(Click on photos to enlarge)
Sam Wilson was born in Park Rapids, Minnesota, United States of America on Aug 10 1917.
Sam's father worked at the local Lumber mill and some times he took Sam along with him on deliveries. It was on one of those trips that he decided he would give driving a shot. As Sam's father went to crank up the old Mack Sam would slide over behind the wheel and advance the spark. Just as he saw his fathers do before. Once the truck started to rumble he took off with his dad running behind.
Thank god for his father that a chain drives Mack with a full load of wood didnít get up to all that high of a speed. Either way, that must have been some sight to see a four year old behind the wheel of that big truck and a guy running to catch it.
After that short trip, Sam's trucking career was on hold for some time. At age 18 he, like many other young men at the time enlisted into the "Civilian Conservation Corps". Which was an effort to alleviate the economic hardships brought on by the Great Depression of the 1930s; President Franklin D. Roosevelt created jobs with a series of New Deal programs. One of the most popular and successful of these programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which combined work relief with the preservation of natural resources. Begun in 1933, it put young unemployed men and some women between the ages of 18 and 25 to work on reforestation, road, park construction, flood control, and beautification projects. Work included building firebreaks, lookouts in the national forests and bridges, campgrounds, trails, and museums in the national parks. The men lived in work camps run by the U.S. Army. There were over 1,500 camps in all and by the end; over 2.5 million men and 8,000 women were put to work. They earned $30.00 a month, $25.00 of which had to be sent home to their families. The camps were closed in 1942 when deemed unnecessary in the full-employment wartime economy of World War II. The CCC was one of the most successful and least controversial of all the New Deal programs.
During Samís time in the "CCCís" He worked on the dynamite crew, blasting rock for road ways and removing tree stumps. As he worked on the dynamite crew the opportunity came up for him to drive the dump trucks, and that was when the trucking bug must have bitten him. Upon leaving there he drove truck locally for other guys before buying a truck of his own. He hauled wood, gravel, coal and anything else he could find to haul since the times where very rough and work was very difficult to find.
Also during that time he and some fellow musician buddies put together a dance band that played in the local area. It was on one of those nights that he met a local blonde farm girl.
From reading those early love letters, Terry could tell it wasnít very long before his dad couldnít stand the long distance courtship any longer and the constant worrying that someone else might take her away; so he decided to ask for her hand in marriage.
Sam & Dot where married Oct of 1939, soon after that they started a family. Sam mentioned to his son Terry, one time that on a cold Minnesota morning, he could look up and see frost on the inside of the ceiling of the one room shack they lived in behind his parentís house. It also was during those cold Minnesota winters, that work pretty much came to a stand still until the spring thaw arrived. But with four little hungry mouths to feed, you couldnít wait for the season to change. Instead you had to find a way to keep working, and that is what they did. One way was to head out to the gravel pit and hand-load the truck with stone.
The problem facing them was that it was the middle of winter and everything was frozen solid. But Sam wasnít going to let Mother Nature stop him from putting food on the table. Since he worked on the dynamite crew while in the CCCís, he knew how to blast the gravel loose, making it possible to load the truck. He hand-loaded many loads on that old dump truck in sub-zero weather. Since in those days you didnít have the luxury of a big diesel loader to do it for you, the only way you had was a shovel and a lot of back labor. When the stone wasnít needed, he would haul coal or head out into the woods and cut and haul wood. What ever it took to keep trucking, Sam did. During the summer months they would leave the kids with Grandma and Dot would spend the day helping load the truck so they could squeeze in a couple extra loads.
In the left photo you may notice the tape on the window. Sam bought the truck after it fell through the ice and was recovered. The damage to the window was from hooking the chains up for the lifting. The truck was actually picking up a load of ice when it crashed through.
In the (Centre Photo) Sam on the (left) and his brother frank are putting a cable hoist dump bed on another one of his trucks.
Sam, looking for a better life for him and his family began to look for more opportunities else where. One of them came in a form of a letter from his sister in-law. She was Dot's older sister who had moved to Wisconsin from Minnesota with her husband some years before. She knowing that work was very hard to find in that little northern Minnesota town, mentioned to Dot in a letter that southern Wisconsin did in deed have work and lots of it. Sam realizing that it was by far a better future for his family packed a bag and took off for Wisconsin to find work. He made the 500 mile trip by hoping trains, thumbing and walking. Once there he saw for himself that the information was right. He worked for a short time and soon had enough money to go and get his family.
Once back in northern Minnesota, he and his father loaded up what little belongings they had onto the back of his flat bed truck, leaving the center of the truck bed open for the four older children to travel in. One who was just a baby at the time, rode up front with Sam & Dot. It took them three days to make the 500 mile trip, and what a trip that must have been for Sam. His whole family was depending on him and an old flat bed truck.
After making it to Wisconsin, they first stayed at Dot's sister and husband place. Then with the money Sam was making they where able to afford to rent a place of there own.
While working at one of those factory jobs, Sam severally burned his hands on a cord to a welder. The doctors at first said they needed to be amputated. Thankfully he came upon a doctor who, treated soldiers on the battlefield in WW2. He said that sometimes they would take soldiers who where burned and put grease on their burns to heal.
Sam said he would do anything to keep from losing his hands. So the doctors wrapped his hands in grease for about a year. Sure enough they where able to save his hands! The guys at the factory had passed the hat for Sam many times, because in those days workmanís compensation or disability insurance wasnít enough to support the family.
Once he was able to go back to work, the factory work had slowed down. So he did what he had experience in... driving. He first drove for "Jones Transfer" out of Hartford Wisconsin. Sam was only there for a short time before heíd had enough. According to Sam and many other drivers, that outfit wasnít a good one. Their trucks were always in poor shape and money was not always available on payday.
The above left and centre photos show Sam standing next to a Jones transfer truck & trailers just after moving the family to Hartford Wisconsin area. early 1940's
The far right photo is of Sam's kids standing next to his truck, just after he left Jones trucking for Morgan driveway. circa mid 50's Garwood "Woody" (right), "Miles" (upper right) , "Dixie" (center,) "Windy" , "Randy" (far left)
He then drove for the owner operator until he was able to buy a truck and lease on with them himself. Not too long after, Sam started to work part-time in the office to help with the dispatching and bookwork. When he first started, Morgan hauled approximately 60% of the homes from the factory with a fleet of 17 trailers, 6 owner operators and a transportation manager from Morganís home office in Elkhart, Indiana. On weekends, the manager would drive the six hour trip home and drive back to Port Washington to be at work on Monday morning.
Above, Sam is shown here next to a couple of his many trucks that he owned over the years. These photos were taken in the Port Washington area in the early 1950's. The far right photo shows Sam preparing to leave on a trip to deliver another pre-fab home. Not all of his equipment was 100% trouble free. The one truck was a pure lemon and cost so much in repairs it came close to bankrupting him. Perseverance and hard work brought him back to solvency.
The next group of photos shows what he had to go through to make sure that the house was delivered to the job site.
Trucking in the muck and mire of the 1930's and 50'sjust isn't the same as surfing the Interstates and expressways of this day and age.
Sam's pinup girl and mother to his children, Mrs. Wilson
Sam unloading on a building job site
However, this week and the rest from now on would be different. As Monday rolled around there was no sign of him. Tuesday came and went and so did the rest of the week. In the meantime, Sam was the only office guy, and he had a bunch of truck drivers looking to get paid. He went to the bank and took a personal note out to pay them. Then he called the home office and spoke with Mr. Morgan himself (who he had never met or even talked to before). After Sam was done explaining how the manager never came back and what he did to pay the drivers, Mr. Morgan erupted!!
"WHAT DO YOU #@%* MEAN NO MANAGER!!! You have been the %$@ manager for a week now!" Sam said, "I wish someone would have told me; especially since I just took a loan out to pay the drivers!" According to him, thatís when Mr. Morganís Irish temper really went off! Mr. Morgan finally calmed down and told Sam, "The other manager quit and youíre the new manager." Mr. Morgan also said he didnít care what he did with the contract with P-H; either close it or build it. What an opportunity to have handed to you, huh?