Celebrate the 90th Birthday of Female Trucker Lillian Watson
News North American Van Lines touches base with one of their pioneering women drivers as she gears up for a milestone birthday.
Lillian Watson was born on June 3, 1928. Watson, a professional driver for North American Van Lines, Inc. in the early 1970’s, is turning 90 this summer.
A working relationship
“Lillian is proud to be one of the first fully-licensed CDL female drivers.”
She and her husband, Charley E. Watson, drove for northAmerican from 1970 to 1973, traveling through 47 states. They were based out of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and lived in the Provo-Orem, Utah, metropolitan area.
Lillian is proud to be one of the first fully-licensed CDL female drivers for northAmerican. She originally wanted riding authority to travel and navigate with her husband. However, after about a year, she said northAmerican asked her to take the test to become a truck driver.
“It was scary at first because Charley wasn’t going to be in the truck with me. It was just me and someone who was going to check on my driving,” said Lillian. “Up in the front was the picture of my family, and I was at ease then.”
Lillian passed the driving test. Although fully qualified to drive alone, she and her husband drove together. She often reflects on the good memories they made driving throughout the country, seeing historical sites and visiting major cities.
Tales from the road
Lillian remembers the first load she and Charley took to Wisconsin.
“We go to pick up our first load and it’s in the middle of the night. It doesn’t feel like we have anything in the truck, but it’s locked up. We drove to the destination and they opened the doors. Guess what? It was full, but most items were lightweight. We thought we had an empty load. It wasn’t empty.”
Lillian recalls an occasion in Washington where she drove alone from Olympia to Tacoma and then onto Fife. “That was the hardest back up I ever did,” Lillian recalled. “It had an angle where you had to come across a railroad track and back up into the dock.”
She also remembers the first time she had to go through a weigh station while driving in Ohio. “The attendant said I should put my two drivers on the two small scales and bring my papers in, yet I only had one. I didn’t have a tandem. Even though they were duals I just had one set,” said Lillian. “So I split my one set of wheels half way on the front scale and half way on the back scale. He thought I was trying to be funny, but I was just trying to obey what he wanted me to do.”
A proud partnership
Lillian has fond memories of the partnership she and Charley developed with northAmerican over the years.
"We enjoyed working for northAmerican because they were so nice to us and were always very accommodating to our needs,” Lillian recalls. “We enjoyed our assignment. We were very satisfied working with northAmerican."
Lillian says a memorable aspect of driving with her husband was the history she was able to experience. Rather than have to try and imagine historical sites like Valley Forge or Gettysburg Battlefield, they were actually able to make plans during their travels to visit those places and see them for themselves.
Following her career with northAmerican, Lillian and her husband worked on a farm together in Fairfield, Montana, where she resides today.
“It’s our honor to connect with Lillian Watson and hear her stories as a truck driver for northAmerican,” said Andy Kroll, vice president and general manager of North American Van Lines, Inc.