By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm
If you have been around awhile you have probably seen some of the old movies and maybe even remember the old TV shows that glamorized the life of a trucker; usually being a little mischievous. Shows like Movin’ On and BJ & the Bear were very popular and may have exaggerated the trucking lifestyle a bit. There was a CB craze going on back in the mid ’70s, so songs and shows that used the CB were very popular. There was a whole culture built around them. Ham radios had been wildly popular and their popularity segued into the more affordable, easily accessible, Citizens Band radio.
This was an era where truckers were regarded as the “white knights of the highway”. We were considered heroes to everyone; the people who would always stop to help if you were stranded on the road. Movies, TV shows and songs of the times reflected that.
Merle Haggard sang the theme song for ‘Movin On‘, the lyrics started out like this:
Big wheels rollin’, big wheels rollin’, movin’ on
Big wheels rollin’, gotta keep ’em goin’
Big wheels rollin’, movin’ on
The white line is a life line to a nation
And men like Will and Sonny make it move
Livin’ like a gypsy, always on the go
Doin’ what they best know how to do
The words talked about owner operator Sonny Pruitt and the challenges he faced. Those challenges really haven’t changed all that much. The one thing in those lyrics that has changed is that it doesn’t only take a special kind of man, but woman as well, to have a steady hand to pull that load behind. Although BJ McKay did have quite a few female drivers in their cast, neither of us was ever able to locate the ‘Cozy Comfort’ where they seemed to spend so much of their time! In every episode of both shows the stars had to deal with a bad guy, but you knew that somehow by the end of the day they would end up the winners.
Probably one of the most famous trucking movies of all time is Smokey and the Bandit. This classic starred Burt Reynolds (Bandit) along with Jerry Reed (Snowman), Sally Field (Frog) and Jackie Gleason (Sherriff Buford T. Justice) who was always in hot pursuit of those “sumbitches”! Jerry Reed played Cletus Snow driving that beautiful old A model Kenworth with his sidekick Fred the basset hound. Their mission was to bootleg a load of Coors beer from Texarkana, Arkansas, back to Atlanta, Georgia. (For those youngsters out there, Coors beer used to be unavailable east of the Mississippi River). If you’ve never seen this movie, sit down and just enjoy it for what it is; hilarious entertainment.
C.W. McCall sang “We’ve got us a Convoy!” in the movie Convoy. Kris Kristofferson drove the black 1973 Mack RS700L which had a 60” stand up sleeper and Ali McGraw was his love interest. The truck was provided by a Mack dealer in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was custom fitted with a bull bar and a high profile fifth wheel to accommodate the Fruehauf Tank Trailer. The theme song was a staple for many a long night “Big Ben, this here’s the Rubber Duck, we just ain’t a gonna pay no tolls, so we tore up them swindle sheets and said let them truckers roll 10-4″. These memories still make me break out in goose bumps!
The songs that were the soundtracks to these old movies really told a story and many of them had lines that summed up what trucking life was all about. White Line Fever was the soundtrack to the Jan Michael Vincent movie The Blue Mule. The “Blue Mule” was a 1973 Ford WT-9000.
White line fever, a sickness born
Down deep within my soul
White line fever, the years keep flyin’ by
Like the highline poles
The wrinkles in my forehead
Show the miles I’ve put behind me
They continue to remind how fast I’m growin’ old
Guess I’ll die with this fever in my soul
Most of these movies had a common thread and that involved a trucker getting into an altercation with law enforcement. If you haven’t seen these old movies maybe you should have yourself an old truck movie marathon! Get a big bucket of popcorn and sit down and immerse yourself in a time when drivers were the heroes of the highway. We highly recommend it! It really was quite a time.
Stay Safe Out There And Keep It Shiny!
Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.