Remember the classic movie, "The Long, Long Trailer," by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Jr.?
In our younger years, what Bess and I wanted but couldn’t afford, we built. In the ’50s, camp trailers were popular; we wanted one, so we built ours.
We also had a Jeep that we wanted to take with us, so we went one better. We built our motorhome from a 16-foot, 3⁄4-ton Metro milk truck, and a trailer to haul our Jeep (which today would be called a Toad).
We installed a kitchen with a single sink and two-top range with an icebox below, and we installed a closet on the right side. We built a double fold-out bunk bed on the opposite side behind the driver’s seat. We installed a baby bed with rail protection over the engine to watch out the front while traveling. We also had an awning on the outer right side that we could roll out for shade when needed.
Since there was no air-conditioning, we usually traveled with the sliding doors and the rear doors open. Concerned that our sons and our dog, Rex, would fall out while we were driving, we installed folding child gates in front of all doors. This way, everyone was reasonably secure while traveling. I’m sure these safety features wouldn’t be approved today, but we certainly taught our sons and dog what could and would hurt them.
Our auxiliary power was a 5-HP Briggs & Stratton engine direct-coupled to a 6-volt Ford generator (with a piece of rubber hose and two hose clamps) and a Ford voltage regulator. This would charge or keep our battery charged; however, if I adjusted the regulator too high, it would twist the hose coupling in two.
We drove our motorhome a long, long way – from Chanute, Kan., to Guernsey, Wyo. Camping parks were scarce in those days. We went by to see Seven Falls in Colorado, however, there were no trailer parks available. So we set up camp at a roadside park. The park police came by, and advised us that we couldn’t park there after dark – and they didn’t know of anywhere we could park overnight legally. So we pulled in front of a home in Colorado Springs, Colo., closed the shades, and stayed the night with no problem.
We went to a state campground in Colorado. Initially, the camp police couldn’t decide whether to charge us for the Jeep since we were towing it, but eventually, they decided there would be no charge. However, when we needed groceries, we drove the Jeep off site, and the camp police said that as we were driving it, we now had to pay the vehicle fee to enter.
Somewhat similarly, when entering the port of entry in Colorado, the state regulators had decided that because we had our company name, “Cutter and Dad Drilling Company,” on the side, we would have to pay a commercial fee to enter the state. I advised them that before I paid the commercial fee, I would paint over the sign. Fortunately, they let us go without my painting over the sign.
Back then, we felt like the wealthiest and most up-to-date people in the world. Today, we’re not the wealthiest, but I’m sure that we are among the happiest. ND