Me and an ugly tent trailer a long time ago

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By Chuck Woodbury
ROADSIDE JOURNAL
This is me camped at Death Valley in the 1950s. I’m the little speck of kid in the middle of the photo, sitting on the step of what appears to be a big tent, but which is actually a primitive tent trailer. My mother is bending over, cooking. Notice her camping attire: a dress! I assume my father took the photo.

Me and an ugly tent trailer a long time agoThe trailer was made by J.C. Higgins, which I believe was Sears’ brand. Looking at it brings two words to mind: Mutt Ugly! Even though this was a long time ago, I remember being happy that I did not have to set it up. As I recall, it was a chore.


I have been back to Death Valley about a dozen times since this photo was taken and plan to go again soon. I love that place. Now I camp in a comfy motorhome, which is better than that old tent trailer by about a million light years.

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Patsy Perkins

Does anyone remember Coleman bunk cots? We grew up camping in a Coleman tent in the 70’s. We had bunk cots inside, everything was purchased at Leonard’s Department store in downtown Fort Worth. Later on my dad purchased a pop up camper. I’m still camping today in a Newmar London Aire.. wow how things have changed.

DAvid Jensen

My family had a J.C.Higgins trailer too. My dad took the family to Yellowstone in 1948. There were 6 of us, mom and dad and 4 young boys between 4 and 12. Later it was used in Northern Wisconsin as temporary housing as my dad built our new summerhouse. I still remember the oily smell of the military type canvas. It was really solidly built out of aluminum. We had that trailer for years. In later years, it was used for hauling “freight” between our house in Chicago and the summer cottage, which is about 480 miles.

Nicki

OMG!! I camped in the same exact tent trailer. Ours was first one produced in 1952 and my family purchased it in 1953. They used it until 1967 when it was passed along to my family. We used it until 1970 when we purchased our first travel trailer. Set up certainly wasn’t like today’s push button models, but it wasn’t so difficult. The worst was if it had to be closed up wet. The canvas would shrink and getting it to stretch so the polls locked in was difficult. Ah, memories

Kathy

I do not find that trailer ugly at all. My Dad and Mom built out first camping trailer using instructions from the May and June 1954 Popular Mechanics magazine. Those were some of my greatest camping memories. It held all 7 of us in a tight space.

Bob

Love this one Chuck, sure brought back some great memorys when we
had our Apache fold out. When it looked like it might rain,I covered it with a large black plastic cover so I would not have to fold it up wet.
Those were the days

Tom Gutzke

When I first started camping [1981] with my wife [started 1951 with her parents and 2 brothers] and our two-year old son we camped with friends who had a Nimrod tent camper. Bench storage box across the left tire and two pull-out beds. That was it. Looks a lot like the one in the picture. We’re still camping 38 years later and loving every minute – except for the unit we have now. Very poor quality. Hope we have enough Band-aids or Wisconsin Chrome [duck tape] to make it last.

Bob p

That tent camper reminds me of a camping trip my young family made in 1966. I was in the Marines stationed at Memphis and our Special Services had a tent camper I checked out for a weekend trip to Kentucky Lake to meet my parents and siblings for a weekend of fishing and boating. I don’t remember the brand name of the camper but it unfolded to the side of the trailer with a large stand up room with the beds on the trailer. Thanks for the memory’s.

Dave Piposzar

Your J.C.Higgins was indeed a Sears brand that was the pre-cursor to the Apache pop up trailers also made by the Vessely Manufacturing Company in Lapeer, Michigan. I have a 1957 model identical to the Apache Scout. Canvas still like new and weighs a mere 340 pounds. All aluminium box that rolls like a wheelbarrow into any tent spot. A real conversation piece. We still call it camping, not RVing. Vessely in Slovak means happy…the original happy campers!

Einar Hansen

I remember back in the early 1960’s living out side of Syracuse NY. My father came home from a week of being gone with his work. He came rolling in the driveway of our house with a used 1962 VW van that he bought while he was gone. And I thought my mother was going to run him over with it if she could drive a standard shift. It had nothing in it at all! He told my mother it would be great for him to use for work? Well when spring came around he started working on it. He insulated it and covered it over on the inside with masonite. And that was the start of our camper for the family we tossed our sleeping bags in it and a Coleman white gas stove and lantern and cooler and we were camping! We kept it for about 4 years. Then my father left his job and we went overseas. There he bought a 1968 VW Camper a real step up from our old red soup can VW! The four of us lived in it for nine months and going to 21 countries camping almost 99% of the time.
I have loved camping my entire life so far and won’t ever give it up. Lucky my wife loves it also!

Gary L. Willey

Regarding the new website, There is no “Contact Us” Menu Item. How can one contact Diane, for example or even RV Travel? I spent considerable time trying to find a way to do this, and hopefully this message gets through, I wanted to alert Diane (or whomever) about a possible new “Museum of the Week” entry.

Tommy Molnar

There was no camping going on in MY childhood. But, we DID drive all the way up to northern Wisconsin from Chicago (speed limit 45 in the 50’s!) and stay in cabins with ice boxes, outhouses, and rowboats for fishing. To me as a little kid, it was great. The ‘camp’ sat between two lakes and both were fisherman’s heaven. It was in the middle of nowhere with wildlife abounding (bears, moose, deer, cats . . .) I did a Google Earth search recently. I barely recognized the place when I found it. Houses, condos, paved roads – with names. Another bit of my past – ruined by urban crawl. I guess that’s the way it is. I’m just happy to have the memories.

John

As I’m certain that you already know…you were very fortunate to have had such experiences as a youngster