Monday, September 7, 2009

"Home on Wheels" Expedition

The photo shown here of a vintage publication comes from the cover of the book that my father used in the 1930's to build what my parents called a "house trailer". My mom always liked to tell the story of how this house trailer that dad built was the first one to ever park by the Highway 65 bridge over Crooked Creek, in Harrison, Arkansas. In later years, I guess that area became what we would now call a "mobile home park". My parents lived in that trailer by the creek, while they were taking classes at the college in Boone County, enabling them to get their certificates so they could teach school. Later, they were living in this same house trailer, when it was parked on the grounds of the Olvey school in Boone County, where they were employed as teachers. (They took seriously the part of the verse in Matthew 28:19, that says "GO ye therefore, and TEACH!") They were living on the Olvey school campus on December 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked. They had no children at the time, and must have had concerns on the world they would be bringing offspring into. (For the record, I am very glad that they DID bring my sister and me into this world!) These oral family histories were in my memory (plus, mom had told me the 1930's publication was still somewhere around the house), so I was delighted to find the actual cover for the guide that dad had used as the inspiration/building guide to construct the aforementioned house trailer, when my sister and I were cleaning out their belongings following their deaths.
What made that vintage piece even more significant was this: That same cover of "The Trailer Builder's Guide" was used in the orientation video of the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana. Apparently, my father was not the only man inspired to try their hand at building one of the house trailers described in the guide. In fact, the publication spurred the development of the entire RV/MH industry, as we know it today. The Museum gives the history of how an Indiana man who saw the early house trailer at the 1934 Century of Progress Exhibit pictured on the publication's cover, came back home, and built a house trailer himself. Then he built another, and another, and another. Soon he hired additional men, so that they could turn out more of the trailers. And the rest, as they say, is history.The time was right for the rapid expansion of the mobile home/recreational vehicle industry.
You can learn more about the "movers and shakers" of the RV and manufactured housing industries by planning to visit the RV/MH Hall of Fame ( This relatively new facility showcases actual units from 1913-1970's. In addition, there is an extensive library/archives area for those who want to do more in,-depth research and study on the subject. I felt compelled to put this information down in writing for the benefit of my son, who recently purchased his first RV. I told him he was continuing the family tradition, started by his grandfather in the 1930's. My son lives in the Shasta area, so it seemed appropriate to include a photo of an old-time RV with the "Shasta" name on it that is on exhibit at the museum, along with the photo of his RV, which currently is parked in Shasta.
The last photo collage shows me standing beside one of the trailers in the museum, that I imagine as being pretty similar to the one my father built. Although museum goers cannot go inside the vintage trailers on display there, the doors are open so you can view what they look like on the inside. In the lower half of the photo, my son is shown standing at the entry of his RV, as he showed it to me for the first time last week. So on this Labor Day holiday weekend, it seems appropriate to do a blog post about how my father labored to build a home on wheels for him and his bride, and how his family is continuing the tradition. Miles of smiles! Tricia
Posted by Picasa