SAN DIEGO — There's nothing worse than breaking down on the side of the road, and no better feeling than when help arrives. In this Zevely Zone, I met San Diego's Highwayman.
For decades Thomas Weller went out looking for trouble so he could turn it into something good. At some point in your life, you've probably heard the story about San Diego's Highwayman who rescued 10,000 stranded motorists. Tom introduced us to his car. "This is Beulah. She is a one of a kind," said Tom.
For 51 years, Tom drove around in his Ghostbusters looking car looking for broken down drivers.
The self-employed auto mechanic headed out on the worst weather days because as he told CBS 8 in 1998, that's when a stranger once helped him. "I got stuck in a snowstorm when I was 16 in Illinois, I did something stupid and went off the road into a snowbank and I probably would have froze to death if a fellow would not have helped me," said Tom.
Tom's rescuer refused to take payment. "He wouldn't take the money, he said whenever you see someone in trouble you try to help them out, that's all I ask," said Tom.
He did just that for five decades handing out his calling card. Tom read it to us, "Assisting you has been my pleasure, I ask for no payment other than for you to pass it on the favor by helping someone in distress that you may encounter."
This summer, Tom's rescue rig will go on display at the San Diego Automotive Museum. "He has just touched so many people stopping to help them on the side of the road," said Assistant Curator Calvin King who is expecting large crowds.
"You know I grew up in El Cajon kind of down the street from where he lives and I remember always seeing this on the side of the road and my dad would say oh that's the Highwayman," said Calvin.
Charles Kuralt, probably the greatest television feature storyteller in American history, gave Tom his nickname on national TV and it stuck. Tom told us what he said, "Here is a Highwayman to admire. I never forgot that." Just like Tom will never forget his most memorable rescue. "I often did not go out with a plan at all, but I got directed by a higher power to where the was someone who needed me," said Tom.
He once told a stranded family to get out of their car and stand behind a guardrail; minutes later a drunk driver plowed into their vehicle. "They were hugging me and kissing me because they were alive and they would not have been if they were sitting in their car," said Tom.
He saved their lives. A whole family. "Yep, yep. It still makes me emotional to think about it," said Tom with his eyes filled with tears. I asked Tom what he thought about being honored at the San Diego Automotive Museum. "I think it's a great honor," said Tom.
Tom once rescued twelve stranded motorists in a single day. His car will go on display at the San Diego Automotive Museum this summer. For more information click here.
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