Tucson Truck Terminal a Blast From the Past
Truckstops didn’t used to be cookie cutter lookalikes, pretty much the same everywhere you go. Each one had a name and a personality and was known for something special as its claim to fame. The Nashville TA even had live country music for their drivers! Names like the Green Shingle, the Shenandoah, The Giant, Little America, Gasper’s Skelly and the Tucson Truck Terminal dotted the highways from coast to coast.
Each truckstop was unique and memorable. Some were known for their food, some for their pinball machines, or their building (The Shenandoah, for instance, was round and the parking lot was in a circle around the building). The Trucker’s Mall in Richmond, Indiana, was literally like a mall just for truckers with a store for almost everything a trucker could ever want or need.
Back in the good old days of trucking there were no such things as roller dogs. You could eat a home cooked meal at tables set aside for professional drivers only. Not only that, but while you ate you could get a tire fixed at almost every truckstop!
Back in the day every self respecting truckstop had black t-shirts in every size with their name and the name of the city and state where they were located on the back. Harley Davidson dealers still do this but their t-shirts are $40 a pop. If you liked a particular truckstop back in the day you bought their t-shirt at a reasonable price because you were proud you stopped there. Only a couple of truckstops still do this.
Good luck finding a truckstop with a shop today. Good luck finding a restaurant with good food cooked to your liking. Gone are the days where truckers received special treatment at a truckstop. Now they wait in line with everybody else to pay for their roller dogs.
Almost all of the grand old truck stops are gone, bulldozed down and nothing left but the memories. The roller dog station/
convenience store that took the place of Gasper’s Skelly in Kingdom City, MO, at least has a bronze plaque by the entrance commemorating the old gem that is long gone.
There are a few exceptions. Last week we were passing through Tucson on the way back from Tulsa and we stopped at the old TTT (Tucson Truck Terminal). It was like stepping back in time.
Tucson’s iconic Triple T Truckstop opened in 1954 a mile east of its current location. The TTT was hailed as one of the biggest, most modern truck stops West of the Mississippi River.
When the TTT moved to its new location (a 22 acre site) at Craycroft Road and Interstate 10 in 1966, it was considered state of the art. The TTT had air conditioned sleeping rooms, laundry, clothing store, a home cooking restaurant, showers, barber shop, a post office and an ice plant! Back then It took 59 employees to operate the Triple T 24/7/365.
The old trucker movie, “White Line Fever” made back in 1975, starring Jan Michael Vincent, even had some scenes shot at the TTT!
“While most of the little ‘mom and pop’ truck stops have been bought out (or forced out) by the big guys, the Tucson Truck Terminal (AKA Triple T) is still an independently owned and operated truckstop – one of the few survivors of the big chain truckstop era we live in today. Located on Interstate 10 at Exit 268 in Tucson, Arizona, a stop at the Triple T is like stepping back in time – back to a time when truckstops were unique and cool – and an oasis on the highway for truck drivers.” https://www.tenfourmagazine.com/2017/07/trucker-talk/triple-treat/
Back in the day they pumped your fuel, washed your windows and thumped the tires and would fix one if they found a flat – unlike the self-service pumps of today with no tire shop.
Pay phones used to be the only way for a driver to communicate with his company and family and every truckstop had banks of phones. Some even had private booths. At the TTT some of the old booths still have a pay phone in them!
Most of the phones have been a removed, but the stools in front of them are still there. Cell phones long ago replaced those old pay phones and that is a good thing, but it is still cool to see them!
Like many of the grand old dinosaurs of the past the TTT still has an upstairs for professional drivers only!
The shop is simply under an awning, no walls or doors to speak of, because of the awesome weather we have here in Arizona!
Back In the glory days, the TTT even had a “Honeymoon Suite” that they only rented out to married couples. There are still rooms available at the Triple T, if you want to save fuel, sleep in a real bed without listening to all the other trucks idling and reefers firing up and shutting down around you.
My thanks to KIM GRIMM for her article POSTED IN: TRUCKER TALK “10-4” Magazine
During the Covid-19 shutdown Kurt Dandoy, president of operations for Triple T Truckstop/Omar’s Hi-Way Chef, went out of his way every day to keep the truckstop’s shelves filled with much-needed supplies for the cross-country truckers stopping at the TTT—toilet paper, bottled water, milk, bread, eggs.
If he couldn’t find what the TTT needed at the big-box stores, like Walmart and Sam’s Club, he would try to find it at local grocery stores in the Tucson area. His daily procurement trips were not about reselling to make money, but out of duty to his drivers and duty to the country during Covid-19.
It is that kind of dedication to truckers, the above and beyond the call of duty kind of service, that makes the TTT special. If you are ever in Tucson you owe it to yourself to stop at the TTT and see what a real truckstop used to be like. Eat yourself some home cooking and sample some of their world famous pie. And, last but not least, do what I did, and get yourself a TTT black t-shirt that has their logo and Tucson, AZ, on it!