Telling it


printTales of the Ties that Bind

"Spuds" Creates a Community
Dog Days at the Tolls

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On the New Jersey Turnpike, cars, road, and people have converged to create stories that are intensely human and personal—like the story of toll collector John Hechler.

Hechler saw his everyday transactions with drivers as opportunities to make them smile. In his tollbooth at Interchange 8A, he prominently displayed a stuffed animal he named “Spuds McKenzie” (after the dog that appeared in the popular 1980s BudLight© commercial). Hechler dressed “Spuds” festively, according to the season or holiday. Before long, drivers hoping to catch a glimpse of Spuds vied for “his” lane, creating a community of drivers with Hechler’s tollbooth as its village center. Ultimately, though, the Turnpike Authority’s interest in speed took higher priority: concerned about moving as many vehicles through the tollbooth as fast as possible, Hechler’s supervisors asked him to remove the dog.

“Spuds McKenzie” (stuffed animal) wearing his New Year’s hat, 1980s
Courtesy of John Hechler