BEAUFORT — Curtis Eldred’s first paycheck at the Beaufort Greyhound bus station was for $21.37 – enough to cover the room he was renting at the Beaufort Hotel on Port Republic Street and still leave the 22-year-old with pocket change.
That was in 1962.
Eldred had just left the Marine Corps and was down to his last $6 when he took the job at the bus stop on Scott Street. He worked seven days a week unloading and loading the buses that came in and out of the station.
He never thought he’d still be working there 50 years later as the station manager.
A lot has changed in that time – he’s gone from handwriting tickets to issuing them through a computer, for example, and the bus stop moved to Boundary Street, then to its current spot on Trask Parkway.
But Eldred’s favorite part of the job remains the same: meeting new people.
“If you come in here with a chip on your shoulder, you’re going to leave with a smile on your face,” the 72-year-old said. “I like for everyone to be in a happy mood when they leave here.”
John Rials, who owns the station, called Eldred “the best friend you’ve never met.” More than once, Rials came into the station in the evening to find about 15 people in stitches over Eldred’s jokes while waiting in the lobby.
It’s not been all jokes.
Eldred has helped catch a few criminals through the years, including a Marine recruit who skipped from Parris Island after taking more than $1,000 from other Marines.
Despite his age, Eldred said he’s not retiring. He will keep working at the station – loading and unloading packages and luggage, issuing tickets, making sure things run smoothly and joking with customers.
“As long as I can still do the job, I have it,” he said. “I’m going to keep going until I can’t do it any more.”