They call me the “NJKatwoman”. “NJ” because I’m originally from New Jersey, and “Katwoman” because that has been my CB “handle” for nearly 20 years. And because I’ve never quite fit any particular mold, I chose to spell my handle with a “K” to somewhat set me apart from all of the other Catwomen out there. Thankfully, I don’t carry that across the board, and you won’t see me substituting a K where a C should be. Unlike some who take kutesy to the umpth level, you might see something like THIS in their “personal about me” section: “I enjoy kooking, krocheting, and kats”! In my case it’s more like, “I enjoy crafting, crocheting, cats, yard sales, flea markets, and junking for treasures”. C what I mean?
In the past, I have worked many different fields. Everything from secretarial to construction. You could say I was a Jill of all trades, master of none. When I was younger, the norm was to be a typist, secretary, bookeeper, accounts payable, you get my drift. I was what the men would call “a skirt”. Always dressed to the nines, shoes to match the hand-bag, hair coiffed just so. Always looking my best, and when I look back, I have to laugh that all of the women in the office dressed the same way. Funny, because we were cooped up in a somewhat “corporate” enviroment, and had no contact with anyone other than the co-workers that we shared cubicles with. In those days, women didn’t make very much money, and yet, three quarters of our salaries would go toward pantyhose, cosmetics, and getting our hair styled on a regular basis. The men got away with wearing the same suit every day, but to keep things interesting, they would change from the dark blue tie, to the dark blue tie with the tiny dots on it. Fridays were exciting. You never knew if the boss might be in a festive mood, whereas he might just break out the golf themed tie. Whooohoo!
In 1979, I found myself disenchanted with the phoniness and cliques that I saw displayed in that corporate world. I missed being outside, and seeing the world unfold around me. As a young lass, weekends were fun times, and the town I grew up in had an “adult liquid refreshment station” on every corner. Well, at one of those local establishments, I had the pleasure of meeting a very nice man, who gave me my start in the world of transportation. Mr. Dee Villani owned the Villani Bus Company in Linden, NJ. He ran school buses, and coaches. A popular, effusive, and outgoing man, you were hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t know “Dee”. Dee offered me a job with Villani, and I happily drove the 53 passenger school buses on and off for him for years. School bus driving was great fun, I enjoyed driving, and loved the kids. The salary wasn’t that fantastic, so I always supplemented my income with part time jobs like bartending, or utilizing my musical talents to perform as a singer/guitarist at the local clubs on the weekends. My partner, Bob Russo, and I called ourselves “Parkway West”.
My sense of direction or lack of it in those days was nearly legend. One lovely summer day, I decided to hop into my Volkswagon Beetle, and head down to the Jersey shore. Right before I got to the Parkway, I realized that I didn’t know which direction to head, so I called my Mother. “Mom! I’m nearly to the Parkway, and I’m going to Belmar…which way do I go? East or West”? Once Mother stopped laughing, she replied, “You head South until you hit water”! So, that is how I came up with the name of “Parkway West” for Bobby and I. We performed for about five years, and we were real “regulars” at Louie Lynch’s Emerald Pub in Elizabeth.
It’s a long story, and difficult for me to share as to how I ended up homeless, and living in a truck. But when I look back, I realize that it was one of the best things that could happen to me. I learned a valuable profession, and one that I take great pride in doing. I upgraded my class B school bus driver’s license to a Class A and started driving a big rig in October of 1996. There were women driving trucks 13 years ago, but not as many as you see now. I drove solo, which means no co-driver. GPS was used only for the military, not for your common driver, and I never heard the expression, “cel phone”. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of changes in technology in only 13 years. What hasn’t changed, however, are the antiquated mindsets of the managers, and male co-workers that we share this profession with. I admit, there has been SOME improvement, but we have a long way to go. Along with sharing my stories with you, I will be featuring my ongoing video series, “The LadyTrucker Chronicles”. Every woman has her “story” as to why she chose trucking as a career. I am not alone in wanting to know her motivations and how the industry has treated her since she chose this profession. Truckers have endured a “bad rap”, and no longer enjoy the “hero worship” that was bestowed upon them in the 1970’s when the movie, “Convoy” and others of that genre hit the movie theatres. I would like to see our status become elevated once again. The people who “move America” are some of the most dedicated, hard working, underpaid, undervalued members of our society. Trucking isn’t called “The Last American Sweatshop” for nothing. It’s time you know what it’s really like for us out there. And it’s time to start giving some long overdue respect to our fantastic, talented, strong and powerful women in this industry, our “LadyTruckers”.
I welcome any of the solo driving LadyTruckers to submit their video story to me via my gmail account.
Email me for the details at firstname.lastname@example.org
and I would be proud to feature your own personal story,
complete with music background, titling, etc. Instead of
complaining about the problems in trucking, instead, be a part
of the solution. We are the proud women in trucking!
And with that, I respectfully offer you the first segment in the ongoing video series,
“The LadyTrucker Chronicles” I am pleased to introduce Emily.