It was in the late 1920’s when A.W. Hays began his trucking career in Corning, California. It was a career that would span some fifty years. Having good business skills and combining those skills with lots of hard work, Mr. Hays built a very successful trucking company hauling agriculture commodities. In the mid-1970’s Mr. Hays sold his trucking company and more or less retired. But, like so many people that have worked hard for most of their lives, retirement only meant that they were going to find something else to do.
At the age of 76, Mr. (Pop) Hays decided he still had a love for trucks, so he bought an old truck and fixed it up. Well, Pop’s love for old trucks and the history they carried drove him to gather more and more antique trucks. Over the next 15 years or so, Pop restored and/or acquired quite a few more old trucks. Eventually, his collection grew to a point where he felt the need to share his vast accumulation of trucking history with others. He also realized that he needed to protect the truck collection as a whole. With all of this in mind, he created the nonprofit Hays Antique Truck Museum in Woodland, California. Mr. Hays would continue working, keeping and protecting our trucking history until his death at age 92. Thankfully, for us, Mr. A.W. Hays was a man that looked into the future and realized the importance of saving some of trucking’s past.
Sadly, in recent years, all across America, the interest in saving our history seems to be on the decline. More and more young people seem to have little or no interest in our country’s past. Many museums have faded away into what they have strived to preserve – history! A lack of funding and low attendance has caused much of the demise. Our trucking history has also been affected by this downturn in the preservation of the past.
The Hays Antique Truck Museum, which was one of the largest truck museums in the country, had been headed down a steep grade for nearly four years. The brakes were getting hot and the road ahead was rough, and the museum looked to be heading down a dead-end highway. The museum’s load was heavy and the descent steep, but, fortunately, a veteran trucker was in the driver’s seat – one that wasn’t about to jump and let this valuable load be scattered all over the countryside. Behind the wheel of the doomed museum was Board President Jim Dobbas. Jim could have jumped ship, but he chose to ride it out with the hopes of finding a runaway truck ramp.
Time was running out and the road was getting narrow. Maybe he could save the load by using a ramp leading to the Pacific Northwest. Brooks, Oregon is the home of the well-established Pacific Northwest Truck Museum that hosts an annual truck show that just celebrated twenty-one years. At first it seemed that the Brooks ramp was a natural, but for some reason, the turn signal didn’t work and Jim had to pass it by.
Now, the load was really picking up speed, and the bottom of the grade was coming up fast. Not many choices left, but Jim didn’t want this load spread all over. Then, there it was – another ramp. Jim could see at the end of the ramp was a bunch of old cars. As he grew closer to what would most-likely be his last chance to save the treasured load, there was a sign that said TRUCKERS WELCOME. At first, the ramp was a little hard-packed, but as he traveled farther, the gravel got a little deeper and his speed began to decrease, before eventually bringing the runaway load to a stop. At the end of the ramp was the National Automobile Museum, known to some as the Harrah’s Collection, located in Reno, Nevada.
There are currently over 200 cars and trucks in the National Automobile Museum. At one time, these vehicles were part of one of the largest collections in the world owned by Nevada’s gaming icon William Harrah, which contained close to 1,500 vehicles. After Harrah’s death in 1997, most of the cars were sold at auction. As of now, the Hays Truck Collection has been saved from auction. The National Automobile Museum provided a runaway ramp and the Hays Antique Truck Museum took it.
Now came the job of figuring out how to get all the trucks from Woodland, California to Reno, Nevada. It would take lots of money, money that neither one of the museums had available. What do you do when you’re stuck on a ramp with gravel up to your axles and no money for a tow truck? You could put out a call to other truckers and see if they will help you out – and that’s exactly what Mr. Dobbas did.
Jim’s call for help was answered by a number of longtime truckers. The rescue party consisted of several highly respected two-stick truckers who donated both their time and equipment to make the move happen. These are dedicated people with a love of trucking and fuel lines going back for decades. Folks like Ed Rocha (Rocha Transportation of Oakdale, CA) with nearly 90 years of family history; Ken Talley (Talley Oil of Madera, CA) with over 65 years of trucking history; Terry Klenske (Dalton Trucking of Fontana, CA) with 50+ years; Al Nunes (A.C. Trucking of Manteca, CA) with well over 30 years under his belt; and Dan Thomas (F.D. Thomas Painting of Medford, OR) who is a lover and collector of old trucks. For sure, we can’t forget the lead man, Mr. Jim Dobbas (New Castle, CA) with 65 years of experience behind the wheel, as well. Although not all of the above men were personally behind the wheel of their trucks moving the antiques, it was their companies that made it all possible.
By early fall of 2013, these veteran truckers had all of the antique trucks tucked safely away in Reno, and saved a treasure-trove of trucking history. Over 90 vintage rigs made the 150-mile trip from Woodland, CA to Reno, NV over the infamous Donner Pass. The Donner Pass route itself holds a place in trucking history, as it ended many driving careers, but that’s another story for another day. Once the trucks arrived in Reno, they were placed in storage where they await the completion of a new addition to the present automobile museum.
Plans have already been drawn for the construction of a new building to be built on property owned by the National Automobile Museum. The new building will be adjacent to their site alongside the Truckee River in downtown Reno. In time, the Hays Truck Collection will become the property of the National Automobile Museum. The hopes are to have the project completed by the spring of 2016. Until then, the trucks remain in storage. The truck warehouse still has a small amount of storage area and will gladly take tax-deductible donations of trucks suitable for future display and/or tax-deductible monetary contributions, which will help with building and storage costs. To learn more about the National Automobile Museum or to donate to the cause, visit www.automuseum.org or call them at (775) 333-9300.
In the fast-paced trucking world of today, computers affect every aspect of our industry, from dispatch to engines. The cell phone now allows drivers to call customers and dispatchers (and home), and gives them access to help from just about anywhere. With power steering, air-ride, air conditioning, plenty of powerunder the hood and polished aluminum wheels sporting super singles, the road is not so rough today. We have come a long way from rolling on solid rubber tires mounted on wheels with wooden spokes, but we should never forget what it was like for those true trucking pioneers that went before us. Let us always remember, their past leads to our future.