“My father, Ed Kimball, passed on a legacy of hauling produce to his five sons and grandsons before he died in 2009. He expanded from hauling bananas through the Port of Tampa in the late 1950s to eventually owning Ed Kimball & Sons Trucking with his five sons.
“At 60, I now run a brokerage business out of Homestead, Fla. But hauling produce is the best job I ever hated.
“By 1965, my dad had leased to Greenstein Trucking Co, and we lived in Pompano Beach. My brother Glen and I stacked trucks at the Pompano Beach Farmers Market, and also worked at the Esso Fleet Truck Stop.
“Before we had pallets and pre-coolers, we air-stacked because produce fresh from the farm held field heat. If the field heat was too high, drivers opened the trailer vent doors. Most south Florida produce trailers in the ’60s had two vent doors front and back, a door on the right front that led to an ice bunker, and 102-inch inside height so that we could stack bean hampers five high.
“Most Pompano teens who chose trucking careers drove for owner-operators and small fleets whose main hauls were northbound produce. Under ICC regulations, drivers younger than 21 were required to haul exempt products on the return trip. The guys at Chicago’s South Water Market ribbed us, naming us ‘baby truckers.’
“In 1975, 2,000 cartons of cucumbers shifted in a load my brother Kevin and me were pulling. Kevin talked to a flatbed hauler at the Perlis Truck Stop in Georgia, and he let us unload about 500 boxes so we could reload the cargo. After we stabilized the load, the trucker backed up his flatbed next to our back door so that we could load the rest of the cucumbers on our trailer.
“‘You owe me nothing,’ the trucker told us when we offered to pay him. ‘Just help the next guy who needs it.’”
JOHN STEWART: Al’s truck stop one of the wildest
“I could write about a hundred truck stops, but Al’s in Ripon, Calif., is one of the wildest I remember in all my 48 years as a driver. One night in 1964, I had pulled into Al’s parking lot and was walking from the 1956 Autocar diesel I drove to the restaurant when the swinging door flew open. Al had two drunk guys by the neck and was encouraging their departure.
“He threw them down the steps and into the parking lot and almost hit me. Al was a big man and didn’t let anybody mess with him. I guess he knew he scared me because he said, ‘Come in and sit with me.’ He poured coffee into a cup for me and said, ‘It’s on me.’
“The owner of the 99 Oaks, at the bottom of the Grapevine’s Five-Mile Grade, was also helpful. He fixed a flat for me once. I asked him what I owed him and he replied, ‘Oh, 10 bucks.’ I handed him the cash and climbed in the truck. But by the time I got the door shut, there was Howard, standing on my running board with the $10 bill and stuffing it in my shirt pocket.