Military Highway, about five miles from my home in Casa Linda. I decided to hoof it from there. It started to rain, but as I approached the traffic circle at U.S. 80, a vehicle pulled over and stopped. It was my high school buddy, Pat Lee. He let me out in front of my home.
I was once picked up by an older couple who—when I told them I was headed to College Station—started reminiscing about a movie they had worked on there during World War II. They couldn’t remember what the name was, so like the good Aggie I am, I filled them in about “We’ve Never Been Licked.” In particular, they recalled how difficult Robert Mitchum was on the set. They left me at I-45 and Highway 14.
Another ride I remember was being picked up at Aggie Corner (a spot on the southbound side of I-45 and Loop 12) by a guy headed south. He asked me if I knew a way to Houston without going through Buffalo. I directed him down I-45 to Highway 14, then to Highway 6 and Highway 290. He later asked me if I wanted to try some of his poppers or a yellow jacket. I barely knew that those were some kind of street drugs, so I declined. When asked why he didn’t want to go through Buffalo, he stated that the car we were in was tagged by a Buffalo finance company for interception. To add to that piece of news, it got dark, and he was down one headlight. On one of the curves, there were about a dozen Angus cattle in the road, one of which we would have hit had not an impatient driver decided to pass us just before. His lights illuminated the black cattle, and we fortunately missed them.
A final memory I have was on my way back from San Antonio after taking my Air Force physical at Lackland Air Force Base. I took two buses to get to Loop 410 and figured I would walk to I-35, then hike from there. About a mile in, a San Antonio cop stopped me and gave me a ride to the city limits and I-35. I was then picked up by a truck driver. On the way, he declared that he was hungry, so we stopped at a small roadside restaurant. I told him I wanted something as well and headed to the front door. He stated that he was going around back to the kitchen. “Why?” I asked. This was 1967, and segregation was over. He stated that he was too old to change, so we both went to the kitchen, where there was a small table for their Black customers. I didn’t feel right walking into the main dining room and abandoning my benefactor to the kitchen. After the meal, we made it to Bryan a block from my apartment on Pease Street.
John Choate '67
There Are Angels Among Us
I was traveling back to Aggieland after working at Willowbrook Mall in Houston over the weekend.
I was putting myself through college by working at Sears and assistant teaching at Texas A&M, but money was very thin. I would buy slab pizzas at Skags Alpha Beta and cut them into nine pieces and have one a day with soup. My parents could not help with finances, and while my grandmother helped with some money in a checking account she set up for me, I had to make ends meet.
Headed back in my MG Midget, I was praying I could make it to my apartment in Bryan, but I started to run out of gas at Hempstead. I pulled into a car dealership that is now vacant. I approached a lady at the service desk and asked if they had gas I could borrow and that I would pay them back after getting paid from the university that week. She gave me $20 out of her own pocket. I thanked her and got gas nearby.
I went back after getting paid and offered her $40 and thanked her. She wouldn’t take it. She said she didn’t get the chance to go to college and admired my fortitude and drive. We said a prayer together, and we prayed that I would graduate.
I later graduated in 1990 and bought my own Aggie ring. I went back to the dealership to show it to her. We laughed and cried. Later, the dealership closed, and I lost contact with her. But I learned that angels do exist…we are the angels. Do what you can for someone in need. No good deed goes unforgotten.
Ken Santell '90
Pile In, Boys
My late cousin Charlie Estes ’49 enjoyed remembering his hitchhiking days. He told me that Aggies would line up at locations where they might be picked up, but it was an unspoken rule that you did not break the line or hitchhike farther up the road so that vehicles would stop and pick you up first. On one occasion, he and a bunch of Aggies were in line either going to or returning from a Corps of Cadets trip. It was dark when a guy with a large cattle truck pulled up and said he could take the whole bunch—just pile in. Well, they all thought they were in luck! So, everyone went over the side of the open truck panels and jumped in. That driver had just made a delivery, evidently, as they all wound up ankle deep in manure when they piled in. Charlie still laughed about his ride 40 years later.
Bill Foster '74
Red Oak, Texas
A State Trooper Encounter
Long before Rudder Parkway, Highway 6 ran by Eastgate, but a primary hitchhiking pick-up point was at Northgate near the Post Office. To facilitate “ride catching,” a bulletin board hung in the Memorial Student Center with two kinds of notes: automobile owners offering rides (few and far between!), along with those of us needing rides. More often, we just went to Northgate and got in line, where respectful courtesy was honored between upperclassmen and fish.
During my five years in the Corps of Cadets, four in the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band and a fifth year in Squadron 22, my hitchhiking miles totaled about 8,000, maybe more. I frequently traveled to my hometown of Beeville, completed two Corps trips per year and visited my sweetheart (who later became my wife and mother of four daughters!) many weekends in Rosebud.
On the side of my ever-present suitcase was a big decal of Ol’ Sarge with his thumb up, always containing nothing more than my Bible, small camera, toothbrush, razor, set of “civies,” fresh pair of underwear, plastic raincoat and hat cover.
Memorable experiences still linger, but one in particular was an encounter on Highway 77 between Cameron and Rosebud. Upon being picked up by my ride in Cameron, the driver, emitting the heavy smell of alcohol, said he had a headache and asked me to drive while he retreated to the back seat.
Enjoying the thrill of driving a new 1953 four-door Ford while my host was attempting to sleep off his hangover, I soon exceeded the speed limit of 55 mph, but only for a few miles. Flashing red and blue lights, along with an accompanying siren, gave me sufficient reason to slow down and pull over onto the grassy shoulder.
After checking my driver’s license, the state trooper inquired about the fellow reclining in the back seat. I told him I was hitchhiking, and in offering me a ride, he asked me to drive because he had a bad headache. Likely respectful of my Aggie uniform, I received only a verbal warning. While explaining the situation to my host before re-entering the highway, the trooper came back to my window, stating that his car was stuck in a mud hole, and asked me to give him a short ride to a highway road crew farther up the road.
He got in on the passenger side, chatted a bit, and upon reaching his destination, thanked me for my courtesy and said, “I hope that drunk fellow in the back seat appreciates you being his designated driver!” He saluted me, and I was off to Rosebud, where I left my aching, but grateful, host still in the back seat of his Ford recovering from his indulgencing!
Five years of memorable hitchhiking as a member of Old Army contributed enormously to this old Ag’s education, far from and beyond the textbooks!
Dr. George Klett '56
It’s A Small World
In December 1961, when I arrived at my first class in the chemical engineering department, the secretary stopped me to say my father had just called with news of my grandfather’s passing in Center, Texas.
I immediately returned to my dorm to change into my Class A uniform, which was required dress for hitchhiking at that time. A buddy took me north of Bryan to Highway 84, where I stuck my thumb up. It was cold and threatening to rain. It was also a weekday, and there was very little traffic. I was there a couple of hours before a produce truck coming from The Valley finally picked me up and took me to Alto.
Alto is a small town with very little traffic, so I was beginning to wonder how I was going to catch a ride from there. I had not been there long when a car pulled over and I heard, “fish Bush, what are you doing here?” It was Mark Majors ’61, who had been a senior in my outfit the previous year. I was glad to see anyone at that time. Mark got me to Nacogdoches.
Traffic was slow in Nacogdoches as well, and it was beginning to be late afternoon by this time. It occurred to me that no one in my family had any idea where I was, and I had no way to get in touch with them.
Finally, an older gentleman picked me up and said he could take me to Aiken, which is about 10 miles outside Center. Of course, I had no way to get in touch with my dad to come pick me up. The gentleman asked why I was hitchhiking in the middle of the week. When I told him my grandfather, W.O. Bush, had passed away, we were both surprised to find that he knew W.O. and was not aware of his death. He volunteered to take me to my aunt’s house in Center.
When I got out of the car in Center, it was almost dark. My daddy was very happy to see me, as he had been trying to get in touch with me all day.
Ken Bush '63
My First Hitchhiking Experience
In fall 1964, very few Aggie fish owned cars. In fact, in my outfit, Squadron (Hellcat) 9, we had around 50 fish, but only one owned a car, and it was a two-seater!
The Aggies were slated to play the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs for our second home game on October 17. I ended up missing it because that Friday morning, my father called to say my maternal grandfather had died of a heart attack the previous day in Memphis, Tennessee.
My dad didn’t have time to pick me up, so I had to find a way to get to my hometown of Denison, Texas, so that I could join him and my brother for the drive to Memphis. Without a car, I was suddenly faced with having to hitchhike the 250 miles with no previous experience.
My squadron commander, Kintner “Kit” Alverson ’65, told me that since it was a home game, most students would be staying on campus and hitchhiking would be difficult. He suggested that I pack my bag and put on my Class A uniform, and then he gave me a ride to the entrance to Hensel and College View Apartments. He said that married students were less concerned with football games, and some may be heading out of town. Maybe I would get lucky and catch a ride north.
He dropped me off, and I nervously stuck out my thumb for the first time. In a couple of minutes, a man stopped and gave me a ride to the north side of Bryan, where Highway 21 crossed Highway 6. A few minutes later, another driver took me a little further north to Bremond. After about a 10-minute wait (my longest of the trip), another driver picked me up and took me all the way to Richardson, just north of Dallas—the longest leg of my trip home. He was a friendly guy with an ice chest of beer on the floor of the front seat. He offered me a beer, which I politely declined, but I agreed to keep him steadily supplied. Of course, I kept a close eye on his driving, ready to grab the wheel if he strayed “from the true course of rectitude,” as we used to say at Texas A&M back then.
A few minutes after I was dropped off alongside Highway 75 in Richardson, a carload of female employees from Texas Instruments picked me up. They all lived in Sherman and were heading home. They dropped me off in Sherman and within a few minutes I had a ride to Denison, 10 miles away. When I reached south Denison, I called my dad and he drove over and got me. Mission accomplished!
My first hitchhiking experience was a success. I had gotten home in about 5 hours, which was only slightly longer than if I had driven or ridden straight through in a car. The Aggie uniform helped me a lot, even though none of my drivers was an Aggie. They all thought I was in the Army! Such were those days of innocence.
Michael Hoffman '68
Hitchhiking, ’60s Style
There is no easy way home, 90+ miles south to Colorado County. A late start after Saturday morning drill found me at Eastgate in my Class A uniform looking for a ride at least to Navasota. Amazingly, an older model Ford slowed to a stop and the driver, a Catholic priest, said he was headed to a little church between Navasota and Brenham. As I started to get in, he said: “Would you mind driving? I have these prayers I need to say and that will save me some time.” I did and he did. That was a ride this old Baptist boy will never forget.
We reached the little church only to face a lonely stretch of road east of Brenham and no westbound traffic in sight. A TxDOT supervisor saw me from his jobsite, came over and offered to take me to Brenham. There, I could hope for better luck on Highway 36, which runs south to Sealy.
A tanker truck hauling milk stopped, and the driver said, “G-g-g-get in.” Yep, he stuttered all the way to Sealy, but I was grateful for the ride. As I left my new trucker friend, almost immediately a car pulled up with three guys headed to San Antonio who said, “Hop in!” It was a straight shot from Sealy to my home on U.S. Highway 90 some four miles east of Columbus. I would never ride again with those guys, but they managed to slow down enough to deposit me at our front gate.
Not often do you meet a praying priest, a TxDOT supervisor, a stuttering truck driver and three hell-raisers who all had one thing in common: helping an Aggie hitchhike home.
Bill Harrison '62
College Station, Texas
Riding My Thumb for Science
Hitchhiking was my principal means of travel during my Texas A&M years from 1962 to 1966. Thanks to my Aggie uniform, rides were usually easy to get, and I met many interesting people, including astronaut Scott Carpenter, who drove me from College Station to Houston. I learned to avoid walking across bridges after having to climb into the girders of one when many cars began arriving from both directions. A truck driver rescued me when he stopped and told me to climb through his passenger window. As I learned several times, night hitchhiking wasn’t safe. One dark night, a car slowed down to pick me up when the car behind moved to the shoulder to pass on the right. The first car sped up to get out of the way, and I turned sideways as both cars sped by on either side only inches away.
During my senior year in March 1966, I designed a travel aid for the blind that needed a state-of-the-art infrared-emitting diode to illuminate objects. I rode my thumb (as we used to say) to Texas Instruments in Richardson to meet the inventor, who was so surprised by my mode of travel that he gave me three of the costly devices. After the travel aid was tested with several blind people at the Memorial Student Center, I hitchhiked to the annual convention of the Texas Medical Association in Austin. Impressed by my means of travel, the staff placed my poster, the travel aid and me at a table by the front doors, where the press and everyone else entering and leaving could see my invention.
The Aggie hitchhiking tradition even played a role in the founding of Microsoft. While assigned to the Air Force Weapons lab in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I used the circuit that pulsed the travel aid’s LED to flash a light on guided rockets I developed. After the light flasher became my first magazine article in 1969, I partnered with Ed Roberts to begin a company to sell light flashers. In 1974, Ed designed the Altair 8800, the hobby computer that ushered in the PC era when Paul Allen and Bill Gates moved to Albuquerque to write software for the Altair.
Looking back on those days, hitchhiking, the Corps of Cadets, and serving on cadet court and as vice chair of the Memorial Student Center’s Great Issues Committee played much more important roles in my career as a writer and amateur scientist than academics.
Forrest Mims III ’66
The Milk Truck Driver and the Smoker
The hitchhike always began, for me and many others, at the intersection of New Main Street and Highway 6 (now Texas Avenue), straight out from the Systems Building. Often there would be a line of Ags out there on Friday afternoon. Most, like me, were in uniform and had their Aggie bag on the ground. This was a way of saying to potential rides, “I’m safe to pick up.”
My folks lived north of Spring, Texas, on the east side of the still-being-constructed I-45. Much of it was still U.S. Highway 75. So, my journey was usually in three parts. First, campus to Highway 105 East in Navasota, where most drivers were continuing south. I’d get out and walk across to catch a ride with someone heading east. Normally, that ride would end at U.S. Highway 75, just west of Conroe. The final ride would be headed south on 75/45 until I’d have the driver pull to the side of the road and let me out. There, I’d walk across 75/45 to the east side and on to my parents’ house.
One time, I’d been let out on Highway 105, about halfway to Conroe. So, I was thumbing from there in the middle of nowhere. I stepped back from the edge of the road as an 18-wheel milk truck sped by. Suddenly the driver stopped, slamming on his brakes and smoking his tires. He backed up all the way to me—probably 100 yards—and invited me to hop aboard. That was the first and last time I’ve ridden in a milk truck. He told me the reason he’d picked me up was he was having trouble staying awake and needed someone to talk to. So, I became very talkative for the rest of my ride!
Once, while hitchhiking to Abilene to visit the girl I was dating at Abilene Christian College (who was later to become my wife and still is today), I was picked up by an old guy about an hour before the end of the journey. As I got into his truck, he was opening a fresh pack of Pall Mall cigarettes. He lit the first smoke from that pack from the burning cigarette he was just finishing smoking. Though I was a smoker at the time, I decided not to add my smoke to the truck’s atmosphere. As he finished that first smoke from the fresh pack, he lit the next one with it and pitched the butt out the window. That proved to be his method for the whole hour. He was never without a burning cigarette in his mouth. However, he never lit a cigarette with a match or lighter. He lit it from the previous smoke. By the time he let me out, he’d finished that freshly opened pack of Pall Mall.
Ron Holland '69
All the Way Across Texas
I routinely hitchhiked the 325 miles to my hometown of Del Rio, Texas, from College Station as a freshman and sophomore. On a straight drive, you could travel this distance in five to seven hours depending on traffic and the demeanor of police in smaller towns along the route. However, when hitchhiking, you could expect it to take another two to four hours during the day or at least another five to eight hours if at night.
The number of students going that direction during the Christmas holidays or the start of a new semester was often limited. During finals, finding a ride was even more complicated due to everyone’s individual schedules. I waited tables at Duncan Dining Hall and was not released until noon of the last day, so I hitchhiked with my brown Samsonite suitcase with a big “Texas Aggies” legible from a distance.
The typical route was to get to Highway 21 from College Station, then to San Marcos and I-35. You would then take I-35 to Loop 410 in San Antonio and then ride to Highway 90, which passed through many small towns until it arrived in Del Rio. I typically left College Station around 5:00 p.m. and would arrive in Uvalde between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. The typical number of rides to Uvalde was between 10 to 15 different automobiles and then one more to Del Rio.
You’d think I would have been happy to arrive in Uvalde, only 70 miles from my destination, but being dropped at the end of a dark abyss in a dirt parking lot on the west side of Uvalde was always depressing. The last city light was near a lively Mexican Cantina, but everything else was a curtain of absolute darkness and nothing. The typical wait was an hour or two, between 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m., before anyone would offer a ride. My ride would leave me at a filling station in Del Rio, where I called my mom to pick me up.
I never had a bad ride or felt threatened, but I did have one that made me more anxious than normal. After standing around Uvalde for a couple of hours, a student from Sam Houston State University offered a ride at 2:00 a.m. He was wired on something to stay awake, as he had driven from Huntsville already, 400 miles away. He kept telling me he needed to get to El Paso that night. We made it to Del Rio before I told him the bad news: El Paso was another 400 miles on Highway 90!
Getting back to College Station was always easy, as there were many Del Rio students traveling to what is now Texas State University and The University of Texas. By the time I got to San Marcos and Highway 21, it was typically only a 15-minute wait until I hitched a ride with a fellow Aggie to the dorms.
Hitchhiking at that time was accepted. It required a lot of effort mixed with anxiety and boredom, but it worked. I wouldn’t let my 17-year-old son or daughter do it today, though!
Walt Weathersbee ’67
I grew up in the Mildred community southeast of Corsicana, Texas. I graduated from high school in 1958 and entered the U.S. Navy in July, where I served three years active duty with 17 months at sea on the USNS Michelson T-AGS-23. Upon being discharged in June 1961, I arrived in Texas and soon visited a cousin who was attending Texas A&M. I attended a wildlife science class with him one day and was immediately hooked! I soon enrolled to study fisheries.
There was one problem to be faced and that was which would come first: a car or expenses for year one as an Aggie. (I didn’t qualify for G.I. educational benefits.) I chose tuition.
I was told that Aggies occasionally hitchhiked going home or coming back to College Station, and I soon discovered the bulletin board for rides in the Academic Building, which helped. Later, I made friends with a fellow wildlife major and often rode with him. However, there were a few times that rides did not materialize, and thumbing became necessary.
One of the first lessons I learned was to have a better way of letting travelers know I was an Aggie. Having a piece of paper with “Texas A&M” written in magic marker got me a few rides, but one day I noticed a maroon-colored travel handbag with “Texas Aggies” written in white on both sides in the college bookstore. That was better than a Greyhound bus ticket! I obtained many rides from Corsicana to College Station and quite a few travelers made the comment, “I normally don’t pick up hitchhikers, but seeing your bag let me know who you were.”
Usually, when they found out I was majoring in wildlife science and fisheries, the trip resulted in them sharing fishing stories with me. One rider told a hunting story about how he and two others used a predator call one night. After several calls, a bobcat jumped right into the middle of them and, needless to say, it ended the hunting that night.
Another pleasant driver was an elderly grandmother who told me that she normally didn’t pick up hitchhikers but since she had a freshman grandson at Texas A&M, she stopped and gave me a ride—right up to my dorm, Milner Hall. I didn’t talk a lot, as she talked most of the trip about her grandson.
I suppose my most memorable ride was after the 1963 Thanksgiving Day game against the Longhorns. I was riding home with a friend from Corsicana when we encountered car trouble in Hearne. It was getting dark, and the repairs were going to take several hours, so I decided to thumb it. Shortly, another Aggie offered me a ride. I didn’t recognize him at first but turns out he was a starter on the Aggie football team that had just lost a very close, exciting game to the eventual national champion Longhorn team. I received a close-up account of how he felt losing such a big game after playing his heart out. (If my memory serves me correctly, there were two people carried out of the stands on stretchers, both unable to take the excitement of such a close game!)
At mid-term of the fall 1965 semester, I found my name among those posted as January graduates. Elated, I went home for Thanksgiving and car shopped. I negotiated a loan from a fellow Aggie banker and bought my first car: a 1965 Ford Galaxy 500. Shortly afterward, I received employment with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department as a coastal fisheries biologist at the Seabrook Marine Lab, where I spent most of my career working in the Galveston Bay System.
Richard "Lynn" Benefield '65
We Made It There!
We spent lots of time going across Texas with our thumbs. That was the Aggie way. (Of course, I think we did it in hopes of getting the ride in that Cadillac convertible driven by the blonde beauty.)
In 1950, I was the commander of the Ross Volunteer Company, and we were supposed to escort the governor for his inauguration. Two friends and I packed our white uniforms and left two days early, which was usual when you had a weekend free without classes. A cold front was coming, and we caught a ride with a farmer hauling eggs and chickens to Austin for the festivities.
It began raining when we arrived. The next day, we awoke in the hotel to freezing weather and rain. It didn’t improve and by Inauguration Day, the U.S. Army could not get to Austin, and they called off the function due to bad weather.
Since we still had three days excused absence, we stayed in Austin; our female friends were sure glad we were there to help them celebrate. When the weather cleared up, we caught rides back to Aggieland with others who thought they would attend the inauguration.
We liked to joke: The Army couldn’t make it, but the Ross Volunteers did!
Donald McClure '50
Corpus Christi, Texas
The Way It Was
While I don’t have any hair-raising stories, I got lots of experience hitchhiking during my first two years at Texas A&M, as most of my classmates were too poor to own a car. Our uniform was an immense help, as it was recognized statewide. I frequently traveled about 165 miles to my hometown near Dallas, changing highways at least twice. The trip back and forth did not take much longer than a direct car ride, thanks to an Aggie loving populace. Crime was near non-existent at that time, so no one was fearful—rider or driver.
There was a protocol at the designated place for Aggies in Bryan on Highway 6. Each Aggie placed his luggage at the edge of the road in line with others in the order they arrived. The youngest Aggie had the duty of standing at the roadside and waving his thumb. When a car stopped, he inquired how far the driver was going and how many passengers he could accept. The fish would then confer with the Aggies in line and decide who would get the ride. Sometimes, 15 to 20 Aggies would be waiting for a ride.
By midway of my sophomore year, I became friends with “rich” Aggies who had a car and arranged rides to and from College Station. The usual contribution to the driver was $1 each way to help pay for gasoline. By the time I was a senior, I was “rich” myself and had a new Chevrolet, thanks to lots of thrifty saving, good summer jobs and campus work.
My Aggie children and grandchildren still can’t believe I ever thumbed it!
Don Burt '57
The Secret Hitchhiker
My former husband, Tom Gunter ’69, was a junior studying electrical engineering at Texas A&M when we met in 1968. I was a sophomore and certainly smitten with this very cerebral guy who was so serious about his studies. We fell into a pattern of going out every other Saturday night. I assumed he was studying very hard the rest of the time. What I didn’t know, until after several months, was that Tom didn’t own a car.
To take me out, he hitchhiked home to Dallas on Friday nights. Then, he drove his mother’s car back to campus, took me out on a date, then drove home to Dallas Sunday morning and hitchhiked back to campus Sunday afternoon. This went on for several months before I figured it out. It further endeared him to me when I thought about the sacrifice he made just for me.
When we became engaged, Tom bought a silver 1969 Chevelle Malibu with a black vinyl top and black “pleather” interior. His dad helped with the down payment. We paid $50 per month for the $3,300 car. It was a huge investment in our future.
After Tom graduated, he was hired by Motorola. Following our wedding at the All Faiths Chapel on campus, off we went in the Malibu to Tempe, where Tom completed a master’s in electrical engineering at Arizona State University while I worked on a bachelor’s degree in math and biology, having transferred from Texas A&M.
Tom still lives in Austin. He retired as corporate vice president and general manager for Motorola in 2005 and is credited with architecting the Motorola 68000 microprocessor.
College Station, Texas
In 1941, the U.S. entered World War II. My father, Roy Alan Bracher ’43, was a Corps of Cadets member and third-year civil engineering student from Houston. On some weekends and holidays, he hitchhiked home to be with his parents, Gus and Selma Bracher.
At the end of these visits, the Brachers dropped Roy off at the corner of Washington Avenue and Shepherd Drive in Houston. There, he and other Aggies—sometimes as many as 30—would stick out a thumb to hitch a ride back to school. Washington Avenue was then a major thoroughfare leading to points north and west, including College Station, and young men in their Corps uniforms were almost guaranteed a ride.
On December 7, 1941, Roy and a buddy met on Washington Avenue to hitchhike back to campus and climbed into the car of a kind stranger. The car radio was playing at midday when programming was interrupted for breaking news: Japan had just bombed Pearl Harbor.
Traditionally, during football season, students hung large banners on campus buildings urging the Aggies to “Beat the Hell” out of the opposing team. But when they arrived at campus on that day of infamy, the banners read, “BEAT THE HELL OUT OF THE JAPANESE!”
Within days, the Chancellor announced that students 21 years and older were no longer exempt from the draft. So, Roy expected to be drafted without his degree, and without an officer’s commission. When he learned his draft number was up, he left school to enlist in the U.S. Army as a private.
Assigned to an engineering unit at Camp Barkley in Abilene, Roy scored high on his engineering exams and was sent to officer commissioning school at Fort Belvore in Virginia. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and assigned to the 876th Airborne Engineer Aviation Battalion. Later, he was assigned to the 9th Engineer Command under the 9th Air Force.
His unit, the Pathfinders, arrived in Normandy a few days after D-Day. Their job was to build bomber and fighter airstrips ahead of the Allied front.
Lanelle Bracher Samms
Hitchhiking, the “TAMU” Way
After World War II, my dad decided to use his VA benefits and was accepted at Texas A&M. Most people during this period struggled to make ends meet, and the Burkes were no exception. After he graduated, he was employed as an industrial engineer for Katy Railroad, with offices in Dallas, which became my home. After completing high school at North Dallas, I too was accepted to Texas A&M. My family was excited, and off I went to a place called “Aggieland.” This was August 1953, but it seems like only yesterday.
I reported into the Corps of Cadets and registered for classes with an electrical engineering degree in mind. That first semester, I learned all about marching to the mess hall and making classes on time. Before I knew it, the Thanksgiving break came along, and I had to figure out how to get back home to Dallas without much money. After asking some of my fish buddies, I decided to try hitchhiking. They told me that if I wore my ROTC uniform and stood in line at a particular place on Highway 6, I’d make it home.
So, I did! I remember being picked up by a well-dressed man in a business suit, driving a big dark blue Buick. After some introductions and the typical “where are you heading,” I discovered he was also driving home to Dallas. He drove me to my house near Love Field Airport. The trip passed quick, and I enjoyed talking to a well-educated business professional. When I got home, my mom had dinner waiting. Good memories from my early days at Texas A&M!
James Burke '57
While I was attending Texas A&M in the late 1950s, I didn’t have a car until the spring of my senior year. If it had not been for my “thumb,” I would have had a hard time getting back and forth between College Station and my hometown, Schulenburg, some 90 miles south. Getting from the campus to Schulenburg was not a problem; I could usually get a ride from a hometown buddy or a southbound Aggie classmate, although I did spend a fair amount of time on FM60 with my thumb out.
But getting back to campus was often a challenge. Fortuitously, Frank’s Place was a popular restaurant in Schulenburg, famous for its huge 25-cent hamburgers, along with a variety of scrumptious homemade pies. It was virtually a “must-stop” for Aggies coming up U.S. 77 from South Texas and The Valley. So, my dad would drop me off at Frank’s Place on Sunday afternoon, where I would cruise the parking lot looking for a car with an Aggie sticker. Then I would either go inside to spot someone with that “Aggie look” or wait until the driver came out. In four years, I never once failed to catch a ride, and I never arrived on campus late. It was a common practice, although not required, to pitch in $1 to help pay for gas.
One interesting experience I still laugh about: During my freshman year, I was a State FFA Vice President, and an FFA chapter in Houston invited me to speak at their father-son banquet. Without a car, I had no choice but to walk to Highway 6 at Eastgate to flag down a ride. Two gentlemen stopped and not only gave me a ride to Houston but dropped me off right in front of the south Houston high school where I spoke. After the banquet, my older brother dropped me off at the train station, so I returned to College Station by rail.
Del Deterling '59
I had two adventures in 1969 that are still fresh in my memory more than 50 years later. On one trip, a new Oldsmobile 98 hit the brakes on Texas Avenue and came to a stop about 100 yards past where I stood. I picked up my Aggie bag and ran toward it, and before I got there, the driver was already out to meet me at the rear of the car. He asked if I was going to Houston and whether I minded driving as he tossed me the keys. He said his neck was sore from a recent surgery and from the looks of the large bandage on his neck, I could see why. I had no problem with the arrangement, as I had never driven such a nice new Oldsmobile.
I don’t recall what subjects we covered in conversation during the two-hour drive to Houston, but to my surprise, he was headed to the East End, which is near where I lived. I drove that new Oldsmobile 98 to Gulfgate Shopping Center, used a pay phone to call my dad, and 10 minutes later he was there to take me home.
My other most memorable trip started the same way except this time, the vehicle that came to a halt behind me in a cloud of road dust was a big 18-wheeler. With eyes wide open, I picked up my bag and ran toward it. I climbed up the step on the saddle tank, opened the passenger door and got in after the driver suggested I join him for the trip to Houston. Shortly after passing Navasota, he asked me if I was hungry. Since freshmen in the Corps of Cadets those days didn’t get to eat very much, I told him of course I was hungry. It turned out he was on an expense paid run to Houston, so he said, “Lunch is on me.”
We stopped at a truck stop where Highway 6 takes a big bend before entering Hempstead. I remember the quart-size iced tea I ordered, plus a chicken fried steak with cream gravy that overlapped both sides of the plate. Wow, it was a big meal! We ate all we could and got back on the road. As we approached Houston, it turned out that my home address was very near the truck depot where he was delivering his load. He drove that big truck right to my parents’ home and let me out in the front yard. A free lunch and door-to-door delivery was memorable for this young Aggie!
Hal Sharp '72
Late Night Cup of Joe
During my freshman year at Aggieland, I was studying for final exams and was just about to go to sleep when I heard an upperclassman in the hall yelling, “Does anyone want a cup of coffee?”
I loved the stuff and since coming to school in 1954, all I had was instant coffee and hot water out of the faucet. I jumped out and said, “I do!” It didn’t cross my mind that nothing was open in College Station at midnight.
Five cadets went downstairs and got in his car and started out. Someone asked where we were going to find coffee. The upperclassman said, “Earl Abel’s,” which is in San Antonio! We rode to the all-night café, getting there at 3:00 a.m., had a cup of coffee and drove back to the campus, getting there just in time for our finals.
Bobby Smith '58
Nothing But a Lonely Heart
My main means of transportation between Dallas and Texas A&M was by train, although I’d often get a ride home with a buddy or hitchhike. Hitchhiking was neither dangerous nor difficult between College Station and Dallas. If I had no prearranged ride, I’d go to Bryan and stand at a main intersection on Highway 6 called the “Aggie Line.” Generally, within 30 minutes—if you got there at the proper time on Friday or Saturday—someone would pick you up going to Dallas. The accepted fee was $1 to help with gas, which cost 25 cents per gallon in 1954.
In Dallas, there were numbers you could call, like the Dallas A&M Mothers’ Club, to arrange a ride. Once arranged, you would meet the car at one of several “Aggie Lines” in Dallas. The one I used most was just South of Loop 12 on Highway 75 (now Interstate 45). I’d take the train if I had to leave too late to get a ride. The fare was $5.14.
But sometimes things didn’t work as planned. Once, in September 1955, it was 4:30 p.m. on a Saturday when I finally finished registering for the fall semester. I was determined to get home to Dallas and see my sweetheart. I went straight to Northgate to hitch a ride. After three hours and four rides, I was only in Bremond—just 43 miles from College Station! I realized the error of my ways, but I couldn’t see a car for miles either way down the highway. I finally found the train station, but the next train was 2:00 a.m., so I tried my luck on the road again and happened to catch a man going to Houston.
At about midnight, I was back at Northgate with nothing but a lonely heart.
John Altermann III '58
Travels to Beantown
I had many fun experiences “hitching” to and from Texas A&M back in the 1960s. My brother, Mike Anderson ’74, and I would start out at the post office at Northgate. If we were lucky, we would get someone who was headed north on Highway 6. If we were really lucky, we’d get a ride as far as Waco and then wouldn’t have to wait long before someone could take us close enough to Love Field Airport in Dallas.
We would wait around for hours for a flight up to Newark Airport in New Jersey, as non-stop flights into Boston did not exist. Usually, we’d stop in the Midwest somewhere and then go on to Newark, where we would catch the shuttle up to Beantown (a local nickname for Boston). My sister, Liz, would pick us up at Logan Airport and take us to our house in Milton, Massachusetts, where we would enjoy the Christmas holidays until the first of the new year, when we would reverse the trip back to Newark and from there to Houston.
It was easy back then hitching in Texas. The people were nice and very friendly. I miss those days, believe it or not; they were fun and interesting.
Robert Anderson '70
Criminal on the Loose!
I did not own a car for my first three years at Texas A&M, which started in fall 1959. One day, when hitching a ride home, I got as far as Navasota, where I walked to the outskirts of town on Highway 105. I eventually got a ride with two men and a woman all in the front seat of an older car. We drove down the road for about 15 miles, during which time I noticed they seemed nervous and kept looking back down the highway. The Highway Patrol soon stopped us and had everyone get out of the car. One officer looked at me in my uniform and asked what I was doing in the car, to which I replied I was just trying to get a ride home. He said, “You better get on down the road because one of these guys just escaped from jail.” I immediately lit a shuck down the road and eventually hitched several rides that got me to Winnie.
Daniel Pickett '63
League City, Texas
Ranch Hand on the Road
I started at Texas A&M in fall 1968. I routinely hitchhiked from College Station to Dallas before I met several students that went home to Dallas on the weekends. I had a small Texas A&M bag that I placed in front of me on the road, which always got me a ride.
That first fall, I headed out onto Highway 6 and caught a ride with a rancher who was hauling cattle. I was standing in the rain, and he said, “Look, I will get you to Dallas, but I have to make two stops to unload some cattle, and I need help.” We stopped in Mexia and then Waco. Both times I got out in the pouring rain and helped him unload cattle. Needless to say, it was quite an experience, but I got to Dallas with no trouble at all.
Dennis Simmons '72
Wayne, New Jersey
Hitching to Easterwood
I was a fish from Cameron, only 50 miles away from College Station, but that seemed like many miles to me. Most of my hitchhiking stories were routine, but I do have one special memory: Bartell Zachry ’54 was in my class in civil engineering. Sometimes, two or three of us would go with him to his home in San Antonio. We always hitchhiked with him out to Easterwood Airport, where we got on his father’s King Air airplane. Bartell was well-to-do, but he would not call a taxi. Hitchhiking was so easy, and he was such a good Aggie that we hitched to Easterwood to catch their private plane. Pretty funny, and good adventures for an old country boy like me!
Dr. Ronald Hudson '54
The Open Highway, 1937-1941
My father, John McAnelly ’41, shared with us some of his most memorable hitchhiking stories before his passing in 1999. These are his words.
I had several interesting experiences out of Round Rock, my hometown, on the way back to College Station. Once, around 11:30 p.m. as I was heading back to campus after seeing a girl in San Marcos, a guy came by with a truckload of corn headed all the way to East Texas. I offered to drive for him, as I came from a farming family. I drove all the way to Hearne while he slept in the back, then waited for my next ride. I got in bed about 3:00 a.m. that night. Another experience I had was with a guy hauling an empty flatbed trailer on his way to pick up lumber. He told us that we could sit on the trailer and hang on to the cable, and we did that for 70 miles. I was never so glad to get to Hearne!
When I was going back to Texas A&M for my student teaching, four of us got dumped at Rockdale at 2:00 a.m. That taught me to always ask how far someone was going before getting in. We finally found a truck driver going to Houston, so we hopped on and got a ride to Caldwell. When we got there, we had no luck finding a ride. To top it off, it started snowing. We found some old oil and built a fire at a filling station to get warm. Unfortunately, we didn’t arrive back in Bryan until daylight the next day.
On my way home one time, I decided to go to Waco, then take Highway 81 to Austin. A lady picked me up in Waco, but about five miles north of Georgetown, there was a loud noise under the hood of her car. When we raised the hood, there was no fan belt. She had some wrenches in the car, and I took off my black necktie and tied two fisherman knots on it. By releasing the bolt on the generator, I was able to place the tie around the two pulleys and get it working. We made it to Georgetown, where a new fan belt was installed.
I was always very thankful to the people who would stop and give me a ride. My fastest trip ever was four and a half hours straight from just north of San Antonio to College Station with a guy that owned a 1938 Buick. My longest one was on the way home for Thanksgiving one year. I got to Hearne to catch my ride home, and there were 75 people in front of me!
All the time I spent in college, I “highwayed” except one ride on a train and one ride on a bus.
Gene McAnelly '78
The Uniform Was Key
As entering fish in the Corps of Cadets, we were not allowed to have cars. We were usually brought to school by our parents—footlocker and all—and dropped off at our respective assigned dorms.
During our first allocated time off campus, we were allowed to go home by any means necessary. To hitchhike, we had to wear our Class A uniform, complete with ties. Everyone on the highways recognized us Aggies in uniform; getting picked up was never a problem. Even getting across Dallas to my home was no trouble—the Class A uniform was the key. Fond memories!
P.S. I didn’t use a car until my junior year.
Gary Bateman '61
My Lucky Day
In 1964, I came to Texas A&M from Alexandria, Virginia. My father was a career Army officer stationed at the Pentagon, and I arrived knowing no one. I settled into my outfit E2, known as “Rebel E,” the Mascot company.
As the Texas Tech University vs. Texas A&M game approached, I yearned to talk with someone I knew. My closest high school mate went to Texas Tech, so I decided I would leave on Friday and try to make it to Texas Tech for the game in Lubbock to see my friend.
The rule then was that you should wear your uniform while hitchhiking. Loaded with that knowledge, I dressed in my khakis with my tie and my Aggie bag (which made it to Vietnam years later). I had not been out on Highway 6 by the main entrance for longer than five minutes when a car stopped for me. I told the old gentleman and his wife that I was going to Lubbock and, much to my surprise, they said, “That’s where we’re going! Would you drive us?” I couldn’t believe it! They were in their late 60’s or 70’s, so I jumped in and drove them all the way to Lubbock. Turns out, we coordinated our schedules so that I could drive them back from Lubbock as well.
Luckiest hitchhiking I ever had!
David Harrigan '68
It Was a Quick Visit
The week after Gen. Earl Rudder ’32 died in 1969, I undertook an impromptu expedition with only a few dollars. With one piece of luggage and my Aggie bag in hand—and with no maps or directions—I set off for Orlando, Florida, to visit a young lady I knew only through letters via a fish buddy.
Getting out of College Station and Texas was no problem. I next got a ride to the far side of New Orleans late at night, where I was dropped off at the last streetlight. After hearing a loud splash not too far off the road and conjuring images of gators, I climbed upon the road-dividing guard rails and kept an eye on the bayou. Since it was late at night, traffic was scarce. Eventually a fast-moving car came flying by; turns out four roughnecks were returning from offshore rig duties and were heading home to near Pensacola. I was allowed into the center rear seat with my bags on my lap. The only thing I could see was the speedometer, which pegged out at 120 mph. I hoped for no more gators on the road.
Once I reached Orlando, I met this young lady for only a few minutes before she had to leave. So, time to head back to Texas. While I was returning along the roads from Orlando to Pensacola, a state trooper “informed” me that I couldn’t hitchhike along the interstate, so I was “detoured” to Tampa. Now, I had to find a way from Tampa to Pensacola and, not having maps, I was in a real bind. I was on a lonely stretch of country roads with no traffic, and it was long after dark. As I sat awake on a guard rail taking in the very clear night sky, I observed the Comet Bennet, a fortuitous event I watched for hours. Around daybreak, I was offered another ride toward New Orleans, but since the couple had just been married, they “needed” to drop me early to find a motel.
After a while, a nice lady picked me up and dropped me off on the outskirts of New Orleans, now with only a day left before classes resumed. Things were looking dicey! Fortunately, my Aggie bag came in handy as an ID. Three Aggies were returning to campus as well and gave me a ride back to College Station. What luck! But again, I had to ride with the bags on my lap. I think I fell asleep for that ride as I had been up for nearly 40 hours.
Richard Owen '72
Well, Hello Gen. Rudder
At the start of my freshman year in September 1968, the first game of the football season was against Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. We gathered around the few radios we had to listen to the game while we polished our shoes, boots and brass. After a very exciting four quarters, the upperclassmen came around banging on our doors to tell us to go to Easterwood Airport to greet the team, who were flying back and arriving at about 1 a.m. Since the fish in our outfit did not have cars, we walked—thankfully, it was a pleasant, clear night.
After the appropriate cheering for the team as they deplaned, five of us fish from Squadron 4 headed back to the Corps dorms. After several cars came whizzing by, which we believed to be upperclassmen, I decided to stick out my thumb and try to get a ride. A large car pulled off the road just ahead of our gaggle, so we ran up and I jumped in the front seat. The rest of our crew jumped in the back.
I decided to do the correct fish thing and introduce myself to the driver: As I turned to start my greeting (“Howdy, fish Owen is my name, sir!”), I recognized President Gen. Earl Rudder ’32! Since it only took two or three minutes to drive us back, he was gracious and asked us where we were from and how things were going for us as fish. He asked where he could drop us off and since our dorm was literally almost opposite his driveway, I told him at the end of his driveway was perfect. (Back then, the President lived in the big house close to Duncan Dining Hall.)
As we climbed out of his car, Serge Butts (juniors) from our squadron pulled into the small parking lot next to Duncan. They could clearly observe us exiting the President’s car. As we reached the corner of the parking lot, they proceeded to unleash a torrent of colorful questions. One of the fish, being quicker on his feet in thought, answered: “That was Earl, a long-time family friend. He gave me and my fish buddies a ride back from Easterwood.” The Serge Butts about gagged on that information, and we returned to our fish holes without further harassment.
As a sideline note, that fish did not know the Rudder family, but it got the juniors to cut him some slack for the year.
Richard Owen '72
Two Unusual Rides
I had two unusual rides while at Texas A&M.
Once, on the way to see the Aggies play against Louisiana State University, I was in the Aggie line in Houston about midnight when a four-door passenger car stopped. Being next in line, I told the driver we were going to Baton Rouge. He said they were going to Orange, but he had to warn us that they had several boxes of dynamite in the trunk for their work at an oilfield! We were so desperate for a ride that we didn’t hesitate and jumped in! Fortunately, nothing happened.
Second, after traveling to Texas A&M from Austin to get my senior ring, a friend and I were hitchhiking back to Austin. We got to Hearne but were stuck for about two hours waiting for a ride. Finally, a truck stopped and said they were going to Austin. We said, “So are we!” and jumped in the back. It turned out they were hauling a full-size bed with a mattress. We could either sit or lie down, so we lay down and slept for the two hours to Austin! Best ride ever!
Jim McGuire '49
West Texas Adventures
The Texas A&M campus was 350 miles from my hometown of Spur, Texas. One day on the way back to College Station, a nice guy picked me up outside the Spur city limits and said he was going all the way to Abilene. We were visiting when suddenly he cursed and pulled over to the side of the road. A Highway Patrol Officer had pulled us over for speeding! He signed his citation from the officer, got back in the car and said, “If I hadn’t picked you up, I would’ve been paying attention and wouldn’t have gotten this ticket. It’s your fault, so just get your ass out of my car.” I got out with my little bag, and he left me there between two small West Texas towns! Luckily, I didn’t wait too long before a rancher going to Aspermont picked me up and took me on my way.
Another time on the way to Spur, I had ridden most of the day in various rides and finally gotten to Aspermont, about 45 miles from home. It was dark, and a misty rain had started. I had a few cents, so I went into the Hickman Café in Aspermont and got a nice cup of coffee (10 cents then). After the coffee, I took my little bag back out to stand beside the highway and started my thumbing. A pickup truck stopped, and I jogged up to the passenger window and there sat a lady and two kids with the driver. The man had a load of used fridges standing up in the bed of the pickup. He said he was going through Spur on his way to Silverton and could take me if I could get in the back between the refrigerators and stay dry. I climbed in and made myself comfortable…made it to Spur nice and dry!
One other time, I left College Station with a fellow classmate who lived in Rising Star. We made it to his hometown in a couple hours, and he let me out at the west city limits sign. The highway had just been “seal coated” and had fresh loose gravel. I heard a car coming toward me at a high rate of speed and when the occupants saw me, they slammed on the brakes and started backing up to me with tires spinning. I wasn’t so sure I wanted a ride with them, but I got in the backseat. They were junior college football players on their way home to Sweetwater. They had a cooler of beer in the backseat and asked me to hand a fresh one to each of them. I was more uneasy now, so I just opened one of the beers and joined them! I was getting progressively more uneasy with their driving, but as luck would have it, we passed a car with a driver I knew! I got his attention, and he pulled over and let me ride with him. I guess the others made it just fine to Sweetwater.
Harry "Bob" Martin '63
A Packed Car
In fall 1970, I was a new student at Texas A&M without a vehicle, and I needed a ride to Dallas to visit my aunt and uncle for an upcoming football game. A few students in the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band invited me to ride with them. When I arrived at the departure point, I was surprised to learn that there would be nine of us riding in one car! We managed to squeeze in, but the Aggie who played trombone had to hold his instrument outside the car on the passenger side all the way to Dallas!
Kathleen Bird '73
Hitchhiking Memories I’ll Never Forget
I hitchhiked several times back and forth from Texas A&M to my hometown, Brownwood, when I couldn’t get a ride with one of my hometown buds. I always wore my uniform and carried an Aggie bag, which I still have to this day.
One Friday night, I made it about two-thirds of the way home and got dropped off at a crossroads in Evant, Texas. It had looked like rain, so I actually had my rain gear with me. Sure enough, just after dark, it started to rain, so I put on the gear. I couldn’t imagine how anyone would ever see me standing there, since it was dark, visibility was low, and I was wearing dark clothing. After about an hour, I had all but decided to start walking to the nearest building with a light on to see if I could phone home, when a car stopped, picked me up, and took me all the way to my front door!
Another time, I remember hitchhiking back to Texas A&M. I had a girlfriend in Gatesville, and I asked to be dropped off there on Sunday midday. I had lunch with her and her family, visited for a while, and then she drove me about five miles out of town toward College Station. We figured that someone would take pity on a solitary Aggie in the middle of nowhere, maybe thinking I had walked all that way. I’ll never forget the sight of her driving away, with the only living things in sight being buzzards. But it worked!
Finally, a hometown bud of mine, Jimmy Sheppard ’72, had a close call while hitchhiking to Brownwood from Texas A&M. The guy who picked him up reeked of beer and was apparently well under the influence. Jimmy was relieved when the guy let him out at an intersection just east of Temple. He watched as the guy made a left across traffic and got T-boned. Jimmy ran over, helped him get out, noticed he wasn’t seriously injured, and then thought he’d do the guy a good deed by cleaning out all the beer cans, empty and full, that were in the car. He threw them into the roadside ditch so the cops wouldn’t have a lot of evidence to use against the driver. (Remember, this was before standardized sobriety tests and breathalyzers.)
Anyway, about a month later, Jimmy was riding home with me, and as we passed the scene of the accident, he made me stop while he scoured the ditch for the “evidence.” He actually found a full six-pack, and good Ags that we were, we decided to sample it. Just imagine what cheap beer, in aluminum cans, that has been out in the Texas heat for a month, tastes like! We chunked the other five cans!
After I got my vehicle at the beginning of our sophomore year (a 1966 four-door Cadillac sedan, white with black vinyl top, and a back seat the size of a double bed), I regularly picked up hitchhikers as I traveled to and from Texas A&M. During our senior year, though, I read a report stating that 80% of all hitchhikers were convicted felons and stopped picking them up.
John Yantis '72
Highland Village, Texas
Riding with Monty Stratton’s Son
I enrolled at Texas A&M in fall 1956 and was part of the “A” Quartermaster outfit. On one occasion when I had a working car, I left campus for a holiday break and picked up a fellow Aggie hitchhiking. He introduced himself by saying, “My name is Dennis Stratton, and my father is Monty Stratton.”
Wow! I had seen the movie, “The Stratton Story” from 1949 starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson about Monty Stratton, the famous pitcher for the Chicago White Sox from 1934 to 1938. While hunting rabbits after the 1938 season, he fell and accidently shot himself in the right leg. The leg had to be amputated the next day to save his life, and he was fitted with a wooden leg. By overcoming great odds, he pitched again in the Minor Leagues and had a brief appearance in the majors.
Dennis spoke about how his dad was doing, and all about his family in Greenville, Texas, where Monty was active in the Little League program. We traded “Good Bull” for the rest of the trip. I was only going as far as Richardson, but Dennis ate with us, spent the night and continued on to Greenville the next morning.
I never saw Dennis again, and I was sorry to read on Wikipedia that he committed suicide in 1964.
Lawrence Bolin '60
El Cajon, California
My Local Hitchhiking Stand
In the 1950s when I was at Aggieland, my single parent mother and I had no car until I was a junior. I had to rely on the few friends that had a car to get a ride, or if that was not possible, turn to hitchhiking—an alternate, steadfast tradition that was used by many Aggies regardless of their wealth.
The Corps went on preplanned “Corps Trips” to football games each fall in cities all over Texas. You were expected to show up in the proper uniform in the town at a predetermined time and location downtown on Saturday morning to march in the pregame parade. Many of the Corps units would have a company party at a night club or hotel the night before, so overnight accommodations had to be planned (or you might sleep on a park bench).
Many cities were more accommodating than others by designating a location on the appropriate highway to Texas A&M for Aggie hitchhikers. In my hometown of San Antonio, the local Aggie Mothers’ Club erected a ride shelter on Austin Highway (U.S. 81, now I-35) for Aggie hitchhikers to flag down rides.
My most memorable stories of hitchhiking are two:
First, getting injured in a T-bone car collision by an elderly lady exiting from her farm gate onto the highway without stopping. The couple that owned the car I was in drove to Austin to get it fixed, so I had to hitch another ride to San Antonio. (But, I still got home and went dancing that night.)
Second, my cousin and I were once hitchhiking home to attend a relative’s funeral in the middle of the school week. It was raining heavily, and a pickup stopped with a driver and a passenger. The law then was that no more than three people could ride in the cab, so we had to flip a coin to see who rode in the pickup bed for the trip. I lost and got soaking wet!
Dick Randall '54
Lookin’ Back on Hitchhiking
My mode of transportation in the mid-to-late 1950s was hitchhiking. I was from the small town of Dayton, Texas, located on Highway 90 between Houston and Beaumont. A one-way trip from home to Texas A&M was about 115 miles. I met some real nice people along the way and had some unusual rides. My ticket to hitchhiking was my Aggie Corps uniform: People would stop when seeing the uniform and offer a ride. I always asked their destination; it usually took two to four rides to reach Aggieland!
On one occasion, a driver stopped and indicated he was traveling to Navasota. When traveling west on Highway 105, we came upon the small community of “Cut and Shoot,” a local beer shop. Well, my rider decided it was “Miller Time.” I thanked him and began walking out of the area, thinking I may not get another ride! Luckily, a student from Prairie View A&M stopped and said, “I’m headed your way, can I help?” You bet! And we were on our way.
On another occasion, a local rice farmer called me on Saturday morning, saying “I’m flying my son back to Texas A&M on Sunday. Would you like a ride?” I met him at the farm, and we took off in a small plane down a grass runway. However, to my surprise, we headed east down Highway 90 toward Dayton. As we approached Dayton, he banked to the north heading to Cleveland, while keeping Highway 321 in sight. Just before Cleveland, he turned west and followed Highway 105 to Navasota. At Navasota, we turned north and headed down Highway 6 to College Station. We made it! I kissed the ground as soon as we landed.
Hitchhiking those three years wasn’t all bad. I got my Aggie ring, received my diploma, got married and had a job. My daughter is Class of 1985, my first grandkids just graduated in 2019, and the next is to graduate in a few years. It couldn’t get much better than that!
Foy Royder '60
San Antonio, Texas
Trips to The Valley
While I was living at The Annex the last year it was in existence, I did not have a car and often hitchhiked to my hometown of Mirando City, Texas, and back. It was 32 miles east of Laredo.
Leaving The Annex, I went to the main campus and got in the line for San Antonio, and I could usually get a direct ride there. In San Antonio, I was part of a small crowd hiking down to The Valley. I was usually one of the last—if not the only one left—to get a ride. By the time I got to Laredo, I was always the only guy hiking. I did have a few rides where I ended up waiting six or more hours at night to get back to school.
I did have a few drivers who were scary. One time, a guy turned off the road halfway to San Antonio and stopped at a brothel. Another time, a lady wanted to get a motel room with me to spend the night together (to which I declined). Yet another time, a man started drinking while driving, and I thought he might kill us before I got him to stop the car and got away.
However, with the uniforms we wore, most people were very nice. I was a sportswriter on The Battalion, so fortunately I got to go to all the away football games on a plane or bus.
Gus Becker '53
Ogdensburg, New York
I attended Texas A&M from 1968 to 1972 and did not have a car until my junior year, so I hitchhiked to get home to Euless, Texas. I would often hitchhike with Mike Bell ’73 or Gerry Hicks ’72, high school classmates, and we would stand on Highway 6 with our Aggie bags and our thumbs stuck out. Sometimes, we would make it all the way to Fort Worth; other times, we had to catch several rides to make it home.
One time, Gerry and I got picked up by a German immigrant who got drafted almost immediately after getting his citizenship. He picked us up in Waco and was on his way to Fort Sill in Oklahoma before going to Vietnam. We kept telling him that Hurst, Texas, was on the way to Wichita Falls.
Another time, after the Texas A&M vs. University of Texas game on Thanksgiving in 1968, I walked out of DKR Texas Memorial Stadium in my freshman uniform, stuck my thumb out and managed to catch a ride straight to Fort Worth, where my parents could pick me up. Lucky!
The second semester of my freshman year, I discovered the “ride board” that was posted in the YMCA Building where you could contact a fellow student and hitch a ride with them, which made things easier.
Tommy Potthoff '72
What Goes Around Comes Around
I graduated from high school in Southern California in 1956, attended the New Mexico Military Institute for two years and transferred to Texas A&M as a junior in the Corps of Cadets in 1958. My main mode of transportation was trains, buses, friends with cars and hitchhiking.
Getting to Houston was no problem, as students would stand on Highway 6 at Eastgate and “thumb for a ride.” I always carried an Aggie bag and wore my uniform so others would realize I was a student. For the return trip, a popular pickup place in Houston was Washington Avenue and Hempstead Highway. Usually, other Aggies would go by that location to pick up students returning to campus.
During spring break my junior year, an Aggie friend from New Mexico and I hitchhiked to Roswell, New Mexico. On our second night, we were in the little town of Brownfield, Texas, and I noted the police station was close. I told my friend that I had heard hitchhikers could spend the night in the station, but he wasn’t interested. I went to the station, where they fed me and gave me a blanket and a bunkbed for the night. The next morning, they gave me breakfast and took me to the outskirts of town, where I met up with Joe again. We continued to Roswell with no other unusual events.
Fast forward to 1968. I was married to my wife, Barbara, and living in Bryan, Texas. We went to the Alabama vs. Texas A&M football game in the Cotton Bowl, and as we approached the highway, we saw two Aggies hitchhiking. We stopped and gave them a ride back to College Station—right to the dorm where they lived. They were so thankful and appreciative. As the old saying goes…what goes around comes around!
K. Fred Kristiansen '60
Hitting the Line
I entered Texas A&M in 1950 as a freshman in the Class of 1954. Like most of my classmates, my family was a one-car family, so my available transportation to or from campus was very limited. As a result, I “hit the line” numerous times. (And yes, my mother was quite concerned each time I took a trip.)
Most of my trips were very uneventful but two trips come to mind as being a little stressful:
My first trip was stressful not only because it was my first but also because I was a freshman. In 1950, freshmen were housed separately at the Northgate area, and we had very little “friendly” encounters with upperclassmen. When I arrived at the line, I saw 10 to 12 upperclassmen, which immediately worried me. However, it turned out not to be a problem—after all, we were “off campus.”
On another occasion, I was heading to Dallas for a weekend with my family and girlfriend. I “hit the line” at the usual spot, in uniform, and was surprised that I was the only one there. Even so, a man stopped almost immediately and offered me a ride to Dallas after explaining that he would be going through Waco. Little did I know that he was really going to the Fort Worth area and had not personally driven this route before. (Remember, paper maps were used back then.)
The trip moved along well until unexpectedly, he pulled onto the shoulder of the highway and explained that just ahead was the exit to go where he was headed and he was sorry, but he was going to have to let me out where we were. As I got out of his car, I was alarmed. There was no Aggie line, no fellow Aggies, and only a few cars passing by on the highway. I could see another highway a few miles up, so I began what I thought was going to be a long walk toward that busy highway. Suddenly, much to my surprise, a car pulled off in front of me and a man yelled, “Hey Aggie, where are you headed?” (So glad I was wearing my uniform!) As it turned out, the man was headed in my direction and would pass very close to where my parents could pick me up.
On several other trips home, I would have to change rides en route, but the change was made at known “Aggie line” locations, and the transition from car to car was easy and uneventful requiring very little wait time. The longer I was at Aggieland, the more Dallas-area friends I made, until hitchhiking became a thing of the past.
Stan Thomas Jr. '54
Flower Mound, Texas
November 22, 1963
I was hitchhiking from College Station to my hometown of Lampasas the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
My girlfriend at the time (now my wife of 56 years) dropped me off on Highway 6 just past Highway 21. I had thumbed all the way to the Fort Hood area via five or six rides when the news came over the radio. The man I was riding with was so kind that he took me right to my parents’ house.
We always hitchhiked in our Corps uniform. Because of the Vietnam War, folks were okay with picking up a soldier. The corner of Highway 6 and George Bush Drive was the spot to line up for a ride to Houston. You were not allowed to “upstream,” meaning you lined up on the College Station end of the line (not the Houston end). The guy on the Houston end got the next ride.
Lee Culver '66
San Antonio, Texas
They Thought He Was a Soldier
My husband, Herbert Brown ’64, shared many stories with me and our family about his days of hitchhiking. Herb is in a nursing home now, unable to talk or write this story, but as his wife of 59 years, I wanted to share it.
One time, Herb was on his way to see his parents for the holidays and was having a difficult time finding a ride home. Several people were kind enough to pick him up but were not traveling to his hometown of Daingerfield, Texas.
That evening, he was 20 to 30 miles from his home when a family offered to take him as far as they were going. Herb was dressed in his Texas A&M uniform. The family had the impression he was serving his country, and they were happy to give him a ride. Herb didn’t have the heart to tell them he was in college, and this was his Corps of Cadets uniform. They made their compliments to him for serving our country and felt proud to give him this ride.
In the 1960s, hitchhiking was safer, and more drivers were willing to help others. Families could not always afford college tuition and an automobile. Through hitchhiking, you interacted with people you might never meet otherwise.
That Darned Old Cat
Hitchhiking in the late 1950s was easy and generally very safe. I hitchhiked from College Station to Jackson, Mississippi, several times during my years at Texas A&M, always in my Corps of Cadets uniform.
At that time, there was no interstate and I ended up going through many small towns to reach my destination. I met many interesting people and had several rides that I wanted to get out as fast as I could. Two I remember well: On one, I was picked up by a drunk driver. Not realizing his condition until we had traveled a short distance, I had to think of the best way to get out. Not too much later, he wanted to stop and get another drink and I just disappeared. I’m not sure he even looked for me before continuing.
The second ride, I had my winter green uniform on and was picked up by a lady and her daughter. In the car also was a white cat that roamed constantly from the front to the back and the back to the front. Each time the cat would jump in the back, where I was sitting, white hair got on my uniform. I stood that about three times. The next time it came to the back, I grabbed it by the nap of the neck and held it down. I guess the lady and daughter thought the cat was asleep, and I kept it stationary for some time.
When I was finally let out, my uniform was a mess, and it took some time to get the white hair off before I even tried to get the next ride.
Stephen Reid '59
My Trustworthy Aggie Bag
In fall 1970, my roommate, Rodney Bowers ’74, and I hitchhiked from College Station to the Rio Grande Valley, getting a late start on a Friday afternoon due to some unforgiving professors who were too unenlightened to understand their students’ needs to hit the road. I can’t remember how many rides we finagled, but it had to be five or six. Getting out of College Station was simple for us, but as we ventured further from the Promised Land on that Friday, the wait between hitchhiking patrons stretched longer and longer.
There were two memorable hosts along the way. The first was a family of four, including two young girls. At first, we thought we had missed out on our attempt to flag down a passing car, but the driver, who happened to be an Aggie, eventually stopped about a quarter of a mile down the road. Clearly, the husband and wife had a quick conversation before ultimately deciding to take pity on two lowly underclassmen. We squeezed into their sedan, holding our suitcases in our laps, and headed out for a short ride before their destination took them on a diverging path from ours.
The last segment of our trip, which occurred late in the evening, was the most miserable. It started around Victoria and ended in my hometown of Raymondville. Although it was probably a two-hour jaunt, it certainly felt like an eternity to me. The kind gentleman who picked us up drove an old station wagon, and it was completely packed so both of us had to join him on the bench seat in the front. I slid in first and sat next to the driver and soon realized that I was in the worst position.
The old vehicle had a hole in the floorboard where my feet were supposed to rest, plus a leaky exhaust pipe. Hence, every breath I took was heavily infused with carbon monoxide. Thankfully, the weather permitted the side windows to be partially opened, so I got some blended fresh air in the mix. Upon arrival in Raymondville, my roommate called his relatives to come pick him up for the remainder of his trip, and we celebrated as though we had reached the summit of Mount Everest.
To successfully hitchhike that distance, an Aggie was required to have one extremely important piece of equipment before embarking: a suitcase with an Aggie decal on the side. I am proud to say that I still own the trustworthy luggage that propelled me to several destinations before eventually getting a car on campus and despite numerous post-graduation moves when it would have been easy to discard it as excess baggage. Nope, it had too many memories attached!
James Duddlesten '73
Las Vegas, Nevada
My late father was Ernest Shillingburg ’43. Although most trips to and from Texas A&M that he made while hitchhiking were uneventful, I recall one he talked about that was memorable. After finishing a Saturday class, he was going to hitchhike to his hometown of Dublin. Dad wore his uniform because that helped his chances of someone stopping. (During the war years, most drivers would readily give a ride to a man in uniform.) He also got his bag outfitted with a reflective sign for night use that said “Texas A.&M. College.” That sign is still one of my most treasured possessions.
On the edge of campus, he got in the line of hitchhiking students and was soon picked up and, initially, made pretty good time. He knew from experience that the most direct route was not always the fastest, so he went through Fort Worth, particularly since part of his trip would be at night. On the west side of town, he had trouble getting a ride because it was getting dark and there wasn’t as much westbound traffic.
Finally, a car stopped, and Dad quickly hopped in without paying much attention to the driver. That was a mistake because he soon realized that the driver was drinking and driving drunk. He became belligerent at Dad’s offer to drive. While figuring out what to do, the problem solved itself. A few miles down the road, “nature called” and the driver had to pull over. When getting back into the car, Dad ushered him into the back seat, and he promptly laid down.
After checking the fuel gauge (with gas rationing in effect at the time, he knew not to take a full tank of gas for granted), Dad got behind the wheel and, with his new friend asleep in the back, began driving west. He got to Dublin late that night (with the drunk still asleep), parked the car at the post office and walked home. He checked the next day, and the car was gone.
After that, he still had to hitchhike out of necessity but was much more careful to check the driver’s sobriety before accepting a ride.
Donald Shillingburg '73
The Day the President Died
Prior to my senior year, I had only hitchhiked twice. Both times were to Sam Houston University to visit my sister and a high school friend. In late November 1963, a classmate and I were going to my hometown of Orange, Texas, to pick up my car after being repaired. Hitchhiking through East Texas on Highway 105 is not as easy as driving on it. A normal travel time would be about 3.5 hours but hitchhiking took us all day due to the lack of traffic.
At one point, we were riding on the back of a flatbed truck. As we passed by a post office, I noticed that the flag was lowered to half-staff. I commented that I wondered who had died. When we finally reached Orange, we learned that President Kennedy had been killed while we were traveling.
That was the last time I hitchhiked, as I always had a car after that. However, I still remember that day and its importance vividly.
Charles "Skipper" Robinson '64
The Kindness of Strangers
The first 18 years of my life, I had never hitchhiked. But I will never forget my mom and dad and I getting all dressed up to go to the southeast edge of Abilene. I would get out of the car, cross the road and put my thumb out as my parents sat in their car and watched until I got a ride. I never heard them express the smallest word of apprehension or worry. Faith in the kindness of strangers!
One of my favorite stories was in spring 1958. I was hitching from College Station home to Merkel—285 miles. The Aggie hitchhikers lined up on Highway 6 and waited our turn. All of us wore our uniforms, and I had a small Aggie bag when my turn came. I stuck out my thumb, and a nice old man picked me up and took me all the way to…Bryan! From there, I caught a ride to Gatesville and was dropped off on the hill that goes into downtown Gatesville. Soon a car slowed down, the passenger door flew open, and the driver yelled, “Jump in, I don’t have any brakes!” So, I jumped. He turned out to be an Aggie student, and he took me all the way to my front door in Merkel!
Another adventure began when I caught a ride out of Comanche with an elderly man and his wife. The took me to the east side of a very small “town” named Gustine and let me out in the middle of nowhere. They said, “Good luck, we are going home now” and turned off the highway on a little dirt road. It started to rain, and I thought I was in big trouble because it was late in the day. About 10 minutes later a man headed to Houston picked me up and took me all the way to Caldwell, where I caught a ride into College Station with other Aggie students.
I am thankful I got to experience hitchhiking so I can wow my grandchildren about this special time of trusting total strangers. I never had a bad experience, and I found I could hitch a ride home as fast as I could drive.
Chester Collinsworth Jr. '61
By summer 1950, Aggies had logged thousands of miles via the Gig ’em sign. An inexpensive and fast way to travel, the rules were simple: lines formed at the last stop sign on the main highway leading out of town; first come, first served (no upperclassman priority); one Aggie displayed his thumb; one Aggie politely greeted the stopping car and asked how far they were going and how many Aggies they would take; engage in conversation, if the driver wanted it; and, in the event of car trouble, offer to help (change a flat tire, etc.). Many drivers stopped because of prior good experiences with Aggies, so nobody wanted to mess it up!
My friend, Bob Smith ’51, suggested we go to ROTC summer camp at Fort Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Aggie style, to save bucks and see some of the country too. I agreed, and the adventure began.
We decided to head for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, by way of New Orleans, then on to Florida, up the East Coast to New York City, then back west through Pennsylvania. So, carrying all our gear in a large flight bag, we headed out for the Bolivar Ferry in Galveston. The goal for the first day was New Orleans, which we made with ease. After checking in at a cheap motel, a walk down Bourbon Street recalled prior trips when the Aggies had played LSU in football.
The next morning, after a quick bus ride to the city’s east side, we arrived at the Aggie line, and it wasn’t long before we were picked up. Upon reaching the panhandle of Florida, Bob suggested we spend the night in the transient airman’s barracks and check the next morning at the operating tower to see if any flights were headed north. Luckily, one was headed to Washington, D.C. We caught a DC-3 that morning. Climbing aboard, we were directed to take a bench seat on the side of the plane that had parachutes stored under the seat. I sat next to an Air Force navigator who tried to point out the major cities along the way, but the engine noise was so loud it was hard to talk.
Arriving in D.C., we strolled down the streets in awe of buildings we had only heard about and located a hotel room near the train station. Since we only had a limited amount of time, we decided to leave the next day for New York City via the Aggie thumb. Once again, it was easy to get a ride. Imagine the sight of two Galveston Islanders staring up at the lights around the buildings in Times Square! We had not spent much time away from Texas, much less in a highly populated place like NYC. I volunteered to check into a single room at the Times Square Hotel. Talk about a cheap room! It had a single bed, a desk and a chair, a small chest of drawers, and the bathroom was down the hall. Bob and I flipped a coin to see who got the mattress. I slept on the springs!
The following morning after figuring out how to get to the edge of town on the subway, we headed to Harrisburg. One of the most beautiful sights along the way were the neat farms and barns of the Amish people. Our rides were provided mostly by farmers going only a short distance. A light rain had begun, but luckily the longest time we spent in any one place was 20 minutes. Finally arriving in Harrisburg, we booked a room in the notorious Ben Milam Hotel, a cheap chain well known for its roaches and mice. Anxious to get out of town quickly, about the only thing we saw in Harrisburg was a quick walk around the square. The next morning, it was only a short bus ride to Carlisle Barracks, headquarters of the Army Security Agency, where we would be learning about codes, ciphers, map reading, aerial photography, radios and firearms. We were joined there by ROTC students from several other schools, including MIT, Boston College and the University of Illinois.
The route home was similar: We caught a ride from Fort Carlisle with one of the cadets headed for Fort Wayne, then traveled south on Highway 75 with the good old Aggie thumb in the air. At Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois, we checked into the mess hall with the intent of going to the operations tower that afternoon, when we were spotted by a corporal who had spent his freshman year at Texas A&M prior to entering the service. He was on the Chanute baseball team that was flying to Shreveport that night for a game the next day and invited us to ride with them. We jumped at the chance! Arriving in the evening, we decided to spend the night on a bus to Galveston rather than pay for a motel.
I will always be thankful we took the trip and to the kind people who picked us up along the way. Doubtless many stopped because they were curious about the unique uniform we wore. We met some interesting people: salesmen, families on an afternoon drive, truck drivers, and even a Texas A&M graduate and his wife in Indiana who were just as surprised to see us as we were to see him, and a highway patrolman who picked us up on a long lonesome stretch of road bounded by corn fields. He received a call to head back in the opposite direction but decided to proceed at top speed to the town he had promised to take us before heading back.
It was an exciting trip of more than 3,000 mostly thumb miles.
Emil "Shorty" Huber Jr. '51
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Don’t Ride the Trains
Before I enrolled at Texas A&M in September 1948, my father, Frank Cheaney Sr. (Class of 1926), a career Army officer, told me that he didn’t want me to hitchhike while in school. I obeyed him the first semester. While at home in Virginia for Christmas, I explained to him the strict discipline and protocol of Aggie hitchhiking and that there was an Aggie Line in almost every Texas city where Aggies waited for rides. He said, “Oh, that sounds great. I just didn’t want you to hitch rides on trains passing through College Station. That’s what we did when I went to school there.” After that, I happily hitchhiked all over Texas, especially to Denton, where I was romancing a young North Texas lady to whom I was later married for 65 years until her passing in 2017.
Frank Cheaney Jr. '52
San Antonio, Texas
It Was the Sign That Did It
In the mid-1970s, I often traveled back and forth between Texas A&M University in College Station and Texas Tech University in Lubbock by the time-tested, very cost effective and almost forgotten method of transportation: hitchhiking.
Having not quite settled in on any one course in life, not to mention a college major, it was necessary to make trips back and forth between the two schools. Lacking funds and reliable transportation of my own, I would also hitchhike back and forth to my hometown of El Paso to visit family and friends for the holidays.
I was constantly amazed at the generosity of the complete strangers who offered a ride. Not once was I disappointed in the quality of the good people who stopped. Many interesting conversations helped us both pass the time and put the miles behind us. I was occasionally, however, disappointed at the duration of the ride offered, sometimes to the next town only, when I would have the opportunity to meet multiple people along the way.
But just as often, I was lucky enough to catch a ride with someone going all the way to the desired destination. My best strategy for these trips was not relying on my thumb, but ironically, on a cardboard bottom from a case of beer that had my destination written in large letters, either the block TAMU for College Station or the cross-T symbol that represented Texas Tech—often it was the same cardboard sign with the destination written on one side and the return destination on the other.
It did not go unnoticed that the most interesting, friendly and helpful people were Good Ol’ Ags. Their talk was always interesting, and their advice was always along the lines of getting back to work and finishing my education, and maybe even getting a car that ran correctly, which was very sound advice indeed.
It is surprising how few people take advantage of this form of transportation these days, but perhaps someday, we will all trust each other enough again to hitch a ride.
Bob Palmore '79
College Station, Texas
To Muenster and Back
My cousin, Don Bayer ’57, and myself entered Texas A&M as freshmen in fall 1953. That first year, we frequently hitchhiked between College Station and Muenster, a nearly six-hour journey that usually took three to four different rides. We rarely waited longer than 10 to 15 minutes for a ride; people picked us up because they saw our Aggie uniforms, and we also carried a duffle bag with the Texas A&M logo.
The trip I most remember was when Don and I caught a ride from Leslie’s Fried Chicken Place in Waco with two ladies in their late 50’s or early 60’s. They said they were out on a Sunday evening drive and would take us to College Station, which they did, right to our dorms. It was probably 10 p.m. before they got back to Waco!
I always felt safe with the people who gave us a ride. As a sophomore, I had my own car and thus hitchhiking ended for me.
Will Klement '57
New Braunfels, Texas
It Was the Way it Was
Hitchhiking in America was born in the 1960s and 1970s because of limited vehicles to transport all the Baby Boomers of the Greatest Generation. It became a culture and a safe way to travel.
In the beginning, my mom and dad were very nervous about me riding in vehicles with strangers and compared it to hoboes who jumped freight trains during the Great Depression. But soon they realized how easy and safe I could travel around Texas. After dropping me off south of Dallas on Interstate 35, I usually had a ride before they got turned around to go home. Of course, back then we didn’t have cell phones, so they had to wait until I got to the dorm to make the short, long distant call to hear that I had made it to Aggieland.
Now, leave it to the opportunistic Texas Aggie to organize this new culture. Across Texas roads, intersections were designated in hundreds of cities and towns and labeled “Aggie Corners” for students to pick up rides. I personally used one in Bryan off Highway 6. The drivers would swing by those designated corners to see if anyone was standing in line for a pickup and just like that, hitchhiking became a normal way to get around the country.
Most of my hitchhiking was during my freshman and sophomore years. After football season and three grueling months of hazing, you can imagine how we were chomping at the bit to get out of town. We were in high cotton on that drive home, anxious to see family and fill our stomachs with Mama’s warm home cooking. Once we got in the car, it was great just being able to meet and visit with anybody! However, when Sunday rolled around, it was the worst day of the week because we had to make the dreaded drive back. We were so depressed knowing that as soon as we entered the Quad, trouble was waiting for us again. No place to hide our cash (cookies that mom made), no radio or TV, no carpet or privacy, no home cooking and no women.
My favorite rides were those with truck drivers. They had great stories of their time on the road and their semis were a smooth ride, far more reliable than students’ hand-me-down vehicles. We had a lot in common, too: One man trying to make a living and one man dreaming and working through school to get one started, and each looking for some company during those long hours on the road.
Wearing the Corps uniform during the Vietnam War was a two-fold reward. Half of America supported and respected people in uniform, but the other half were quite the opposite. This was a time of hippies, free drugs and free love. During the spring of my sophomore year, I was so desperate for female companionship that I hitchhiked to Austin. Picture this: me walking down Sixth Street with hair so short you could hardly pinch it, while everyone else—males and females—had hair down to their shoulders! My eyes were like a deer in headlights.
I used to hitchhike to Abilene to hunt with my high school hunting buddies. The truck drivers would say, “Just throw your guns, ammo and bag in the bunk and hop in!” Returning to Texas A&M on one of those trips, a Cadillac pulled over to give me a ride. I thought, “This is going to be a nice ride, a Cadillac!” To my surprise, the women driving the car were my Old Lady’s grandmother and aunt traveling back to Dallas. They saw a cadet and, thinking of my roommate, decided to pull over. Much to our surprise, we recognized each other, and I jumped in. We had a great laugh!
Michael Lee Bell '73
San Antonio, Texas
Getting to the Game: A Hike of a Lifetime
When I asked my great Uncle Charlie, Charles Walker ’42, this past year to tell me one of his greatest memories at Texas A&M, he told me of when he hitchhiked to California to watch Texas A&M play UCLA. Here is his story:
In 1939, Texas A&M went undefeated. In 1940, when Texas A&M was going to play UCLA, four of us decided on a Tuesday afternoon to hitchhike to watch the Aggies play. We left College Station in uniform and found a ride to San Angelo overnight. In the morning, we decided to split up, and two of the boys got a ride quickly. The other cadet and I continued hiking on the highway, and a couple from Fort Worth stopped and asked where we were going. We explained we were going to California. They were on their way to see the Fleet come in and took us to El Paso, where we soon found a ride to Las Cruces, New Mexico, that night.
On Thursday morning, we were walking along the highway once again, and the next thing we knew the same couple saw us and picked us up again! Not long after, we spotted the two cadets with whom we had left College Station walking along the highway, and the couple picked them up also. Taking turns driving, we made it to Tucson, Arizona, and stopped at a motel. After meeting the owner and telling him our business, he put us up for the night. We continued with the couple to the outskirts of San Diego, California, and there the four of us and caught a ride with a trucker to arrive in Los Angeles after dark on Friday. The Texas A&M headquarters was located at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, but we couldn’t get a room. We walked down Hollywood Vine Street to find a place to stay the night. We eventually were helped by a stranger whose father attended Texas A&M and arranged for us to stay at the Knickerbocker Hotel.
The next day, we finally made it to the game. Midway through, I felt a tap on my shoulder—it was the couple from Fort Worth! The Fleet had not come in, so they decided to come to the game instead. After the Aggies BTHO UCLA, we offered our room to the couple in gratitude for their help. They declined the offer but did stay to celebrate at the bar for “a hootin’ time.”
On Sunday morning, we decided to take the more northern route back to College Station, since a lot of truckers used that route and it enabled us to stay together. Arriving in Phoenix, Arizona, one trucker arranged for us to stay in a very dark, small room with one only twin bed. The following morning, we realized we had stayed in what was considered “The Chicken Ranch,” and it felt no nicer than that! We hitched more rides from truck drivers and arrived back in College Station on Tuesday. I then counted my money: I had left with $30, and I spent about $18.
I wish I had peoples’ names, especially the couple from Fort Worth. They and all those along the way who helped us showed such charity and generosity. It is one of the best memories I have from my time at Texas A&M.
Charles Walker '42
Two Memorable Trips
I lived in Columbus, Georgia, and arrived in Aggieland in August 1966. I had enough money coupled with scholarships to pay for school, but without much extra income, I hitchhiked with my Aggie bag to get home. Until I got a car my senior year, I probably hiked more than 18 round trips from College Station to Columbus and back. A straight drive was 16 to 17 hours, but in my hitching experience it never took more than 20 hours. Two memorable trips come to mind:
Once, I had just crossed the Alabama line and was waiting for my next ride when five University of Alabama sorority girls pulled over. Now, understand that at the time in Aggieland, there were less than 100 women on campus. I was pretty sure I had died and gone to heaven! They picked me up because they had heard of Texas A&M but didn’t know anything about it. Four hours later, they dropped me off at the Georgia line after becoming experts on the traditions and history of Texas A&M!
Another trip was after I had a car. It broke down outside of Jackson, Mississippi, late one afternoon in a rainstorm. Suddenly, a car hauler with only one new car on it pulled over. The driver was from Texas and recognized my Aggie bag. He said to me, “Let’s push the car onto my hauler.” We did, I got in, and we drove to Columbus, as he was going to Macon. We pulled up to my parents’ house at 2:00 a.m. to unload my car. My parents, who were University of Texas graduates, came out to see what the noise was. Both agreed that there was something to being an Aggie. As the car hauler drove off, he honked the War Hymn on the way out of the neighborhood!
David Konze '70
Virginia Beach, Virginia
To the South Plains and Back
My father, Welton “Bud” Jones ’31, was a district agricultural agent for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. By 1946, we lived in Bryan, where my father officed in the Trigon right in the middle of campus. As a 10-year-old, I could visit him and be immersed in Corps of Cadets activities. It was in Bryan, seeing Ags lined up on the east side hitching rides going north on Highway 6, that the adventure and romance of hitching was kindled.
In fall 1950, the Extension Service assigned my father to Lubbock. My family loaded up in January 1951 and moved 436 miles to the “hub” of the South Plains. To a fifth grader, it looked like the end of the earth—nothing but cold, dust storms and FLAT land. A saving grace was that the Texas Tech University faculty included several of my father’s classmates and the people of Lubbock were pleasant. Despite having my father’s parking privileges on the Tech campus, I showed up Sept. 1, 1958, in Aggieland as Fish Jones. My brother, Class of ’58, had not had a car his freshman year which meant I did not either. Lack of a car meant I could sometimes get a ride at Thanksgiving and Christmas with upper division classmates from West Texas, but when I wanted to see my parents in February, it was time to “limber up my thumb.”
Luggage was important. I had a brown Samsonite hard plastic suitcase about 20” by 30”. With white athletic tape, I put “TEXAS AGGIE” on one side and “LUBBOCK” on the other. These labels were helpful on this 436-mile trip as the demarcation line was somewhere between Comanche in Central Texas and Abilene. In Central Texas, county ag agents and highway department personnel predominated and were Aggie-friendly until you got to Abilene, where college loyalties, like to Tech, began to change.
The path was to Caldwell, Cameron, then to Temple, which connected to Texas Highway 36. Next was Gatesville, Hamilton, Comanche, Cross Plains, Rising Star, Buffalo, and into Abilene. Somewhere south of Abilene, the bag got turned around and instead of just being an Aggie, I was headed for Lubbock. U.S. 80 went from Abilene to Sweetwater and then 9 miles out, in Roscoe, was the cutoff to Highway 87 to Snyder, Post, and then into Lubbock. Arriving in Roscoe at midnight—my usual time—proved challenging: It was slow.
Getting to Temple as an Aggie was no real problem. Locals going into town, high school students on a date and the best truckers were available. The choke point was being dropped off in the middle of town and having to get to the edge of town. Then, your best friends were the truckers who wanted someone to talk to even though all you, as a tired hitchhiker, wanted to do was sack out.
Making conversation became an asset. One of the most memorable experiences was when I asked one guy what he was hauling. He replied, “Unsacked fertilizer.” I analyzed that statement, took a sniff and hoped he drove fast. This took me from Hamilton to Abilene with a load of manure and included a bonus of the many stories he told me. Unfortunately, he also wandered over the middle stripe a lot, usually when he was meeting another truck on the top of a hill! Needless to say, there was no sleep on that portion of the trip, but luckily, he was going to El Paso and would get me through Abilene and drop me off in Roscoe. At one point, I offered to buy him a cup of coffee.
We passed several well-lit truck stops until he pulled into a seedy, off-the-road filling station that he assured me had the most attractive waitresses west of Fort Worth.
We sat down in a booth, and I soon discovered the reason for his wandering driving habits: His right eye was looking right at me while his left one was tracking the “Belle of the West” who was waiting on us.
Needless to say, I was grateful for the ride…and getting out of his truck. The hard part was that it was 11 p.m. and I was on Highway 84 to Lubbock. First to stop were high school kids who just wanted to hassle me. Finally, at about 2:00 a.m., a salesman going home to Lubbock got me and graciously dropped me at my home about 3:00 a.m.
I had several other trips that freshman year including going to Shreveport to see my brother and to Dallas when my roommate (who had a car) couldn’t wait to leave early and see his girlfriend. But bottom-line: I covered a lot of miles with my thumb and the price of a cup of coffee.
Thomas David Jones '62
Hitchhiking, Sort Of
During an intramural activity on a Monday in the fall of my sophomore year, I suffered an injury that broke my nose and required stitches at the school infirmary. That following Friday, bleeding began inside of my nasal cavity during a class. My first “hitchhike” started when an English teacher noticed the bleeding and called an ambulance, which took me back to the infirmary. The bleeding was stopped by packing my nose with gauze.
Since it was a Friday, I had secured a ride home with a buddy. While on the drive to La Grange—where I would frequently hitchhike from there to my hometown of Weimar—the bleeding started again. We stopped at a country doctor’s office, who suggested we go to Brenham or La Grange to a hospital. My buddy was driving an old car, so he decided to drive as fast as he could in hopes that a cop would stop us. The bleeding was heavy by then.
My next hitchhike was indeed with a cop who stopped us and rushed me to the hospital in La Grange. The bottom line: After one more emergency room visit in Weimar on Sunday, I spent the next 17 days in the hospital, received five units of blood and had to withdraw from the fall semester. Interesting experience!
Richard Muehr '68
Straight to the Dentist’s Office
I frequently traveled back and forth between College Station and Waco in the late 1950s, always in uniform and with my handbag well adorned with “Texas Aggie” and “Ol’ Sarge” on both sides. As I recall, not many cars usually went by on Highway 6 before one would stop to pick me up. I met lots of nice people and never had a problem. Two stories stand out:
In spring 1958, I developed a major issue with my wisdom teeth and had to make it back to Waco to have them pulled. Without giving it a thought, I got a ride to Highway 6 off campus. In short order, I picked up a ride and believe it or not, the driver drove me right to the dentist’s office in Waco before making his way back to the highway and on to Dallas!
Then, in fall 1958 during my junior year, I was forced withdraw from classes to go home to deal with a family crisis. Again, I found myself on Highway 6 heading north to Waco, bag at my side and thumb in the air. It was a sad trip having to leave my Aggie buddies but having someone to talk to on the drive was helpful.
Col. Claro "Hondo" Hernandez '60
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Adventures in Hitchhiking
I and house-mate Bernice “Bern” Giddings ’43 were quite active hitchhikers either to my home near Barry, Texas, or to his near Leander, Texas. Whichever the choice, each had the same beginning: Aggie Corner in Bryan, where those going north to Dallas or south to Houston on Highway 6 were joined by those going west to Caldwell or east to Madisonville on Highway 21.
Holidays found Aggie Corner very busy. I can remember upward of a century of suitcases lined up waiting the owner’s turn to begin the journey home for the holidays. There were times when some “up-streamer,” maybe a new Aggie, would set his suitcase down a few blocks ahead of the long waiting line. Some upperclassmen would approach him, explain the “Aggie Way” and help him relocate his property to the end of the approved line.
I remember on one occasion some Aggies “snitched” a rather dangerous ride on top of a commercial bus which had a luggage rack on top with an access ladder at the rear. When the bus stopped for a red light, six or eight Aggies together with their luggage climbed aboard. (At that time, I felt sure the bus driver was aware of the boarding, but he just drove on. I later learned they got off at the next stop, Hearne.)
Another time, about eight or 10 Aggies and their luggage were blessed with a ride from Aggie Corner to Madisonville. A nice “chance-taking farmer” pulling a trailer behind his pickup offered us a ride. We took it.
During one weekend trip to Leander, rides were few, and the weather was cold and rainy. Two other hitchhikers had joined Bern and me. Darkness caught up with us in the town of Taylor, about 20 miles from Round Rock where Bern’s father had come to meet us. Each took his turn standing in the cold rain with his thumb raised while the other three waited in a drier place. After what seemed like forever, a lone driver stopped but almost drove on when one rider suddenly became four. He took all four wet, cold and very thankful hitchhikers on to Round Rock.
On the way back from a visit home in December 1941, my dad drove me to “Aggie Corner” in Corsicana. We stopped at the Barry Filling Station and learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I hitchhiked my way to Aggieland and found a most determined campus of “let’s get at ’em” Aggies, with many dropping out and joining the active service.
The next summer, Bern and I, along with Benny Scott ’44 and Billy Peacock ’44, answered the appeal from the northwest forests to maintain trails and repair phone lines. Now, how would we get there? We four pooled our money, hitchhiked our way to Houston, bought a 1931 model Studebaker for $95 and drove to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Our road home took us across the Mojave Desert. We were rapidly moving on our way back to Aggieland when suddenly the old Studebaker coughed once and died, out of gas in the middle of the desert. Billy started walking east looking for a yet-unseen gas station. Bern got his portable radio out and turned it on. The first sound we heard was the Aggie War Hymn on a program called “The Fitch Bandwagon.” Billy found a gas station and soon hitchhiked his way back with a driver heading west. He brought sufficient gas to get us to the station; maybe in time to hear the signoff of “The Fitch Bandwagon.”
After serving in the U.S. Navy Air Corps during WWII, I reentered Texas A&M in January 1946. To help finance my schooling, I had sold the 1941 Buick my father had given me; therefore, I was back to hitchhiking. An Aggie friend, Glenn Cook ’44, and I once hitched a ride in a pickup on Highway 6. We didn’t ride very far before we determined the driver was drunk and asked him to stop. He did, and we got out on the roadside and started walking. We were blessed by a sober driver picking up two weary Aggies and getting us to school on time.
In September 1945, I married Mickey Evans. She soon became an “expectant mother” who continued to live with her folks and work in Corsicana. This kept my thumb busy. Mickey loved the sweet-smelling gardenias with which the campus was well stocked. One time, I went about the campus filling a gallon syrup bucket with the flower of choice, then hitched a ride on Highway 21 to Madisonville. There, I found a businessman in a new Buick looking for a driver. He was tired, put me in the driver’s seat, leaned back and went to sleep. Sooner than you think, Mickey was smelling the sweet gardenias.
Ray O. “Buddy” Brooks ’43
Memories of Hitchhiking on My 100th Birthday
One time, when I was a freshman, I hitchhiked from Texas A&M to my home in San Antonio. There were about 50 of us with our bags lined up on the road in front of Texas A&M and most of the bags had a large Texas A&M sticker pasted on the side. When I was at the front of the line, two ladies stopped and said there was room for three of us, which was me, another freshman and a junior. One of the ladies said they were going to Austin, and that was fine with us, so off we went.
When we were close to Bastrop, I asked the driver if she could stop by the large barn up ahead, because I had to go. She stopped, I ran to the back of the barn and returned. There was total silence until the junior said, “How’s your Uncle Henry? I responded, “He’s fine now.” Everyone broke out laughing. We continued and were dropped off in Austin. The other guys went their way, and I went to look for a ride to San Antonio.
By the time I walked to the highway on the south side of Austin, it was getting dark. I got picked up by a man going south toward San Antonio and off I went again. I then noticed that the driver had been drinking. It was dark and there were very few cars on the road, so I decided to keep going with him. When we arrived in San Marcos, the driver stopped at a roadside cafe and asked me if I would like a bottle of beer. I said no thank you and he responded, “You don’t mind if I have one, do you?” He went into the café and soon returned to the car, and we drove to San Antonio. He dropped me off at Broadway and Queen Anne Ct., one block from my home. I thanked him for the ride!
Good things also happened when hitchhiking. For example, my brother and I were hitchhiking back to Texas A&M one time and were stuck in Austin. My brother had friends at the Tau Delta Phi Fraternity, near the University of Texas campus. We went there and asked if we could sleep on their couch overnight. Not only did they let us stay overnight, but they also fed us a delicious meal. Early the next morning, my brother and I continued hitchhiking back to Texas A&M.
I’ve saved the best for last. One day my father dropped me off in front of the Magnolia Filling Station at Broadway and Highway 35. In a short time, I was picked up and the driver said he could take me to Caldwell, Texas, not very far from Texas A&M. I jumped in and off we went. The driver dropped me off in Caldwell, and I thanked him for the ride. By then, it was late in the day, and it was getting dark and cold. I built a fire to keep warm and waited for a ride. I waited all night long. Early in the morning, I walked to a highway cafe and had a donut and coffee. When I went back to the road, a car appeared and I recognized the driver as Mr. Bankler, the father of Morris Bankler, a good friend of mine who was also in the Class of 1945. I yelled as loud as I could, “Mr. Bankler, Mr. Bankler!” But he didn’t see me and continued. Again, I waited for another ride.
Soon after seeing Mr. Bankler go down the road, I was picked up by a very nice man who said he could drop me off on the road in front of the Texas A&M Administration Building. We began a conversation, and he asked about my classes and starting times and I told him I would probably miss my first class. His answer was, “Show me the classroom building, and you will not miss your class.” He dropped me off at the front door of the agriculture building! I thanked him and walked into the classroom on time.
I had some interesting experiences, but I learned that there are so many good people in this world. I’m glad to share these memories ahead of my 100th birthday on April 26, 2022.
Lt. Col. Harold “Soupy” Reich ’45 USAF (Ret.)
San Antonio, Texas
It Never Failed
In 1974, as a sophomore in the Corps of Cadets, I could not afford to keep a car and attend school. If we had an open weekend, I would find an Aggie heading to Dallas and have him drop me off at the Waxahachie exit on Interstate 35 East.
On Sundays, my father would always offer to drive me back to campus. But he worked in downtown Dallas and would leave the house before 6:00 a.m. to get to work on time, and I felt bad asking him to drive to Texas A&M and back on Sunday evenings when he had to get up early for work the next day. So, we developed a compromise: I had him take me to one entrance to Interstate 35 and drop me off. Then, he would drive to the next exit several miles down the road before returning to my drop-off location. If I was still there, he could drive me back to campus.
I would hold a sign with “Texas A&M” on it. Over three years’ time, he never got back to me before some Aggie picked me up and gave me a ride back to campus!
W. David Cunningham ’77