Faces of the Road: 45 years a team, with two independents

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Longtime specialized independent team owner-ops Kay and Ken Wagner don’t exactly divulge the secrets to remaining married while running as a team for 45 years, yet their history speaks for itself.

‘These Army recruiters are just like dispatchers’

Nearly a half-century as a team: Kay and Ken Wagner.Nearly a half-century as a team: Kay and Ken Wagner.

Kay: “We met in the Army. I was issued to him to learn heavy haul. There were a bunch of guys, different ones, all they wanted to do was hit on you, go home with you. I was told that Ken was a gentleman. That’s how we met. [Soon] we were sharing a house — but not co-habitating. We had a company commander, he was real religious. He said, ‘You either have to get married or split up.’ We got married.”

Ken: “She weighed less than 100 pounds before she went in the service. She was on the U.S. track team. She was invited to try out for the Olympics, but she had already joined the Army. She could run three miles in fifteen minutes!”

Kay: “The Army had told me they had a track team I could join, but when I enlisted all that went by the wayside.

The Wagners’ workhorse.The Wagners’ workhorse.

Ken: “These Army recruiters are just like dispatchers.”

Kay: “We went to work for Sam Tanksley. Tanksley didn’t care what sex you were, but we weren’t there long.”

‘Moss doesn’t grow on a rolling stone’

Ken: “We wound up at Countrywide. Drove a dry box one trip, and then they bumped us up to a reefer. Ran Southern California to Mississauga, Ontario, down to Rochester, New York, to load Kodak back to Whitaker, California. We did that run four, five years.”

Kay: “Then Clyde Fuller sold out to a New York concern, and they lost Kodak. We got on with Circle C. It was owned by a Nebraska pig farmer, based in Wyoming, Mich. They had the first KW Ardvarks that came out. Their trucks were all muraled. We ran a lot of Van Kampen and Van Eerdren freight. Over half of Circle C’s trucks had women in them. We had a green truck, like a gecko. A lot of hardcore bikers worked there. We didn’t stay home too long, ’cause moss doesn’t grow on a rolling stone. We home-schooled our daughter in that truck. We had season passes to Disneyland, Six Flags. We went to every amusement park in the country.”

Ken: “A lot of people don’t know this but you can get a big truck into every amusement park in the country. We’ve gone to a ton of museums, every cave in Missouri. Now that they’ve invented Uber, we book an Uber and go places. In Amarillo, we go to the Big Tex [steakhouse]. They’ll send a limousine right to the truckstop for you. When we were in Phoenix, we used to go to Bobby McGee’s. That was a really neat place.”

Kay: “[Our daughter] has a CDL, but she’s a real estate agent now. Must be doing pretty good. She just brought home a check for $11K.

“The IRS shut down Circle C. We wound up at Knight. When we bought our first truck, they wouldn’t let us lease it on, so we wound up at Landstar. When mom got sick, we took off for four years to take care of her. We ran local then. Best job we ever had, running pipeline from here to that port-a-potty over there. Landstar wouldn’t let us come back, because we didn’t have recent over-the-road experience.  We were with them ten years. Now we’re completely independent.”

Read all installments in the “Faces of the Road” series of oral histories/profiles.

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