By Mark H. Reddig
“Land Line Now” host
Every once in a while, you see one out on the open road.
At first glance, it looks like every other truck out there. But upon closer inspection, you realize you’re looking at a piece of history.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands of truckers purchase, restore and drive antique trucks, keeping the trucking industry’s past alive for the next generation.
At first, you think those truckers – and the events where they display their rigs – are all about the trucks. But when you talk to the people who own the trucks, a very different picture emerges. This is about families.
Ed Rocha is a good example. Rocha had several rigs at the annual antique truck show and national convention of the American Truck Historical Society, which was earlier this year at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, KS.
Rocha said his family’s company is the oldest livestock hauler in the state of California. One of the trucks Rocha took to the show was a cattle-hauling rig his father used in the 1940s.
“The company (was) started in 1924 by my father,” he said. “I came aboard in 1952, and I have a son now who came in 1992, 1993, and he’s kind of running the show now.”
Rocha has taken a hobby that started as a way to preserve family history and has expanded it into one in which he helps preserve the history of his entire industry.
“I’m also the executive director of the Hays Truck Museum in Woodland, CA,” Rocha said.
“Trucking has been my life, it’s been good to me, and that’s why I want to support it.”
Rocha isn’t the only good example of the role family plays in truck preservation.
George and Lois Wacker went to the show from their home in Manchester, MI, with a replica of his father’s truck. Although it’s a replica, the vehicle is made entirely out of parts from other trucks of the same make, model and era.
“Took me 30 years to find the pieces,” he said. “My dad’s original truck was 29-115 for the tank number that was on the plate. And this one was -168. So, considering that he was in Michigan and I found this tank in Minnesota, it’s not too far off.”
Like Rocha, George Wacker followed his father into the trucking business. His children have followed him into trucking as well.
“A year ago July, we had our 75th anniversary,” he said. “Between him and me, and now my son, daughter and daughter-in-law, we’ve been in business … 76 years.”
While some were in Hutchinson to show off their family’s history, others were seeking it. OOIDA member Ken Quick of Geneva, NE, and his girlfriend, Jody, were looking for a red 1974 Peterbilt cabover.
“It was my dad’s truck, and he sold it to a guy down here in Kansas,” Quick said.
The red Pete had been used to haul grain, salt and other loads. Ken was hoping the owner would have the truck on display.
But even if he didn’t find the old family Pete, Quick wasn’t going to leave unhappy.
“I like the old Kenworth conventionals with the wide hood and the wide grille,” Quick said. “It’s kind of nice, but I don’t think I could afford to drive one … but I like the way they look.”
He wasn’t disappointed. Less than 50 feet away, Dan Potter of Cunningham, KS, was revving up the Detroit Diesel engine on his 1973 Kenworth A.
Paul Rutherford wasn’t there to look for or show off his family’s truck. But it’s very possible he saw the kind of rig they drove.
“My dad drove mainly the old cabover Internationals, hauling cattle. There’s some (at the antique truck show) that resemble that,” he said.
Rutherford is a third-generation driver and OOIDA life member from Sterling, KS, about 20 miles from Hutchinson. He said he was drawn to the show “by a love of trucks and trucking.”
“Trucking has always been in my family,” Rutherford said. “My granddad drove, my dad drove. I have uncles that drove trucks. I fell into it … before I was born.
“Driving a truck and being a cowboy, that’s the only thing I know.” LL
About the ATHS
Incorporated in 1971, the not-for-profit American Truck Historical Society was formed to preserve the history of trucks, the trucking industry and its pioneers. Today, the ATHS is an international organization with more than 24,000 members in the United States, Australia, Canada and 20 other countries worldwide. It also publishes an award-winning magazine called Wheels of Time. You can find more information at www.aths.org.