Thanksgiving Coffee Company

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Nighthawks’ Coffee

September 25th, 2009

Untitled-1There was a time in the history of America when a roadside café was the place to get a cup of coffee. It was a time when the taste of coffee was not judged good or bad. It was a time when coffee was just “a cup of Joe” to wash down that American breakfast of eggs scrambled, toast and home fries and three strips of bacon. Cream and sugar filled half the cup so what was there to complain about?

   I plied the highway between Ft. Bragg and San Francisco every week from 1974 to 1985, first in a 1963 Chevy Panel Truck that could carry 15 sacks of coffee, and as the company grew, in a rented U Haul trucks of various sizes. I believe I made 400 round trips during that period of time. Often stopping at the Wheel Café in Cloverdale, just off Hwy 101.

  It was your basic Truck Stop with local nighthawks and 18 wheel long haul truckers side by side talking about hunting, guns, government socialism, and all sorts of interesting but bizarre conspiracies. And this was in a pre 9/11 era.

    One night I decided it was worth a photo. I had my tripod and Minolta camera with me so before I popped in for my 2AM “American Breakfast”, I set up my camera and took this 2 minute exposure. Nobody moved!

The photo reminds me of an Edward Hopper painting called Night Hawks and of the 70’s posters which used his painting as a concept to highlight Marlan Brando, James Dean and Maralyn Monroe. This photo reminds me of the many nights I spent on the foggy night roads with oversize loads of green coffee and a kind of fear that only overloaded night trips on country roads could bring.

The Wheel Café is no more, gone the way of the new highway that skirts the town to the east. I don’t stop there anymore!

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2 Comments on “Nighthawks’ Coffee”

  1. What a great photo! I hope you took other images during your decade+ commute between Ft. Bragg and SF. Photos like this one are now important historical documents.

  2. paul Katzeff says:

    Believe it or not, that was the only one I took while watching the landscape change. I loved that place for the characters that sat there in the middle of the night reading trucker magazines or Karl Marx. The coffee was absolute swill but I never approached them to change. It was not a fight worth entering. Instead, I became just another “regular” , stopping once a week , usually late at night , to have a nighttime breakfast and a cup of coffee to help me be alert for the 2 hour ride back to the Mendocino Coast with my 10,000 pounds of green coffee and my 24 foot U-Haul truck.
    The photo was taken not ever expecting The Wheel Cafe to close it’s doors forever, and then be demolished, leaving no trace for nostalgia buffs to piine over.

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