In The Beginning Part 3

Posted By Frank Milne: Retired Driver, Lease operator and company owner On 2022-05-12 17:18:27

In The Beginning   Part 3
As I said in part 2, I told Jerry Brock, my first trucking boss, that I had an offer to drive a highway truck, and he said to go for it as it would be a good experience for me. So I drove my big red Hayes from Fort St. John to Port Alberni, shook hands with Jerry, and said thank you for everything you have done for me. We parted as friends, not as boss and employee. So I jumped in my Volkswagen and drove to Edmonton to start my new adventure.
I had met my two new bosses at the job in Fort St. John, so we were not total strangers. They had two trucks, a 1958 International 184 and a 1958 International V Liner. They were driving the 184 hauling lumber, and I was given the keys to the bigger V Liner. It was a single axle with Dayton wheels, a small gas engine, one transmission with a 2-speed axle, no power steering and a bench seat. I had really downsized from my Hayes, but I would be a highway driver!!
I had never driven a semi in my life, but being a farm boy, I knew how to back them up (a farm tractor and a one axle trailer). Other than that, I was green.
My first haul was to Toronto, and my second one to Whitehorse up the Alaska Highway. From then on, my regular runs were two trips to Toronto a month and 1 to Whitehorse. This all started in November, so it was cold weather and winter driving. I soon learned on my first trip that other drivers did not try to educate me as we were all strangers; they assumed I would know what I was doing. I learned that the most important things about highway driving were road conditions, road knowledge, weather and traffic. Going up the Alaska Highway, traffic was not a problem, but the other three were.
For the Toronto trips, I was loaded both ways, but the Whitehorse trip was home empty, and that was the one I hated. That road was very different in the winter when empty.
In the beginning, I set a goal for myself, drive 6 hours and sleep 2 hours, drive 6 hours and sleep 2 hours until I got to my destination – get unloaded and loaded and repeat until I got home. Yes, I spent some time fueling and eating etc. My sleeping accommodations were the bench seat and a heavy jacket. Whenever I was on the road, I never slept in a bed, just my bench seat, "sleeper" unit. Would I do it again? You bet I would!
Then they got another V Liner and they wanted me to have it, but I refused because it had bucket seats, and I would have lost my "sleeper" unit. Besides, I had customized my truck – I had painted my front bumper with red and white stripes, hung two mud flaps from the front bumper in front of the front wheels and put two red reflectors on the bottom outside corners of my rear mud flaps. I now drove a custom red truck. Don't you guys laugh – I know what you do to trucks today. But I was proud of my V Liner.
In December, I loaned them $2500 to help get the new V Liner (my 1958 Volkswagen car cost $1800). Then disaster struck. I hadn't cashed my mid-March cheque yet, and when I went to cash it along with my month-end cheque, they both bounced. The company said they would pay me, but I had to give them some time. Well, I quit, and that was 63 years ago - I'm still waiting! Lesson learned! However, I came out of it with some highway driving experience – you have to look at the positive side.
On the way home, I stopped in Revelstoke to say "hello" to the people who owned the motel I had stayed in the past summer. They said, "Guess what? Jerry is here with your truck working on a small project." So I waited for Jerry, and I told him what had happened since I had left him. Then he got this grin on his face – end result, he drove my car to Port Alberni, and I was driving "my" truck again.
That job was over in about three weeks, after which I went back to Port Alberni and barged the Hayes into an iron ore mine. There were no roads into the mine, so you had to fly in by floatplane. I stayed in that camp for six months until Christmas 1959. I worked six days a week and came out with a couple of dollars in my back pocket.
And that's how I learned to drive a truck.
I've had other jobs for the rest of my working life but always seemed to come back to driving. So for the last 13 years of my working life, I had my own little trucking company and then sold it and retired.
P.S.
They say you should never burn your bridges as you may have to cross them again. But I say burn your bridges and then build a bigger and better one next time.


In The Beginning Part 1 (continued)

Editor’s note: Well, I have to say that is a little awkward. When Frank sent me his article for our Sept/Oct issue last year titled “In the Beginning Part 1” I did not see the second page. It ended so well at the end of the first page that I did not know the rest was missing until he called and asked what had happened. The beginning of his story talks about how he went on a run with his friend Dutchie, who surprised him by letting him drive his truck for about 5 hours on the trip. It was a big red Hayes HD gravel truck with the biggest box in B.C. at the time. It was strictly an off-road unit. Frank went back again for another run hoping to get another chance to drive, and to his surprise, with very little training other than how to set the brakes and check the oil, the boss, Jerry, gave him the keys to a brand new red Hayes HD, the twin to the one Dutchie drove and told him to go to work. This is the rest of Part 1 of Frank’s story.

I got into the line–up to get loaded, then I went to the guy behind me and told him I was new on the job and asked if I could follow him to the road site where they were dumping, and that’s what I did. All day I just copied what the guy ahead of me did.
I drove for 10 hours that day, and not once did Jerry come over and ask me how it was going or if I had any problems. Finally, on the way home to Port Alberni, he asked me what I thought about the truck. All I could say was it was a nice truck. What else could I say? I wasn’t a real truck driver yet.
When I was driving back home to Campbell River that night, I started to come back down to earth again, and it dawned on me that Dutchie must have said some good things about me to Jerry because no one gives a guy with 5 hours of experience a brand new truck to drive by himself.
After I got to know Jerry (I worked for him four times), I found that he was the kind of guy who would challenge you just to see what kind of metal you were made of and see if you would take the challenge. That is what he had done with me that day, and I guess I passed the test.
Now that I have told you about my schooling (15 hours total), my next article will be about me really driving on my own and getting paid for it. I was only 20 years old (1958) and thought I was a pretty good driver – did I have a lot to learn!
P.S.  Father to Son- “ You’ve got to get up early in the morning to get your work done – it’s the early bird that gets the worm,” Son replies- “I bet that worm wished he had slept in.”

In The Beginning – Part 2

If you read my article in Part 1, you will know I had only 15 hours of experience driving the biggest gravel truck in B.C.
About two weeks after I had completed my 15 hours, I got a phone call from Jerry Brock, the owner of the truck. The conversation was quite short – he said would I like to drive #6? And I said yes, and he said to come to Port Alberni as soon as I could. I had quit my job, which I had been fed up with about a week before, and two days later, I’m in Port Alberni.
He said you’re going to Revelstoke (about 500 miles away) to work on the Trans Canada Highway. So I asked when Dutchie and I were going up there. He said you’re going up by yourself and that Dutchie was to stay in Port Alberni. Then he proceeded to tell me and show me how to grease the truck – some things daily and some weekly. Finally, he showed me how to adjust the brakes, and that was it. Then he told me if I should run into any problems, the old truckers on the job would help me. So the next day I was on my way, all by myself!
About 15 hours later, I arrive in Revelstoke, and the next morning I’m on the job site. All the other drivers came over and admired my truck and me being only 20 years old and this big red truck. They asked if it was my Dad’s truck and I said no. Then they said you must be a good driver at your age to get a truck like that to drive. Then I said one of the best things I ever said. I told them that I was brand new and that my boss said that if I got into any trouble, you guys would help me out. Well, those truckers took me under their wing and helped me and guided me. I am so grateful to these first guys and for many after that.
After Revelstoke, Jerry sent me up to Fort St. John, where they were extending and widening the runways at the airport. They were double shifting it. Each shift was 9 hours, starting at 4:00 am until 10:00 pm. Jerry sent another driver up to help me out, but that didn’t work out, so I did not get very much sleep for a month and a half. After that job was finished, one of the other truck owners offered me a job on a highway haul from Edmonton to Toronto. I talked to Jerry about it, and he said to go for it as he would drive #6 in the winter in Port Alberni. That was a good thing about Jerry. He would not hold you back and told me that it would be a good experience and to keep in touch with him.
P.S. My father used to say, “you don’t have to be the best – you just have to do it better than the other guy.
My next article will be about my schooling on the highway.

In the Beginning (Part One)

If you read my last article about learning how to drive, you will relate to how I started. You may think that some of what you are about to read is a little far-fetched. I’m here to tell you that it is all true. I’m always a little reluctant to use names, but in this case, I will, as I am proud of these two people and grateful for their confidence in me and their help.
In the early Spring of 1958, I lived in Campbell River on Vancouver Island. The people I boarded with also owned an Auto Court. One day a guy came in with a big gravel truck and rented a cabin – he was to be there for about three weeks, so I got to know him. His name was Martin Lagemaat (Dutchie), and he drove for J.S. Brock Trucking Ltd. out of Alberni (now Port Alberni). I remarked that the truck was pretty big, and he replied that it was the biggest gravel truck in B.C. It was an H.D. Hayes and had a 14 ¼ yard box, and it weighed 34,000 lbs. empty. It could only haul about 4 yards to be legal on the highway, so it was an off-road truck. Martin said his boss had only one truck before, but he had ordered two Hayes trucks – the other one was to be delivered shortly, and his boss, Jerry Brock, would drive it. The truck numbers were #5 and #6, as those were his call-out seniority positions with MacMillan & Bloedel. When they needed trucks to build logging roads, many people thought he had four trucks – not so.
I was on shiftwork, and some of my days were free, so I asked Dutchie if I could go with him, and he said sure. I was 20, and Dutchie was about three years older than me. The passenger seat was just a metal toolbox with an upholstered lid. The first thing I noticed was the truck had two gear shift levers, and there were two plaques on the dashboard showing the position of each gear. One had five gears and reverse, and the other had four gears. Naturally, I thought I would know, by watching, which gear he was in – but forget it, this guy was slick at shifting both at the same time. After two days with him, he knew I was taking a real interest in the truck, so he asked me if I wanted to have a go at it. The first thing he showed me was how to shift the gears the proper way – one at a time, not the show-off way!!
There I was behind the steering wheel of the biggest gravel truck in B.C. I still remember that first load. I stopped at the top of a small hill, turned around, and backed down about 100 yards. I got to the bottom and then had to do a 90-degree turn to cross a one-lane bridge. Actually, it was a 4-foot steel culvert covered with gravel and about 15 feet wide in total. With some instructions from Dutchie, I made it to the other side and dumped the load. I drove for about an hour that day. Then a couple of days later, another hour. Total driving time was about 5 hours when the project ended, and Dutchie returned to Port Alberni.
A little later that Spring, I had time off, and I went to Port Alberni on the pretense of visiting Dutchie, but in reality, I wanted to drive that big red truck again. So I had phoned ahead, and everything was good to go. His boss Jerry had picked up the second Hayes, and both were working building logging roads for MacMillan & Bloedel.
I was introduced to Jerry when he came to pick us up in the morning. One of the first things that came to mind was I thought he was quite young (about 30) to be owning these two big trucks. We drove about 15 miles to where the trucks were parked. However, they were working at two different locations. Being at the first location, Jerry got out of the pick-up and said for me to come with him. I said I would rather go with Dutchie. That way, I could drive the big red truck. He replied that if I had time in the afternoon, I could go and visit Dutchie. Well, we got to the truck, and he asked me if I knew which side of the hood to lift to check the oil, and I said, “yes,” as I had seen Dutchie do it. Well, you’d better do it and check the water, then you can get in and start it – which I did. Then he looked up at me and said, “Don’t move it until the engine oil temperature needle starts to move – if you get into any trouble, I’ll be making coffee for the loader operator,” and then he walked away.  Still to this day, I can close my eyes and see that long red hood in front of me and the radiator cap away out there.


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