Left toe of Lincoln 'toe truck' (at MOHAI)

Quirky Seattle: Toe-ing the line at Museum of History & Industry

by Helen Holter

I just had to put my toe in the water and check out the new South Lake Union digs for the old Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI).

New Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI)

The Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) recently moved to South Lake Union, housed in the former Naval Reserve Academy. (Photo: Helen Holter)

It’s Seattle history: boiled down to 100,000+ artifacts, plus two million posters, photos, and other stuff.

So what stellar Seattle icon–chosen above all others–is the first to greet you as you enter through the museum’s doors? A miniature Space Needle? Salmon? That original Starbucks mermaid logo, or could it be a Kindle?

Nope, nope, and nope.

Lincoln 'Toe Truck' (at MOHAI)

Can a tow truck be beloved? Yes, but only in Seattle. (Photo: Helen Holter@MOHAI)

It’s the Lincoln ‘Toe Truck:‘ a repurposed, crushed VW bus that for decades welcomed millions of motorists as they descended into the muck of the Mercer Mess in downtown Seattle. Or perhaps escaped at the end of the day, back on I-5.

Lincoln made tow trucks almost ‘nice.’ Almost ‘fun.’  Almost.

Left toe of Lincoln 'toe truck' (at MOHAI)

That big toe really is big: 11 feet! (Photo: Helen Holter @MOHAI)

Years ago, I parked my Honda in downtown Seattle–paid for two hours–not realizing they towed cars after 4 p.m., no matter how much you plugged the meter. I found my cold and frightened Honda eventually, shivering behind a cyclone-fenced Lincoln prison for wayward vehicles.  That iconic bubblegum pink “toe truck” greeted me, seemingly wagging its 11-foot-long big toe in laughter as I opened my checkbook and parted with $75.  Almost ‘nice.’ Almost ‘fun.’

A bit of history

Seattle tow truck business owner Ed Lincoln came up with the ‘toe truck’ idea in 1980, using a banged-and-beat-up VW bus. It’s been a showcase in parades, and a guest at weddings, parties, and charity events — yet never used as a ‘real’ tow truck.Signature_80

Recommended: Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) web site.

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