One of the more distinctively different attractions Ruth and I saw in 4 weeks of fall travel was in Chattanooga, TN. It was one of those places that shouldn’t be interesting but was. It somewhat reminded me of the weird medical museum in Riga, Latvia, that became my most popular blog for years. The curiosity factor resulted in many hits for “Riga’s Take-Your-Medicine Museum”. Its unique subject was what led us to visit Chattanooga’s International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and discover a museum about a subject that shouldn’t be fascinating but is.
Oregonian Jerry Lee Bullock was born in Walla Walla, WA. Bullock because a founding member of the Towing and Recovery Association of America and this museum. It’s in Chattanooga because the towing industry’s first wrecker was built by the Ernest Holmes Company in this city slightly more than 100 years ago. Holmes realized that it made more sense to bring disabled vehicles to his repair shop than to fix them on a roadside. He used his invention, the tow truck, for the first time when a Model-T left the road and ended up in a creek bed. The wrecker he devised became known as the Holmes 680. It was patented in 1918. The wrecker went on to significant use in World War II and became invaluable when people moved to the suburbs and the Interstate highway system developed. The AAA began toll-free emergency service in 1981.
The International Towing and Recovery Museum, the only one of its kind in the world, exhibits several classic trucks, towing equipment, toys, etc. It opened in 1995 to preserve the history and heritage of the industry and educate the public about its undervalued importance. After visitors see several tow trucks, including the world’s largest mechanical wrecker, they stroll through a Hall of Fame that honors men and a smaller number of women who have spent 20 years or more running a towing business and serving their communities. The most recent honoree was Eric Hammond of Coventry Warwickshire England. I was more interested in this than Ruth, who headed for the gift shop.
Next, we went outside to confront a subject that the lady who sold us tickets accurately said people don’t think about. On the Wall of the Fallen were the names of 445 human beings, mostly men, who have lost their lives trying to help accident and break-down victims since 2006. Towering over the plaques containing their names is a dramatic sculpture. The ticket seller proudly told me that Tennessee now has a Move Over Law that requires motorists to change lanes when they see vehicles ahead clearly in trouble and off the road. She told me that she is hoping that other states pass their own move over laws soon.