Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It was a ‘must stop’ place …

America’s Truck Wash and Chrome Shop is gone. I’m sure the economy was the culprit. It’s taken a lot of businesses in our industry down.

The place was located on that little stretch of I-70 in Triadelphia, WV, there at Dallas Pike, Exit 11. For a lot of us, it was a landmark and a “must stop” place. The chrome shop was the main attraction, but it also had a truck wash (one of best) and internal tank wash and a drivers’ lounge with showers all in the same building. They also had a truck stop just down the hill a block.

The chrome shop, although not the largest, was one of the best. It featured just about anything you needed, including a complete line of Rockwood Products. If they didn’t have what you wanted, they would get it. I understand that the mail-order business from the catalog was the major part of their business. If you needed a part chromed, if you needed vinyl graphics or a custom-made part, they could make it happen.

The guys and gals who did the truck shows were a given as customers. But there are plenty of drivers and owner operators who never enter a truck show yet still want to spiff up their trucks. Whether it’s all the chrome goodies and detail stuff or a simple row of chicken lights or horn covers. Its called pride in your ride.

Carol Watson was the general manager. Carol’s slogan was: “If it doesn’t shine, it isn’t mine.” I can’t say enough nice things about Carol. Every time we meet she drops whatever she is doing and gives my wife Geri and me both a big hug.

I know Carol and ATWCS gave a lot back to the industry in many ways through sponsorships and charities. A couple of times it was up close and personal for us.

Back around 1997 at an indoor show in St. Louis, the promoter wanted a few show trucks for display, not having space for a truck show beauty show. Six members of the National Association of Show Trucks (NAST) were invited. Ours was one of the trucks chosen. It was my kind of truck show, no competition. They put us up at a Holiday Inn across the street for three days and paid us. ATWCS had a booth there and one evening Carol limo-ed us all to a fancy steak house. That was a fun deal.

The most memorable and touching thing we ever did happened at ATWCS’s truck show in 1998, which included a Make-A-Wish event. Carol invited 16 (more if they all didn’t make group photo) children with terminal illness for the two days. She put them and their families up in the motel up the hill, had everybody together for a meal that evening. All the eats and treats were on the house during the show along with other entertainment stuff for the kids. The show ended with a parade that went down the hill on I-70 through downtown Wheeling and back.

Before the parade each child got to pick the truck they wanted to ride in. A young lady named Lois Black picked our truck. We had a little get-acquainted time with Lois and her mother before the parade. They told us about her illness, which was cystic fibrosis, and some of the things she was going through.

When we got going, Lois rode up front with me. Her mom and Geri sat on the bunk. It was special. Afterward, we spent a couple more hours with them visiting and having lunch at Taco Bell. There were lots of smiles and hugs when they had to leave. We like to think we helped a little with Carol’s effort to bring this special child a little cheer. About eight weeks later Mrs. Black sent me a letter that Lois had passed on and thanked us and appreciated us for helping her little girl have a special day.

It was special for us, too. I’ll never forget that sweet face.