In an earlier installment, I shared how I made the decision to drive a school bus rather than get something larger than a car or pickup truck on my resume in order to start my career as a professional driver. During this time I also worked the night shift as a group leader at Weavers Chicken in New Holland, Pa.
How It All Began
I started working at Weaver's part-time while still attending high school. After graduating high school I went full-time and worked my way up to a group leader position. I learned a lot about efficiency and managing other people while in this position.
One fateful night, I came into work at Weaver's and saw a job posting for a straight truck driver for the Weaver Foods division. After reading the posting, I went to my supervisor to discuss applying for the driving position with Weaver Foods. My supervisor told me he would like me to stay in my current position working for him, but he would recommend me for the job if I wanted it.
I decided to apply for the driving position and landed the job. Weaver Foods was an interesting place to work. Our responsibilities were to operate two company stores and supply the “market people” as they were known by everyone.
The Market People were how Weavers Chicken started out as a company. These people took fresh chicken daily to the Philadelphia, PA area markets. Weavers had grown in the prepared chicken area in a very big way, but never forgot how they got to where they were and still supported the Market People who they had started with.
Weaver Foods had grown in the foodservice arena along with supplying other company stores, outlets and so much more. We also purchased overstock items from other food companies to sell in our stores and redistribute to other outlets. All of this growth was due to the fact we had a real go-getter of an outside salesperson who kept growing the business in every direction it could possibly go.
My First Delivery
I still remember it vividly...
Weaver Foods only had two straight trucks at the time. One was a GMC Top Kick at 33,000 GVW and the other was an old worn out 1975 Dodge D-500. I got assigned the old Dodge to start with as there was a driver already driving the larger GMC.
My first task was to take whatever the larger truck could not deliver. My first delivery ended up being two blocks up the road to a family restaurant named Peoples.
It was a cool morning when the boss told me to go get the truck and make this first delivery. I went over to the lot to bring the old Dodge D-500 over to the docks. For some reason, I still remember this truck well. The truck number was 403 and it was powered by a little 318CID engine backed up by a creeper gear four-speed transmission. It sported a little 4.5 skid reefer box and had a temperamental gasoline-powered refrigeration unit.
I got in the truck, pulled out the manual choke, started up the truck and drove over to the dock. The boss came outside to show me how to start the refrigeration unit. It turned out the refrigeration unit did not want to start after sitting so long.
While struggling to get the refrigeration unit started, we caught the attention of the USDA inspector who made sure we got the unit started and pre-cooled before we loaded the six wax boxes of iced fresh chicken into the box. After several hours, we finally got the unit running and the box cooled to the approval of the USDA inspector.
The lesson learned is to always have the unit on and cooling before backing into the dock and catching the attention of the USDA. There were many more lessons to be learned that would stay with me throughout my whole career which I will write about in my next installment.