As a 10-year-old boy, Bill Bazen cherished every episode of “Movin’ On,” the Tuesday-night TV series that followed a gritty long-haul trucker and his college-boy sidekick on high-speed adventures inside a Kenworth big rig – its theme song performed, of course, by Merle Haggard.
The show featured irresistible 1970s plots, often filmed in North Carolina: an elephant breaks loose from the truck and runs wild on the streets of Charlotte; the Marines at Camp Lejeune challenge the boys to survive boot camp; a hot-air balloon lands on top of the rig.
But to Bazen, “Movin’ On” provided deep personal meaning. His father, best known by the CB-radio handle “Wild Man,” ran a long-haul route up and down the East Coast. Father and son drank in the patter between co-stars Sonny Pruitt and Will Chandler like it was talk around the dinner table.
So it makes sense that Bazen would create the world’s only official “Movin’ On” museum inside his Wake Forest home, a shrine that begins with the CB-shaped coin box he collected as a kid and follows his obsession through to his line of trucker hats with “Do It ... Like Pruitt” across the brim.
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“It’s not like I’m some crazy fan,” said Bazen, 52. “I’m carrying it on for my dad and for truckers. I know it’s small, but it’s meticulous.”
Bazen’s museum near Falls Lake attracted more than 50 visitors on its opening day last Saturday – a crowd considering the room is closet-sized and the fire marshal will allow only one visitor inside at a time.
But the collection is curated to the point of mania. Bazen tracked down and coaxed autographs from every guest star no matter how minor the role: Patricia Neal, who played a West Virginia coal miner; John Ritter, who played the son of an alcoholic trumpet player; Smokin’ Joe Frazier, who turned up at Camp Lejeune.
He picked up occasional props on eBay, but more often the cast members would pass along mementos with their autographs. Bazen possesses a four-finger cigar case that Chandler’s character wore in his breast pocket. His museum boasts original scripts from 1974, including one read by football-player-turned-actor Rosey Grier. Then the true treasure: an encouraging letter to Claude Akins, the actor who played Truitt and, more famously, Sheriff Lobo, from his drama teacher.
These artifacts were precious enough to draw Barry Weitz, the show’s creator and executive producer, who splits time between Charlotte and California.
“I was blown away,” Weitz said Friday. “I hadn’t seen those relics for over 40 years, and I hadn’t touched some of those things, like the scripts, for over 40 years. It really almost brought a tear to my eye.”
For the sake of the museum, Bazen tracked down the location of every episode in the show’s two-season run, all of which were shot by a cast and crew who operated out of a pair of tractor-trailers and kept true to the gypsy spirit of “Movin’ On.” Weitz filmed one off Page Road in Durham, and the episode included a burning tobacco barn that required assistance from the Bethesda Fire Department.
“It was burning the power lines,” said Bazen.
For another, he followed the visual clues to Boise, Idaho, and after poking around on some internet groups, managed to find the props master, who remembered the 1974 episode well.
“He told me stories,” Bazen said. “He worked with Tina Louise from ‘Gilligan’s Island.’ She was on an episode. He said she wasn’t that bad like everybody says.”
Bazen never worked as a trucker himself. He’s an electrician by trade. But with one model truck, one poker chip from the casino episode, one framed picture of Akins with President Gerald Ford, Bazen re-created the wide-open, rubber-burning romance of his youth, gaining the approving eye of his favorite, departed trucker.
‘Movin’ On’ museum
Bill Bazen’s “Movin’ On” museum at 14917 Creedmoor Road in Wake Forest is open from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and by appointment by calling 919-282-2372. Admission is free, but the Bazen family accepts donations to the American Cancer Society.