Awhile back a 76-year old fellow contacts me and says, “I listen to your podcasts, and think that you need to talk with my dad. He started his truck drivinig career on Route 66 in the Mojave Desert.” Needless to say, he had my undivided attention.
Even though his memory was a bit fuzzy in places, I was mesmerized by his tales of driving a big Moreland truck from Los Angeles over Cajon Pass and across the Mojave Desert on Route 66 to deliver produce to markets and cafes in Victorville, Barstow, Newberry Springs, Ludlow, Amboy, Chambless, Essex, Needles, Oatman and Golroad.
He started driving for his father’s company at age 16. At first he drove large one or two ton Ford or Dodge trucks into Oatman and Goldroad delivering produce to the Central Commerical markets. A year or so later his dad bought a used six wheel Moreland with large Hercules engine. The following year he bought a new Moreland with a Hercules diesel engine.
That was the birth of his career as a truck driver. With the exception of the WWII years, he spent nearly fifty years drivinig the big rigs from coast to coast, border to border and into Canada. His stories of exploits behind the wheel of a B model Mack brought back a lot of memories as my first attempts at driving a big rig were in one of these beasts outfitted with a Quadbox.
Telling people where to go has been our slogan at Jim Hinckley’s America for years. But a listener to our podcast, Car Talk From The Main Street of America, that is chock full of stories such as this noted that we do more. He said that we share America’s story. Needless to say, that comment was humbling.
The stories I tell are a rich tapestry woven from colorful thrteads collected over the years. Books have been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. Travel journals such as By Motor To The Golden Gate that chronicles Emily Post’s journey along the National Old Trails Road in 1916 fill the office library.
And I have long been a listener. That has led to some inspirational conversations, unexpected friendships, and a rare opportunity to see history as seamless. It has also provided me with a different perspective on history.
Years ago I was working in Winslow, Arizona, and was a regular at that city’s premiere dive bar, White’s Cafe. It was there that I struck up a conversation with an assuming older Navajo fellow that I had met through my work at the hardware store. As it turned out, he had been one of the legendary code talkers during WWII.
While working in the garage on a car lot in Arizona, I met Johnny. He was an unassuming retired fellow that worked part time running errands, sweeping floors, and cleaning the restrooms. Asking him to breakfast one morning turned out to be a portal into a forgotten chapter in American history, and the beginning of a long friendship.
As it turned out, his grandfather had been a slave. Johnny had been the Navy’s black bantam weight boxing champion just before WWII. He had served with distinction in the Atlantic during the war, and had been involved in the civil rights marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King.
That comment about sharing America’s story was an apt descriptor. So, I added it to our promotional materials. Perhaps it will inspire other people to reach out, and let me share their story.
And that simple comment has also provided a bit of incentive. The goal for 2023 will be to expand the reach of the podcasts, to take the show on the road, and to collect stories. And so I am creating a new series of programs that tell America’s story through the eyes of ordinary people.
Travels with Charlie being one of my favorite books, I think Steinbeck would be using the podcast system today – thanks for telling the stories!