During our everyday lives, it’s not uncommon to see a tow truck working on the side of the road or rolling down the highway. With an estimated amount of nearly 19,000 towing companies in the United States employing a staggering 150,000 towing operators, you can see why it’s uncommon. Most drivers don’t like seeing tow trucks but many others actually strive to see them. Cue the International Towing and Recovery Museum.
A group of friends, who happened to be towing operators themselves, decided to form the “Friends of Towing”. The purpose was to recognize the towing and recovery industry and the contributions made to it. The first “Hall of Fame” started in 1986 with a mere 27 members that operated out of a semi trailer that was pulled to industry trade shows all over the United States. There has been many changes since that group of operators banded together.
In 1995, the Friends of Towing decided to settle the Hall of Fame in a permanent location. They parked the well-used semi trailer and chose Chattanooga, Tennessee as the new home for what they called the International Towing and Recovery Museum. The group chose Chattanooga due to it being coined “the birthplace of towing” thanks to Ernest Holmes Sr. building the first known tow truck out of a 1913 Cadillac in the Tennessee city.
The museum has made it possible for the general public to become aware of the industry and its dangers by recognizing tow operators who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The Wall of the Fallen was created in 2006. The wall is a memorial that features all the names of those fallen operators and the names of recently fallen operators are added to the wall each year in an annual September event held by museum staff.
Visitors are also able to see the entire history timeline of the towing and recovery industry from the beginning in the early 19th century all the way up to present day and beyond. Each major contribution that made towing what it is today is shown with great detail. The walls are lined with pictures and the floors hold up the weight of many iconic working tow trucks and towing equipment.
There are changing exhibits as well. These exhibits usually showcase notable tow trucks that have immersive backstories. Many of these trucks have been restored to their original and functional condition before crossing the threshold of the museum to allow guests to view them as they were in their prime.
While the sight of a tow truck can sometimes be frustrating for motorists, the International Towing and Recovery museum thrives on it. If you decide to visit the museum, the way you view a tow truck will change the next time you have to call one after roaming the halls. The experience will have you thinking less about your roadside situation and more about the interesting world that the tow truck you just called came from.