Found by the Side of the Road: A Hooker in Hurley, A Town Proud of its Past


Caught sight of the Hurley Hooker on the way out of town

On a road trip exploring old alignments of U.S. Highway 51 in Wisconsin, some buddies and I spotted this lovely tow truck in 51’s northern terminus of Hurley, Wis.  Calling the vehicle the Hurley Hooker is funny enough, I suppose, but you have to know a bit about Hurley’s history to fully appreciate it.

Hurley was founded in the 19th century as a mining and logging town and men outnumbered women by a wide margin.  To satisfy some of the natural urgings of these hard working men, “ladies of the evening” soon set up shop in Hurley and found a very lucrative market for their services.  Through much of its early history Hurley’s economy rested on a three-legged stool of logging, taverns and prostitution and was as raucous as any town in the wild west.

Logging and mining now take a back seat to tourism in this part of Wisconsin but the tavern business remains quite strong.  Prostitution is probably no more prominent in modern Hurley than it is anywhere else but rather than run from its past, the little town of 1500 celebrates it with street light banners depicting 19th century “working women” (very tastefully, of course) and tongue-in-cheek nicknames for tow trucks.

Gotta love a town that has a sense of humor about itself.

hurley hooker

You got the joke, now you get the story.

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