Eastern Express

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Excerpt from:
Eastern Express

by W. T. “Bill” Van Hook, Batesville, Indiana

For nearly 50 years Eastern Express was a major player in the trucking industry. And like many large companies, its beginnings were humble. In the late 1920s Wilson M. House was a truck farmer on the family farm south of Terre Haute, IN, growing tomatoes, peppers, corn, and other crops. A young, ambitious trucker by the name of Eugene “Shorty” Van Hook and his partner Ray Riley were hauling Wilson’s produce to the wholesale market in Chicago. They also hauled just about anything that needed to get from Terre Haute to someplace else.

In those days truckers often bought the product they were hauling and sold it at the other end, hopefully to make a profit. After a particularly disastrous trip east with a load of pots and pans, Shorty and Ray were unable to make the payment on their Reo tractor and trailer, and had to let it go back to the finance company. Wilson House somehow heard about this, bought the truck from the finance company, and the next day hired Shorty to drive the truck he had just lost. That was the beginning of House Trucking Company.

With the passage of the 22nd Amendment, alcohol was again legal and House Trucking started hauling Champagne Velvet beer for the Terre Haute Brewing Company around and outside the immediate Terre Haute area. The hauls were extended mostly to the east and expanded to other types of freight. Wilson House’s dream was to someday own a trucking company that served the nation from Denver, CO, to the East Coast. As the business grew other trucks were added, including those of several owner-operators. D. R. “Don” House, Wilson’s cousin, partnered with Shorty for a while, then added trucks of his own to the growing House Trucking fleet.

For the whole story, subscribe to Old Time Trucks® and read the April/May 2005 issue.


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