At 76, OOIDA member Bert Martin remembers when a loaf of bread cost a dime. Nonetheless, Martin says we have it better today. “Back then, you worked a 12-hour day to earn a dollar, so it took one hour and 10 minutes to earn enough money to buy that loaf of bread,” Bert said. “Today, you only have to work 12 minutes at minimum wage to buy a loaf of bread.” “In 1935, you could buy an automobile for $635, about two years’ pay, but the engine only lasted through 30,000 miles and the tires 10,000 miles,” he added. “Today, it only takes eight months of wages to buy a vehicle. And, the tires run at least 40,000 miles and the engine 100,000 miles.” Bert has many theories about what drives the economy. “The principal ingredient in our national economy isn’t manufacturing or sales, it’s distribution,” Bert says. “If you can’t get a product to where someone will buy it, it has no value.” A native of Illinois, Bert now lives in Phoenix, AZ, with his wife Jane, their youngest son and their two chihuachsunds, Mr. Jinx and Buttons. Jane doesn’t go on the road with Bert because he says it would get “a little crowded” with the whole family riding along. “Mr. Jinx is attached to my wife, and his sister Buttons is firmly attached to our son,” Bert explained. “So if I took my wife on the road, I’d have to bring them all.” Bert and Jane have had their share of tragedy this year. You can see the pain in Bert’s eyes when he tells how he found his oldest son dead of a massive heart attack at the age of 45. He had just bought his first new truck and signed on to run with his dad. He died inside Bert’s truck at a truckstop in Bakersfield, CA. In addition to more than 24 years in the trucking industry, Bert has logged a whole lifetime of experiences as a combat cameraman during two wars, as a cinematographer for television news, and a licensed pilot. At 17, Bert joined the Navy in 1942 and served two tours as a combat cameraman in World War II. He also learned to drive trucks in the Navy. Between stints in the Navy, Bert earned his pilot’s license in 1946. Although he doesn’t fly much anymore, Bert says his pilot’s license still comes in handy. “I got stopped one time in Ohio and was having trouble finding my medical card. The patrolman saw me flash by my pilot’s license and my FAA medical, while looking for my DOT medical card,” Bert said. “He said, ‘you don’t need DOT medical, that FAA medical supercedes it.’ I wasn’t aware of that, but the officer said FAA medical is more strict than DOT medical.” After getting out of the Navy in 1949, Bert joined the Air Force and served as a combat cameraman in the Korean War. When he got out of the Air Force in 1954, he got into the newsreel business, then worked as a cinematographer doing television news at WGN in Chicago until the station transferred him to Washington, DC. While in the nation’s capitol, he ended up as a freelance cinematographer, doing work for several organizations, including the Republican Convention Campaign Committee. Bert left the television news business when the industry switched to videotape. “They starting switching from film to videotape, so I quit,” Bert said. “I don’t like the people in the news business, and I don’t like what they call ‘news’ nowadays.” Bert has met every president from Harry Truman up to Gerald Ford. He met the senior George Bush when Bush was a senator and Bert photographed George and Barbara Bush talking with a mounted policeman on the Capitol mall. Bert personally delivered the photographs to the Bushes and had the opportunity to visit with them. Despite all his work in Washington, DC, Bert still has a strong opinion about politicians. He says you can become an instant expert on everything by getting elected to Congress. Bert’s passion for politics is fueled by his passion for the preservation of our constitutional rights. He is actively involved as managing director of the National Handgun Association in Cave Creek, AZ. “According to the Second Amendment, there’s no such thing as an illegal gun,” Bert said, and he carries a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his truck. After leaving the news business in 1970, Bert worked as general manager of a fixed base operation (FBO), selling and maintaining airplanes. In 1977, he got into the trucking business when he sold an airplane to Jerry Hawkins, the owner of a trucking company based in Phoenix. Hawkins hired Bert to drive trucks, and he’s been trucking ever since. From 1978 to 1995, Bert and his sons owned their own company, Golden West Group, of trucks and motor coaches. Then, Bert ran a few years as a company driver before getting a new truck in January and signing on with Morgan Drive Away, a specialty hauling company based in Elkhart, IN. Through Morgan he hauls anything on wheels, he says, that will hookup to a fifth wheel.
–by René Tankersley