October, 2012. Chattenooga, TN. Wreckers to the Rescue

Posted on October 13, 2012


We’re all taught at an early age to respect and honor fire, police and ambulance personnel. After all, they’re the ones we turn to when we’re the most vulnerable and in need of help, and we depend on them to be there for us.

Now, like everyone else, I’ve been hauled out of a ditch or two in my day, so why don’t we think of those who work in the towing and recovery business in the same way?

Perhaps it’s because every community has its “wrecker guy”, the one everyone’s depended on forever – just call him up and he shows up.

And the vehicle he shows up in? Outside they’re always banged up, greasy and dirty, and inside they’re always…banged up, greasy and dirty.

You never see a wrecker at a car show, you never – or at least seldom – see a wrecker in a parade. And wrecker guys don’t wear cool uniforms or haul around fancy equipment. In fact, they’re often banged up, greasy and dirty themselves.

So, we were quite surprised to see the International Towing and Recovery Museum and Hall of Fame listed as a sight to see on the map of Chattanooga provided by our campground.

We had to visit, and were glad we did, as it WAS a sight to see.

1/4 ton Japanese wrecker

The Hall of Fame honors the innovators who designed and built the very first tow trucks, and celebrates the men and women (yes) who, for nearly a century, have worked to keep our highways safe.

The Museum holds about 20 beautifully restored wreckers, ranging from a 1913 Locomobile automobile turned into a tow truck, to a huge military model used for vehicle recovery during World War II. While I’m not really a wrecker person, there is a certain beauty to the vintage equipment so carefully restored that even the chains are sparkling clean.

Chattanooga is the birthplace of the towing industry.  It all started in 1916 when Ernest Holmes helped a friend out of a ditch with 3 poles, a pulley and a chain hooked to the frame of his 1913 Cadillac.

Holmes immediately saw possibilities.  If the horseless carriage was going to take over the road, certainly a percentage of them were destined to eventually end up OFF the road. An idea was born, and he began designing and manufacturing towing equipment for sale to the fledgling automotive garages of the day. Holmes retired in 1973, and his company was eventually purchased by Miller Industries, who builds Holmes towing equipment to this day.

So….the next time your car is being jerked out of a ditch, just remember: the wrecker guy is part of a multi-million dollar industry with a proud history, and is every bit as deserving of a little honor and respect as the guys (and gals) who wear the fancy uniforms.

15 ton wrecker used during World War II