Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Ideal

Streamlined polished aluminum with a backdoor, bathroom, bedroom, dual air conditioners, portholes, tail fins, vestigial wing buds, superfluous teardrop running lights, TV and a visor all pulled by a sleek Hudson Hornet. The ideal trailer might still need flared fenders and a rotating gun turret.

Pre-interstate Highway travel required that you slow down and drive through towns. You got to see their Main Street Christmas decorations, their city park, and their places of business. Restaurants and motels were located in town rather than clustered around interchanges.

Because we brought our own food and pulled a kitchen, I can only remember a handful of times we stopped at a restaurant of any kind. Most of those occurred after we got rid of some of the older girls. Dad claimed he didn't like soft ice cream so even the Little America 10 cent cones were highly unlikely. Cars were not dining rooms on wheels. Cup holders consisted of two shallow circular impressions in the sheet metal of the inside of the jockey box door. They were more designated resting areas than holders.

The future was streamlined by industrial designers like Henry Dreyfuss, Raymond Loewy, and Norman Bel Geddes. It was fully realized in my world in toys.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Son of Trailer Envy: TV & AC

We didn't have a fan, let alone air conditioning. And television in a trailer was a ridiculous concept. We did, however, have a pink Coleman cooler and a broom.

After we moved to Spokane, Dad would sometimes drag the trailer up to Van Dissel's Waitts Lake Resort. Van Dissel would stomp around in his overalls and rubber boots maintaining his fleet of plywood fishing barges. He walked like Groucho Marx. Mom and Dad would head out fishing before the sun was up and for breakfast Mom would fry up a mess of fresh rainbow trout dredged in cornmeal.

In August of 1967 we missed the final episode of The Fugitive (a Quinn Martin production) because we were in the trailer at Waits Lake. As far as I know the "one-armed man" is still getting away with murder. One of the nearby trailers had a TV. I learned the meaning of the word "covet."

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hey Lady!

 Our faithful and slightly neurotic dachshund, Lady, oversaw activities from her perch on the back of the front seat. Here her job is to prevent "bumper boys" from affixing Reptile Gardens stickers to the back of the beloved Buick. Dad didn't care much about the cleanliness of his automobile. I don't remember him ever washing a car, but the only sticker allowed was the Air Force decal on the front windshield that drew snappy salutes from the Air Police (apes) at the base entrance.

One of the coolest design features of the mid 1950s Buicks was the lack of a B-pillar. When you rolled front and back windows down there was nothing but empty space.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Trailer Envy 4: Backdoor

Spartan Imperial Manor

Trailers with toilets were called "self-contained." Ours was not. We used gas station bathrooms, trailer park shower rooms and the occasional bush. At night Mom placed an open half-gallon cardboard milk carton in the middle of the floor for emergency use. Years later she received a portable potty for Christmas. Scissor legs and a disposable bag hanging from a plastic seat. Luxury.

As an Air Force family we shopped at the commissary. We would buy a month's worth of milk and Wonder Bread. The milk came in those cardboard cartons that were re-purposed. They bore the warning that selling or giving away commissary purchases to groups or individuals not entitled to commissary privileges was a violation of military regulations. The only time I had bread that hadn't been in the freezer was on a bologna sandwich made in the car on the trip home from the commissary.

The Spartan  Aircraft Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma was known for its luxurious Spartan (there's an oxymoron) Executive aircraft. Howard Hughes flew one. Oil Baron J. Paul Getty owned the company and after World War II converted it to trailer manufacturing using the same rigid frame/monocoque shell technology. The all-aluminum trailers were large, expensive and out of our league. They also had a really cool logo.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Art Historical Influences

Mom didn't like being on the downhill side of mountain roads. It was one of the few times she would move to the back seat. She would use the occasion to tell us how in 1926 she rode with her family in the back of a truck from Crawford County, Indiana to Great Falls, Montana to live with her bachelor Uncle who had gone West to teach school but ended up a wealthy landowner. He kept his wealth in sliver dollars which to this day are believed to be hidden somewhere around the old homestead.

"I was five years old when dad decided, almost overnight, that we were going to Great Falls, or rather to a ranch between Dutton and Power, Montana, to live with my Uncle Grover and work in the wheat harvest. Eight of a Model A Ford truck.  The roads weren't paved and I still have an embedded fear of winding mountain roads. They were so narrow with drop-offs that seemed to me to never end."

During the painting process I kept thinking parts of the painting looked familiar. A little searching found some  historical influences.

Duccio, The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, 1308-1311

Walt Disney, Mickey's Trailer, 1938

Grant Wood, Death on Ridge Road, 1935