Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Dec. 28, 1959
(News item) TUCSON, Ariz., Dec. 20. A double-decker bus and a cattle truck collided head on today, killing nine persons and injuring 32.
The bus was a Greyhound special added for holiday travelers. On the Los Angeles-to-New Orleans run, it was only minutes out of Tucson when the crash occurred . . .
“I’m the commission agent for Greyhound in Redondo Beach,” Helen Stierli told me. “I know that I’m not supposed to become personally involved in these matters. It shouldn’t be any of my business, really.
“But in a small town -- well, things are a little more personal than in a big town.”
Mrs. Stierli explained that she first heard about the crash on Sunday night.
“Immediately, I had the terrible feeling that I’d sold somebody a ticket on that bus,” she said. “I was restless and worried all night. Then, Monday morning, I rushed to the office and checked the list.
“And sure enough,” she added, “there was Mrs. Rodden and her two sons. I saw those names and I just broke down.”
(The news reports read: Dead: Johnny Lee Rodden, 7, son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rodden, Redondo Beach. Injured: Mrs. Margaret Rodden, 38; Charles Rodden Jr., 15.)
Mrs. Stierli continued: “I’ve been in Redondo 11 years, but I didn’t know the family. Not until the week of their trip. They were going to spend Christmas with Mrs. Rodden’s mother in Lubbock, Texas.
“Just the mother and the boys were going. Mr. Rodden was going to stay in Redondo and work. I don’t know. Maybe he was going to join them later.
“She called me three times about the trip. The first time was just for information. The second time was on how much baggage they could take. And the last time was to ask if she could wait until Friday to pay for the tickets. That’s when her husband would get his paycheck.
“I remember the last call. She said she was turning it over on her mind whether she should drive, instead.
“I told her . . .” Mrs. Stierli hesitated. “I told her that it was safer to go by bus. You see, I was in a head-on auto crash once. And five years ago, my husband lost a leg in a traffic accident.
“Maybe that’s why I can’t keep out of this case. I know the sorrow and the hardship. At times like these the financial strain can make it so much worse, and the Roddens were just average people. They weren’t rich.”
Mrs. Stierli sighed. “The day she came in for the tickets, they were $10 more than she’d figured. She’d misadded. Two round-trips from here to Lubbock were $60.45 apiece, plus the half-fare ticket for Johnny Lee. The $10 difference seemed to mean a lot to her.
Asks About Refund
“That’s why, after the accident, I checked with Greyhound downtown right away to find out about getting their fare money back for them. That way, before they came in, I would know how to handle it.
“I’ve never had a situation like this before.”
“And what happened?” I asked Mrs. Stierli.
“Well,” she replied, “the man in the traffic office checked company policy for me. He told me that when they brought the tickets in, I could refund for the distance from Tucson to Lubbock and the return trip.
“But,” she added, “they’d have to pay for the trip from Los Angeles to the time of the accident. That’s the policy.
“I can’t say as I understand it,” she told me, “but there’s a lot of things nowadays that I don’t understand.”