By Norris Chambers

             People have always needed to travel. The method of travel has changed drastically since man began to look for transportation that was better than walking. My first memories of travel are about riding horses or using some horse-drawn conveyance, such as a buggy or wagon. Before I was very large a few automobiles began to appear and an occasional airplane roared overhead. Of course there was the train you could ride if you were near a railroad station.

            By the time I graduated from high school and began to wander away from the farm busses were the principal means of transportation for those not near a railroad. And even in areas with railroads the busses were more convenient and in most cases more economical.

            In 1935 when I graduated and journeyed to Fort Worth to attend school a different travel service was available. Just about every city and town had one or more of these little offices. They were referred to as Travel Bureaus. When a city had more than one the signs sometimes labeled them as No 1, No. 2, etc. In some cities they had business names such as “Jim’s Travel Bureau” or “Thrifty Travel Bureau”.

            The operation of the business depended on salesmen or other travelers who were willing to take a passenger along for a fee. The bureau kept a percentage of the fee and the driver received the rest of the fare. A driver who was traveling and wished to make a little extra money registered with a bureau and was listed as a carrier along with the approximate time of departure and the destination. In towns that had more than one bureau the businesses cooperated with each other by exchanging information. If a prospective passenger wanted to go to a particular city the information was passed from one to another and if a driver registered at any bureau to take a passenger the first interested passenger was directed to the office from which the traveler was to depart. The referring bureau received a small percentage from the bureau arranging the deal.

            There were signs on the front of the buildings telling the prices to different cities. I remember one that listed Chicago - $10 and another offering to find you a ride to San Antonio for $2.50. I used the bureau to travel back and forth to my home county. I usually looked for a ride to any one of four or five towns that were about the same distance from where we lived. When we arrived at the destination there was the problem of traveling the fifteen or twenty five miles to the farm. This was accomplished by starting the trip and hoping for a ride.

            Country drivers in those days were very willing to stop and ask any walker if he needed a ride. Ordinarily I did not have too many miles to walk – drivers were very accommodating!

            Sometimes on longer trips the driver allowed the passenger to drive while he got some sleep. For a traveler who had little money for tourist courts or hotels an arrangement like this allowed him to drive at night and save the overnight lodging expense.

            A city like Fort Worth or San Antonio had several travel bureaus and it was possible to get a ride in a relatively short time. Smaller towns had only one or two operations and the traveler might have to take a ride to a larger town and find a ride from there to his destination.

            In 1936 I was traveling from Eagle Pass to Brownwood . There was not a bureau there so I had to hitch hike to Del Rio where there was at least one. From there I found a quick ride to San Antonio where there were several stations. I was soon on my way from there to Brownwood . This trip lasted all day and because it was so late I got a room in the Southern Hotel and managed to get home the next morning. A hotel room for one night cost a whole one dollar!

            I was told that travel bureaus were not legal in all states but in every state I traveled in they were in operation. The ride sharing bureaus disappeared when the big war preparation movement started in 1940. I guess so many travelers were working they were able to drive their own automobiles.

            Ella and I were driving a 1937 Chevrolet when the depression finally went away and we didn’t need to use a travel bureau for transportation.

            Were the travel bureaus fun? It would be hard to give a positive answer to that question. Some were fun and some were not! They offered cheap travel. Traveling cheap was fun!