Happy campers

Trailer enthusiasts showcase their vintage trailers during Tucson Modernism Week

Story and photos by ROBYN ZELICKSON

The Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation presented Tucson Modernism Week Oct. 7-15.
Many activities took place around the city, such as art exhibits, dance performances and lectures about design and architecture.
The final weekend included the Vintage Trailer Show, which is in its fifth year. Held at the Sunshine Mile on Broadway, the show allows about a dozen exhibitors to display their restored trailers.

The oldest trailer in the exhibit, a 1935 Bowlus, is owned by John Long. The builder was Hawley Bowlus, a sailplane pilot from the San Fernando Valley. The 20-foot trailer is made of 100 percent aircraft aluminum.
Inside, there are several unusual features. Because Bowlus’ wife Ruth and his four children would ride inside the trailer while it was being towed to their destination, there is a strap installed on a cabinet allowing Ruth Bowlus to hang on if they were negotiating a sharp curve.

John Long shares the history of his 20-foot 1935 Bowlus trailer at the Tucson Convention Center on Oct. 14.

As they traveled, she would cook on a gasoline stove in the galley.
“Luckily, the unit boasts a fireproof galley,” said Long.
Once dinner was prepared, Ruth Bowlus would pick up the telephone on the wall and call her husband in the car to let him know to pull over so that they could eat.
The tiniest trailer in the display, a 1947 Teardrop Kit, is owned by Lanae McDade. She tows the Teardrop with her Kia Soul to local camping spots, such as Mount Lemmon. It includes a canvas attachable privacy tent, a storage galley in the rear of the unit and original crank out windows.
The trailer’s exterior is aluminum, with the interior constructed of wood paneling. The inside consists mainly of the large bed, though there’s a shelf for a TV and DVD player so that McDade can comfortably watch movies at night.
For some people, vintage trailers are not just one-time life experiences. They can be their life work.
Lynn Follstad and her husband, Amos, have been restoring trailers for 30 years, as a hobby. They had been searching far and wide from their home base of Yucca Valley, California, and had been unable to find a suitable restoration project.
Recently, while she was shopping, her husband Amos Follstad called her on her cell phone to come home immediately. He had been browsing Craigslist for parts and found a 1962 Kencraft trailer in Joshua Tree, California, only 10 miles from their home.
The unit was a 1962 Kencraft and had been kept under cover by the previous owners. The interior was all original equipment and fixtures.
“The only problems with it were that the fridge needed to be rebuilt and there was about a foot of dirt on the floor,” Lynn Follstad said.
The Follstads bought the trailer and restored it to its former glory. One of the unique features showcased is a dinette called a “Click Clack.” It can be converted into a sofa by opening it out or it can be transformed into a bed by dropping the bench seats down.
Many of the trailers in the exhibition have been gutted and restored by their current owners. Often at vintage rallies, they are approached by sellers who have older trailers that may be in a state of disrepair.
Such is the case with Toni Story and her daughter, Jade Josey. They work with designer Craig Williams, who assists them with creating an authentic mid-century feel to their units.
Their current project is a motel in Benson, built in 1948, with 13 mid-century modern-themed rooms. They plan to add 17 vintage silver-sided guest suites, mainly Airstream trailers. Eventually, they’ll be able to hold trailer rallies, weddings and parties at the location.
All three are very excited about sharing their hobby with others, although they admit that it will be a lot of work.
“Maybe by the time we’ve done 15, we’ll know what we’re doing!” said Williams.

 

 

Parcheesi sits on the table of the dinette in the Bowlus trailer. The kids played while their mom cooked dinner.

 

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