Any of you grow up camping? I believe that living for a time with nature instills a love of the woods and streams and the outdoor world in a way that’s different from anything else. My hubby did not camp growing up and still doesn’t care to, and although he appreciates and enjoys the outdoors, too, I believe it’s different for him than what it does for my soul.
My experience was slightly unusual, in that we camped in a 1932 vintage trailer that is now rare. Called a Gilkie, they were designed by Warren Gilkison and built in Terra Haute, Indiana from 1927 to, I believe, 1947, and among the first pop-up campers built. My mother grew up camping in one her uncle owned, and she remembered campers coming from all around the campground to watch it go up, as many had never seen anything other than tent camping before. People often came to look at ours, too – it’s not very pretty, to be honest – many people asked if it was an old Army vehicle because it’s painted a forest green. But it was common for people to question what it was, and what car the spoke wheels came from. 🙂
I recently brought it to my home after I sold my late parents’ house where it was stored. It hasn’t been camped in since 1988, when my parents took a summer-long trip out west spanning thousands of miles. Here are two photos from then – one taken in Northern California among the redwoods, and one in Utah.
Opening it up a few weeks ago was better than opening any Christmas gift 🙂 It was like looking inside a treasured time capsule – I had no idea what I’d find, and what memories it would bring. I found our old kerosene lantern, and I can still vividly remember how it smelled when it lit the camper at night. The worn, enameled bowls we’d washed our faces in, which made me smile. I wish I’d taken photos of them, as they’re kind of inaccessible right now! It also made me really happy to see that it’s still in great condition – I was a little worried that after so many years unopened in my parents’ garage that mice or something might have gotten inside. But the Navy blankets from WWII were still on the beds, as were the old quilts, the metal boxes that came with the trailer for food storage, and the wooden boxes my dad had built to hold canned goods and such. Here are a couple of photos of it folded. It’s surprisingly compact, and larger inside than you’d think!
And photos of it with the side double beds slid open, and the top raised, with my son at the front door, and me on the other side where the spare tire is. We weren’t terribly meticulous when we put it up, so the canvas isn’t pulled as tightly as it should be.
Lastly, here’s my son sitting inside on one of the beds (this shows less than half of the inside). All my kids had seen it folded from the outside, and weren’t too impressed, for obvious reasons. Opened, they felt differently, and my youngest said, “This is a pretty genius design!” Needless to say, that made me smile too. 🙂 As I plopped myself onto one of the double beds and stared at the ceiling, I remembered the sound of the rain on the canvas, the feel of the breeze on my face through the screens, the scent of that kerosene and the outdoors and the canvas, which smelled exactly as I remembered.
So, here’s the tough part. Obviously, I love this trailer. I’d love to keep it in the family, have my children use it for another generation. Realistically, though, I can’t imagine that happening. My 22 year old son ‘wants’ it, but who knows where he’ll be or what he’ll be doing in the future? Will he want to deal with the fact that it has a unique hitch? Get it the new tires it needs? Will he have a place to store it? Right now, it’s tucked into the back of our garage behind a small car, but it can’t stay there forever.
So, I’m thinking I need to give it a new home, either to a camping retailer showroom where camping enthusiasts can enjoy seeing something from the olden days (I have one interested) or a private owner who would love it and use it (my parents’ old neighbors want it). Will I regret it if I sell it? Maybe. And then there’s the question of what price to put on it – there isn’t one for sale in the U.S. right now that I can find. It’s a niche market, but someone may want to pay a lot more for it than the neighbor is offering. In fact, I saw a 2011 blog on a Model T enthusiast website where someone had paid $1000 for one that was in literal tatters and all bent up, and were planning to restore it.
SO. Any advice for me? And were/are you a camper, or not?