A produce hauler’s legacy: ‘Best job I ever hated’

February 10, 2011  | by: By Brian Kimball as told to Lucinda Coulter

My father, Ed Kimball, passed on a legacy of hauling produce to his five sons and grandsons before he died in 2009. He started hauling bananas as an owner-operator from the Port of Tampa in the late 1950s to owning, eventually, Ed Kimball & Sons Trucking with his five sons.

Ask any produce hauler and he’ll tell you it’s hard work but its habit forming. At 60, I now run a brokerage business out of Homestead, Fla. But hauling produce is the best job I ever hated. My family often joked that truckers are like farmers: They’ll all spend their last dime to stay in the game. 

When I was a youngster, we lived in St. Petersburg, where the photo to the right was taken of my father holding my brother Kevin, then a toddler, atop his L J Mack. He leased the L J Mack and a  stainless Fruehauf to carriers such as Belford, Watkins and Alterman to haul bananas from Tampa and fruit from central Florida to northern markets. On the return trip, he hauled refrigerated products. In 1960, he traded his Mack for a new Autocar, shown below, at Hunt Truck sales in Tampa and leased it to W.M. Tyanan, based in New York, N.Y. 

Then trouble hit. Tyanan ran up against Interstate Commerce Commission rules and had to release all of its owner-operators. With a large truck payment, my dad thought he’d have to sell Autocar back to the Tampa dealership. But the dealer, Mr. Hunt, knew people in the business. He called Greenstein Trucking Co., in Pompano Beach, a company my brother has always described as the jewel of the trucking industry. Mr. Hunt told its female owner Shendal Greenstein that he knew a young man with a new truck who needed a job.

Once a trucker landed a job with the respected carrier, he was in the “elite,” as my older brother used to say. For Shendal Greenstein, who died 15 years ago and never married, the truckers were her kids. 

Trucking began to take root in our family. My dad leased to Greenstein, we moved to Pompano Beach in 1965 and, like a lot of kids growing up there, my brother Glen and I stacked trucks at the Pompano Beach Farmers Market, at that time the world’s largest winter vegetable market, and also worked at the Esso Fleet Truck Stop.  

Before we had pallets and pre-coolers, we air-stacked because produce fresh from the farm held field heat. Air stacking by hand is how it was done in the mid ’60s so the unit could lower the temperature. If the field heat was too high, drivers opened the vent doors on the trailers so the heat could blow out as the tractor traveled its route. South Florida produce trucks were easy to identify in the ’60s. Most trailers had two vent doors front and back, an ice bunker door on the right front that led to an ice bunker, and 102-inch inside height so that we could stack bean hampers five high. 

Pompano’s produce business supported a lot of careers for young men out of high school. For those of us who chose trucking, most of us drove for owner-operators and small fleets whose main hauls were north-bound produce. Under ICC regulations then, those of us who were younger than 21 were required to haul exempt products on the return trip. 

The guys at Chicago’s South Water Market called us younger drivers the “baby truckers,” in good fun. 

Those were times when competitors leased to Greenstein, Locke, Jerue, DeWitt and others helped one another on roadside breakdowns. In 1971, shortly after I went to work with my dad at Greenstein, I had pulled off the road in a wide spot on Indiana’s Route 41 to rest. I still remember that Larry Locke, of Locke Trucking in Florida, stopped just to make sure I was OK. 

Four years later, 2,000 cartons of cucumbers shifted in a load my brother Kevin and me were pulling. Kevin talked to a flatbed hauler at the Perlis Truck Stop in Georgia where we were, and he let us unload about 500 boxes so we could reload the cargo. After we stabilized the load, the trucker backed up his flatbed next to our back door so that we could load the rest of the cucumbers on our trailer.

“You owe me nothing,” the trucker told us when we offered to pay him. “Just help the next guy who needs it.” 

Eventually my father started his own company, Ed Kimball & Sons, with all five of his children. Even after we all left Greenstein, we kept a great working relationship with the carrier. I’m glad that I loaded bananas in the Kenworth truck shown here at the Port of Tampa, just as my father did in the 1950s and ’60s.

Although both my father and my brother John have died, the rest of us are still trucking. Brothers Glen and Danny Kimball, and Jay Whitford, my son-in-law, are owner-operators with R & J Transport, based in Wisconsin. My brother Kevin Kimball, who drove the Kenworth shown below in the 1970s, owns a small fleet in Minnesota that hauls produce to northern markets.  

My nephew, Johnathan Kimball, John’s son, is an owner-operator in Waterford, Wis. My son Ryan Kimball has his uncle John’s truck and hauls produce from Homestead. My daughter Jenny’s husband, Jay Whitford, is also an owner-operator. Glen’s daughter Melissa is married to owner-operator, Doug Holden. John’s other sons Jason Kimball and Nick Kimball, drive a truck and work at a Wisconsin Kenworth dealer, respectively. 

The ’60s and ’70s were my glory years. Now, it’s the third generation’s time to shine.

Brian Kimball first contacted Overdrive at its OverdriveRetro facebook page, where posts regarding trucking history and the good old days are welcomed.

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3 Responses to “A produce hauler’s legacy: ‘Best job I ever hated’”

  1. Larry Farkas says:

    THANK YOU BRIAN! My first real road job was for Gilbert Ogden and his son Robbie out of Naranja Lakes, Fla. In 1973 he generously gave a 22-yr.-old from NY,with no OTR experience, a chance to haul tomatoes from Homestead,Florida City market, Imokalee, Ruskin, etc..to Phlly and Boston. Those are great memories I carry today. Drove a ’64 F-model Mack (with no heat, AC, radio, or cab-lift) and boy, was I jealous of those sharp lookin’ double-sleeper, chromed-out Greenstein trucks. We used to backhaul for Sydney Alterman. Can never forget…Routes 17/15 thru SC and GA, Ida Mae & Joes Truckstop, getting ice blown in at Three Scales in Garysburg, NC or “gassing” the maters at Williamson’s yard in Wilson….THANX

  2. Lucinda Coulter says:

    Tell us more about Ida Mae & Joe’s Truck Stop, Mr. Farkas. You are the second trucker who mentioned that truck stop. Look under Bob Ciaccia’s “Reaching through the steering wheel,” Readers Remember piece. He, like you, looked forward to meals there. Thanks for writing in. Lucinda Coulter

  3. Russell Andrasko says:

    Wow, the good old days. After I left Alterman in ’75,, I started to free lance and got hooked up with John Greene Truck Broker, Mims, FL. Good paying pepper loads out of Lantana to NY and Beantown. Then went on a regular run of mixed produce to White River Jct., VT. Two years later lost it to LG DeWitt who cut the rate. Then went to Gilbert Ogden in Naranja, FL to haul tomato to DiMare in Boston. Gilberts son Robbie kind of took over the tomato deal. They had 3 or 4 old B-61 Macks moving trailers at the packing sheds, never changed the oil for years and they still ran good. Talk about Ida Mae & Joes you talk ’bout eatin’ them good country ham biscuts while “Cowboy” fuel up your truck. Had big trees in the dusty parking lot where you could pull under to get out of the sun. Three Scales in Garysburg had one of the best ice blowers and high pressure water hose so it all could reach the nose of the trailer. Trip lease south half the time, hot freight the other half. 60,000 lbs watermelons thru the woods on 121A to get out of FL with no scales. Ag man sat in his car in case any trucks came out that way but no scales. Weekends were the best running for overweight. I could go on and on. Hats off to all the old timers, nobody ever worked harder and were willing to teach the new guys just starin’ out. Cabovers forever man, no AC, no power steering, no front brakes, no cruise, no stand up bunk, no air ride, no pallets, no CB (late 60′s early 70′s) but having FUN Happy Trails Russ

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