Snapshots from the Past

Like most young boys growing up in the 1950s, Stan Holtzman enjoyed riding his bicycle. But unlike most kids, the 12-year-old carried a Brownie 620 camera with him on his bike rides through the Southern California streets so he could snap pictures of the big diesel trucks that fascinated him. “When the other guys were out playing football, I was out taking pictures of diesels,” Holtzman says.

Holtzman did not know then that years later the hobby that made him different from all the other kids would turn into a lucrative career, and help him preserve a piece of America’s trucking history. The old pictures left over from Holtzman’s childhood pastime are now a part of his most recent book, Big Rigs: The Complete History of the American Semi Truck.

The book offers a pictorial history of the semi truck. Each picture includes a description and history of the semi featured. The chapters also provide a short written history of all the major makes of Class 8 diesel trucks, including Peterbilt, Mack, Freightliner, GMC, International, Kenworth, Volvo and more.

The book includes an introduction to the history of the semi as well as period ads and brochures that help illustrate the evolution of the working trucks.

Holtzman spent a year compiling the pictures and information he used to create the 160-page full-color book that he hopes will bring enjoyment to the truck enthusiasts who read it. “I write books for people’s enjoyment,” Holtzman says. “I write these books to make people happy. I don’t do it for the money. If I can put a smile on some old truck driver’s face, then that is my reward.”

Holtzman’s love of semi trucks has carried over into other jobs besides his book career, even when he worked as a traffic officer for the Los Angeles Police Department from 1973 to 1989. “When I used to work for the LAPD, I would get behind a truck and flash my lights and pull it over,” Holtzman says. “The driver would have out his license when I got to the car and ask me what he did wrong. I’d tell him ‘Nothing. I just wanted to look at your truck. It’s beautiful.’ Sometimes I’d tell them I was a photographer, and we would set up a time so I could do a photo shoot of his semi.”

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Holtzman’s interest is not limited to the truck itself; he also has a great appreciation for the people who drive the big rigs. “What I love so much about trucking is the independent, free-spirited people who make up the business,” Holtzman says. “They can’t be confined to an office; they do their own thing. This book is a way to remember the people who have paved the way for trucking today.”

Holtzman is also the author of three other trucking books: American Semi Trucks, Semi Truck Color History and Classic Semi Trucks. Copies of Big Rigs can be purchased in bookstores and gift shops, and online.

For more information about Big Rigs contact Voyageur Press at (800) 888-9653 or go to