There are always people in our lives that leave an impression. One of those people for me was a man named Jim Walund from Redding, California. Strangely enough, however, I never even met him in person. In the mid 90s I was in Redding picking up a new Peterbilt for my dad, and dad told me to stop by Jim Walund’s shop and try to land the best trucking job I’d ever have. The folks at F.B. Hart Peterbilt told me how to get there, so I headed out. A little while later, there I was, rolling through the truck lot at Jim’s shop, and there he was, Jim Walund, far older than my grandfather, out there hand-washing his black 379. He looked over at me, nodded his head and smiled. My biggest regret was getting cold feet, waving back at him, and just driving off. Wow, even then I didn’t know the half of the Walund story.
Jim Walund’s roots in trucking go back to his father, Curt Walund, a log truck driver from the coast of northern California, who began his trucking career in the 1930s driving log trucks around the northern California coast for Fehely Truck Co. Herb Fehely ran mainly Whites and high-mount Petes, in those days. Naturally, Jim developed his passion for trucking through his dad, and learned a lot from him while growing up in his footsteps. Graduating high school at age 17 in 1949, Jim was ready to go trucking. He went down and got his Chauffeur’s License on his 18th birthday and then went right on down to Herb Fehely’s shop and asked Herb’s truck boss for a job. Now, by this time, Jim’s dad Curt was Herb’s truck boss! Curt told his son Jim to get out there and don’t screw anything up!
Jim truly enjoyed driving log trucks, but always had a yearning to “stretch his legs” and see some land he’d never seen before. Later, in the winter of 1950, Jim’s dream finally came true when the logging business slowed and Herb gave Jim a chance to drive his Peterbilt flatbed truck and trailer hauling lumber – and Jim jumped on it! Shortly after that, they sent Jim down to a mill in Miranda, California, and while there, waiting to get loaded, Jim got to looking around on the shipper’s desk and found a
load going to Indio, CA. Jim begged the shipper for the load, even though he didn’t know where Indio was (he thought it sounded far away). When he called his dad (the truck boss), he told him that his load wasn’t ready but he would take this one to Indio. Needless to say, Curt was not happy with his boy, but Herb said, “Let the boy truck!”
Jim stayed on with Herb driving that truck and trailer until 1954, then decided to try pulling dry van doubles, driving Kenworths for Callison Freight Lines out of Eureka, CA. Jim mostly ran from northern California into the San Francisco bay area, delivering everything from mail to produce, back and forth, which kept him happy and satisfied until about 1960 when Jim’s legs needed to be stretched again. In 1960, Jim moved from Eureka to Los Angeles to take a trucking job for an outfit called Watkins Brothers. Watkins kept Jim plenty busy hauling freight from L.A. to Chicago, and anywhere else they had to go. A few years later, Jim moved back to Eureka and began driving a log truck for a guy named Chub Neunemaker, until a man named Red Emerson, from a timber company called Sierra Pacific, offered Jim a job driving one of their new 1963 Autocar log trucks. Jim took that job and, like always, took great pride in his work.
One day, Sierra Pacific’s truck boss asked Jim, “Why are you taking so much longer to do these trips from the logging sites to the mill?” Jim replied, “I’m still doing just as many trips as the other guys, but I’m not destroying my truck to do it.” The truck boss told Jim to speed it up a bit, so Jim did as he was told. Over the next few weeks, Jim did a pretty good job of making all the other drivers look bad, as he ran circles around them. Realizing the error of his ways, the truck boss put Jim on another haul with more experienced, professional log truckers.
That winter Sierra Pacific bought a brand new Peterbilt flatbed truck and trailer and asked Jim if he would like to drive the first of their many flatbed rigs – and, of course, Jim said yes. Jim ran that beautiful daycab Pete all over the place, hauling lumber to places like Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, British Columbia, and even Michigan (Jim was never a stranger to sleeping over the steering wheel and kickin’ his legs up on the jump seat). Jim’s fun-filled years driving for Sierra Pacific got even better in 1970 when his son “Jimmy” (James Jr.) was born. From day one, these two were inseparable. Like father like son, throughout the 1970s, Jimmy stayed at Jim’s hip from sun up to sun down, learning the Walund way, just like his dad had done with his dad.
In 1979, Jim moved his family to Redding, CA and began a whole new chapter of their lives when the first truck with Jim Walund’s name on the door arrived. This cool new black rig was a 1979 Freightliner tin hood, spec’d with all the goodies, along with a matching flatbed to pull behind. A few years later, Jim bought a second Freightliner just as nice as the first, and then in November of 1984, he bought the first of what would be many “top notch” Peterbilts – an all-black 1984 359 long hood with a 36-inch bunk. What a way to start! Several other sweetheart Peterbilts followed this one. As the 1980s went on, the size of Jim’s fleet continued to grow.
Jim was always a noble man to the hard-working owner operators, and believed that anybody that had the work ethic and drive it takes to own a truck should own their own truck. This explains why Jim usually only ran a handful of his own trucks, but always had over 30 owner operators hired-on. Many of these owner operators hauled for Jim throughout all of the company’s years. It was pretty common for Jim to sell one of his trucks to a motivated and professional company driver that he had faith in.
For Jim Walund Trucking, the 1980s and 1990s saw a lot of growth and hard work. They hauled a lot of lumber products out of Ft. Bragg and elsewhere for great customers like GP and Southwest Forest Products. The Walund’s retained these accounts with loyalty for many years, mainly because of who Jim Walund was – a modest professional with the work ethic of five men. And, as luck would have it, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
In 1988 Jim’s son Jimmy turned 18 years old and, by then, he already had logged many miles in their trucks. But, before hitting the road, Jimmy wanted to first serve his country, so he joined the Marines, spending almost four years overseas, before coming home and getting back to his trucking roots. Jim was proud of Jimmy, but he missed him while he was gone. But, if you ask Jimmy, he’ll tell you that while he was surely excited to jump back in a truck, he was more excited to be back together with his best friend. Jimmy will always remember that day when he came home from the Marines – he left the base at 4 a.m. and by 4 p.m. he was on a load bound for El Centro, CA. The first thing Jim said to his son after returning home from the service was, “Well, you’ve been goofing off for four years, now it’s time to get to work!”
Jim Walund Trucking continued on from 1979 through 2006 when Jim decided to retire. Today, the Walund legacy can still be seen up and down the big road in fine form, as Jimmy is still hard at it, making his dad proud in his brand new 2014 Peterbilt 389 long hood, painted all black, of course, with a red interior, just as his dad would want it. We lost Jim two years ago, and many of us will always miss him, but none as much as his best friend, Jimmy.
Jimmy often reminds people that the best thing to ever happen to him was his wife, Melissa. He says, “It takes a strong, understanding, loving woman to be a trucker’s wife, and I have all of this and more with her.” Thank you Jimmy and Melissa Walund for sharing with us your 80 years of history, hard work and modesty – it’s the Walund way, and we know that you or your dad wouldn’t have it any other way.