SMAD. An Organ of Student Opinion. 1935. Volume 6. Number 17.
A New Game for Train Travel
A New Game for Train Travel.
The undergraduate from overseas at either Oxford or Cambridge enjoys many opportunities which do not exist for the English student.
In the long vacation in 1933, three of us left England for a tour of America. There should have been more, but the rest unfortunately missed the ship at Southampton, owing to excessive revelry the night before.
After a fortnight in Toronoto, we set off along the Canadian National route, branching off to visit Banff and Lake Louise. From Sascatoon we travelled in the world's slowest train, the Calgary "express." It took 24 hours, and we were hard put to amuse ourselves. The trains are very slow to gain speed, and in view of this we devised a game of skill chance, which not only amused us but provided possibilities of enlarging our fortunes. At each of the many stations the three of us and any other enthusiasts piled out, sat on the track behind the last carriage, each placed a coin on the line, and awaited the train's departure. The man who remained longest took the cash. Personally I showed marked ability and was having exceptional success, until I agreed to stake all with a fellow who was getting off at the station anyway. It was a nasty conspiracy, and it was with feelings of mixed humiliation and fury that I made the train after a fine show of speed.
From Banff and Lake Louise we went to Jaspar Park Lodge. The latter and all lodges of the Canadian National Railways are staffed with undergraduates and co-eds. The golf caddies, waitresses and clerks all work in the vacation in order to be able to pay their university expenses. Naturally there is a lot of fun and, with good organisation, the staff has as enjoyable a time as the visitors.
We called on the manager and handed in our credentials but without success. He promised however, that in the next long vacation he would be very pleased to accept our applications and the Canadian National would pay our expenses to and from the National Park.
It was in the heat of the summer when we reached San Francisco and Los Angeles, Hollywood was therefore rather quiet, most of the celebrities being on holiday at Santa Monica, Long Beach, Santa Barbara or elsewhere. We tried Santa Monica, but that lost its charm when the fleet came in, as we knew what sailors are.
After a week in the Californian sunshine we bought a cheap ticket on the Southern Pacific Line to Salt Lake City. On the way we visited Arizona's famous Grand Canyon, aptly described as "mountains upside down." The others, Bryce and Zion, and Cedar Breaks, were equally magnificent. The painted desert impressed me most. Incredibly wide, it stretches into the distance, unbroken except for a hideous black crack, where, hundreds of feet below, the Colorado River thrashes towards Grand Canyon.
Money was short, so from Salt Lake City we economised by simply riding the rails with hobos. We got filthy, as we spent most of the time on the coal-tender just behind the engines and on the roofs of the carriages. It was all right most of the way, but it was tough in tunnels, each one nearly asphyxiating us. In all we spent four consecutive nights either amongst the hobos on the top of trains or sitting up in carriage seats, and to pass the time our main recreation was contract bridge. All the hobos were exponents of Culbertson's theory, and each possessed a pack of cards.
We had three days at the Chicago Fair, and arrived in New York when the N.R.A.'s festivities were being celebrated. In order to enjoy them to the full, we repaired to Coney Island. Any kind of gala day in New York is quite incredible. It is a good excuse for the offices to empty their waste-paper baskets, and from every window baskets and baskets of torn-up paper are thrown. Most of the populace are quite dispassionate about it, but they seem to treat it as an essential duty of good citizenship. Three months had passed too quickly, and we very reluctantly embarked on the Berengaria for England. Our total expenses approximated only £100 each, but we saw more interesting things and enjoyed ourselves more than if we had gone with a larger supply of money.