One of the world’s least traveled roads brought about the greatest global transformation. The Silk Road changed history, bringing not only the exchange of goods, but also the exchange of religions, art, languages and new technologies. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a single “road”, but rather many different overland routes leading west out of China through Central Asia to Syria and beyond. In essence, it became the world’s first trucking route. This modest non-road became one of the most transformative super highways in human history. The first reference to a ‘Silk Road’ was used on a map in 1877.
In 1907 two brothers and a brother-in-law in San Francisco began an ambitious endeavor which in turn became a small local ‘Silk Road’. Fulfilling the need of residents living atop Nob Hill for cigars, whiskey, food and other necessities, they transported goods by horseback, referring to their newly formed business as “The Mustang Express”. As business grew they purchased wagons, and took in a younger brother recently graduated from school. The ‘younger brother’ was my father-in-law. The newly formed company was named RB&S Trucking, for Rasmussen brothers and Svane, Svane being their brother-in-law. The purchase of trucks came next and the name changed again to the “Inter-urban Express Company”, which conveyed merchandise throughout the Bay Area. Their familiar green and yellow trucks could be seen from San Francisco to Oakland for many years. Later Svane’s son, Peter Victor, formed his own small trucking company carrying goods in San Francisco.
Though the principals of the company did no driving of trucks, each of the sons and sons-in-law and a grandson took their turn at not only knowing how to drive the large semi trucks, but also what went on inside them. Many years after the Inter-urban was defunct, I watched Dr. Advice in a business suit help a young truck driver get straightened out when he had managed to jack-knife his truck. The boy was about 20 years old, and panic-stricken, with traffic built up behind him, and he looked about to cry. Seeing the boy needed help, Dr. Advice stopped, climbed into the boy’s truck and set it straight. Getting back into our car, he remembered how someone had helped him at age 16 when he had been in the same fix. I haven’t a doubt that he could still do it today. Some things you don’t forget.
Some years later my father-in-law left his brothers and started his own company named the East Oakland Drayage Company on 10 acres of land in east Oakland. His father had told him that if you took a silver dollar and threw it as far as you could, you should buy it. The trucking company would make a good living, but the real value is in the land not the business on it.
Ten years later my father-in-law retired and sold the company and the land to where the BART station is now located in east Oakland.
As to what the ‘oldest profession’ is, I’ll leave that to you.