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Forty Winks: 1940

Forty Winks: 1940

June 1940. Washington, D.C. "Negro driver asleep under a truck. There are no sleeping accommodations for Negroes at this service station on U.S. 1." Photo by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Old Army trick

This reminds me of an old US Army trick my godfather told me about when I was young.

Setting up your sleeping gear under your vehicle so if anyone else comes driving in during the night you won't end up getting run over because they don't see you.

Smart Man

This tired soul appears to have done the best with what he had to work with. He's under the truck for shade, using a bag of whatever he was hauling as a pillow and a small tarp to lay on instead of the hot, dirty, rock hard ground. Young drivers of modern day wouldn't know how to survive without the super size sleeper, GPS, internet hook-up, power this and that, satellite TV, air ride seats etc.

Pillow talk

The fella looks like he is using a bag of grain for a pilla. Times they were tough. WOW!

Green Book

The Negro Motorist Green Book, 1949 edition, is actually online here, and you can see how bad it was for many people, not all that long ago.

A Permanent Rest

As I truck driver I can sympathize with this guy--it's very uncomfortable to have to sleep in your seat. Having said that, it beats dying. The trucks of that era had one air tank for their brakes, if they even had air brakes at all. If it started to creep then I hope this man had some serious yogi skills to survive being crushed. Hopefully he had the good sense to chock one of the front wheels. I would have opted to sleep on the end of the flatbed.

Drove North, still found segregation

Although the state abbreviation is cut off in the photo, the only 1940 state license plates I'm aware of that featured "OCTOBER 31 40" across the bottom are from South Carolina. According to this site the plates were black over yellow.

Some years ago I read one of Peter Egan's "Side Glances" columns in Road & Track in which he described finding a 1950s-era road atlas designed specifically for black travelers. The atlas was designed to help the traveler deal with finding food, fuel and lodging in a segregated America. Sad to think such a publication had to exist, and that the driver pictured may have benefited from it. (Edit: Thanks auntjess for finding that!)

This photo serves to remind us that the nation's capital was once a Southern city in more ways than one.


What's the significance of FRUEHAUF (German for "up early") on the back of the truck?

[The trailer was manufactured by the Fruehauf Corporation. - tterrace]

I Think I'd

Put chocks around those wheels.

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