Journeys
B-Models, home fries and a sense of real spirit
The recent articles in Land Line have brought back a good number of memories for me.

By Tom Trotter III, OOIDA Life Member
Riegelsville, Pa.

Ahh, the old days.

I started out where many did back then, on a dump trailer hauling Pennsylvania coal out of the mountains and sand and stone for batch plants.

Equipment was hard to learn on, and you either loved it or you didn’t. No power steering, no air and sometimes no heat (cardboard in the front helped some), no air seat and no maxi brakes.

I started in 1967 and learned on a B-Model Mack with a two-stick duplex that had to be kept at between 1,800 and 2,100 rpm. I drove many trucks – a Diamond Reo, Brockway, White, International cabover, even a Mack cabover.

We used to run down the road with flames coming out of the stacks and race each other. You could do that back then – not much traffic, particularly at night.

There were hand signals for open and closed scales and a circular motion replicating a drive shaft for open road ahead. When CBs first came out you could talk to another driver for two states before anyone else came on. After the owner-operator strike, everyone went out and bought one, but there were still procedures and people on base stations to help truckers who needed it.

Many cops were Teamsters back then and we all got along. Drivers helped other drivers and also other motorists who were in trouble or looking for directions.

You could leave your doors and windows open. And when you rolled in for fuel, they pumped it and cleaned your windows. Speaking of truck stops, the 76 truck stop was my favorite. I joined the Road King Driver’s club sometime around 1973, and every year on my birthday I got a free lunch, free services and oil. You got a 76 belt buckle when you joined, which I still have. What I liked most, though, was I knew what to expect and what to order when I sat down.

One diner in Pennsylvania had a CB, and the waitress there had a handle of “Lady Clipper.” Early in the morning we would call in our orders of eggs over, home fries, bacon, etc. and she would have it sitting on the table when we walked in. I say “we” because when we were running south, we used to run in a group.

I remember running down south out of Pennsylvania on a daily to D.C. to where we had a shop steward named Harold that we called “Batman.” He was a big man, 300 pounds, bald head and not a tooth in his mouth, an old-time truck driver. Everyone knew and loved him. I was told he kicked the freight off the back of the truck when he was in a hurry. That man could pedal off 23 stops and be done at noon.

He used to drive with his boots off. One time a taxicab rear-ended him. He jumped out of the truck and started directing traffic. When the cops asked what happened, Batman told them that taxi hit him so hard it knocked the boots off his feet.

When there was a pileup on the Beltway one time, everyone saw him on television out in the middle of the road directing traffic. That’s all I heard about for weeks from our customers. He’s gone now, God rest his soul.

Those were the days. I miss the fun times and friendships. Everything was a challenge. We all had a real spirit of pioneering that we were doing something to make the country great. And, believe it or not, people used to thank us for bringing their freight. And you know what? We earned that gratitude. LL