Memory Lanes

Lucinda Coulter | September 01, 2011

“I guess he knew that was all the money I had. He said I could pay him on my next stop there, and that’s what I did. That’s just the way business was done years ago.”

BOB CIACCIA: Getting started in the ‘70s

“In 1972, I purchased my first truck at age 19,” says owner-operator Bob Ciaccia of Conshohocken, Pa. Ciaccia didn’t even need a chauffeur’s license in his home state to get started. “Most trucks I drove in the ’70s were B model Macks with a duplex or a triplex tranny, made so that we had to reach through the steering wheel to make a shift. That could get a little hairy when going around a curve.”

He paid 18 cents for a gallon of diesel during that era.

Owner-operator Bob Ciaccia, 21 in this 1974 photo, had paid $31,000 for his new Kenworth two years earlier.

“I try to get young drivers to relate to that by telling them I would put 100 gallons in my saddle tanks, put a $20 bill on the fuel desk and get $2 back,” Ciaccia says.

Running to Florida, the Pennsylvania native took U.S. Highway 202 to U.S. Highway 1 south into Maryland. From there, he took back roads to Interstate 95 at the Susquehanna River crossing.

Hand signals drivers used to warn other drivers about inspection checks or state troopers ahead were part of his routine. “We would make a sideways V sign with our fingers to warn of smoky taking pictures down the road,” he recalls. “We had a great bunch of drivers who knew each other more by their truck than by their face.”

His favorite mashed potatoes and gravy were at Ida Mae Joe’s Truck Stop in Midway, Ga., on U.S. Highway 17. The truck stop closed in 2009.

ELLEN HILL: ‘The Lady in White’ gets behind the wheel

As a driver of a family half-ton pickup with a four-horse trailer, Ellen Hill made a smooth transition to commercial trucking. Her lifetime profession as a registered nurse played a part in her trucking years.

For Ellen Hill of Valencia, Pa., a nursing job led to a career detour into trucking. Hill had this photo of the truck she drove, a 1986 International 9300 conventional, put on the face of a credit card.

“In the early 1990s, as a registered nurse, I traveled in the state to test nursing assistants for their state certification. I talked to several of the same drivers on their regular routes over the CB radio. I even taught them CPR while traveling west on Interstate 80. Because of my white uniform and car, they dubbed me The Lady in White. The drivers challenged me, suggesting that since I liked to travel I should get a CDL and come out to join them.

“I did just that. My first loads were with a partner, hauling diapers, copper and beer east to New York City and into the New England states.

“Not all, but most male truckers were respectful of us women. Once, parked at a truck stop east of New York City, I headed inside about 8 that evening, still daylight. As I neared the doors, I saw a tall, slender black trucker and I figured he was not from the North because his pants were tucked inside his boots. He picked up his pace, got to the doors as I did, opened them and held them for me to walk through. ‘I don’t often do this, but you’re one tough lady,’ he told me.

  • Nervous Wreck

    I drove for them for over 10 years. Knew everyone back then. We even kidnapped Shendals dog for a joke once. Grady was in charge of keeping everything clean. Played many a pool game in the drivers lounge. Was there when they had a wreck in Walton, NY when the brakes on a truck gave out. Remember the Hamburger brothers, Marty, Red, Gary Smith, etc? strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.