Friends of Towing

Mar 29th, 2013 | By | Category: Jack Schrock's Blog

In the beginning, John Hawkins (aka the “Hawk”) told me of a theory that a single person could encircle the world through “seven circles of friends.” So the first sponsors of Friends of Towing (FOT) came from seven countries around the world, which were America, Canada, Mexico, England, Europe, South Africa and Australia. They all got together for a group picture, which hangs on the wall of the museum in Chattanooga. But, after they all left to return home, John quickly realized that an organizing group was needed so he appointed Val Reich II to form and chair such an undertaking.

The first such group consisted of Harry Saehlenou of Anaheim, Calif.; Bill Washam of Greensboro, N.C.; Harold Willard of Northhampton, Mass.; Warren Roosevelt Sr. from Fonda, N.Y.; Secretary Harry Zipse of New Hampton, Iowa, and Chairman Val Reich II of Columbus, Ohio. In 1989 I replaced Warren Roosevelt and went on to later serve as executive director.

Initially this group carried on the Hall of Fame program that was started by the Hawk in 1987. Equally important, Harry Saehlenou took the lead in converting a tandem axle furniture van into a traveling Friends of Towing Museum that was towed by members from one tow show to another. Indeed, the first introduction to the society for many was a visit to this traveling museum that also displayed the photos of the Hall of Fame members.

Each year the Hall of Fame ceremony was held in conjunction with a different state association tow show which members of FOT and the traveling museum would also attend. Often, the state association would present a gift to FOT, which would be placed in the traveling museum, making a visit a virtual tour of its travels from coast to coast and border to border. Eventually, FOT was reorganized as today’s International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum Inc. located in Chattanooga, Tenn., the undisputed birthplace of the wrecker industry.

And, it all started with the simple idea that seven circles of “friends” could encircle the world.