Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


Great Outdoors

Camping in Style

Vintage trailers showcase the cozy and cool spaces of years past.

By Pam LeBlanc

May 2024 Issue

Boyce and Amy Wilson 1949 Vagabond

I grew up in a tent-camping family, but one thrilling year my parents rented a travel trailer for a road trip that included a stop at Mammoth Cave National Park.

This was a big deal. As I remember it, my sister's school class took a field trip to our house to look at the trailer, parked on our driveway. The next day, my dad hitched it to our Mustang convertible, my sisters and I piled in, and our family of five drove slowly away.

I don't remember much about the trailer itself, other than wondering if we'd make it up the next hill. My sisters describe it as a pop-up; in my mind it's enclosed and space-age modern. Either way, it was a memorable trip. Not only did I get my first glimpse of glittering stalactites, but I also bit into an apple and my front tooth popped out. Most importantly, I spent several nights inside that pint-sized rolling home.

All that flooded back recently, during the “100 Years of Camping in Style” show at Guadalupe River State Park. The gathering told the history of RVs through the years, and I spent a couple of hours peeking inside vintage trailers and chatting with their owners. I admired a 1920s Model T with a tent-like structure attached to it. Then I met Austin software engineer Glenn Thomas, who built his own teardrop trailer, inspired by do-it-yourself instructions published in Popular Mechanics in the 1930s.

In the beginning, people used their own ingenuity and put together something they could vacation in,” Thomas says, swinging open the hatch of his camper to show me its storage capabilities.

Like proud parents, everyone had a story to tell. And every rig told me something about its owners. Boyce Wilson of Rockwall found his 1949 Vagabond trailer rusting away on a deer lease in South Texas. “I was in a field, leaning up against it while I ate my lunch one day,” he says. He took a closer look, made the owner an offer and spent three years renovating it. “There's plenty of room in here,” says his wife, Amy, patting the full-sized sofa and pointing out the oven, refrigerator and stovetop. “You wouldn't want four people, but two is fine. I like the character, and it's roomier than I could have imagined.”

Trailers evolved as the decades passed.

Maybe it's because I was born in the 1960s, but the Pepto-Bismol pink 1962 Shasta Airflyte belonging to Jack and Jodie Kunisch really spoke to me. The Arlington couple found it in a farmer's field and refurbished it. I loved the zigzagging aluminum trim on the sides and the shiny, albatross-sized wings toward the back.

“It has a style to it going down the road,” Jack says. “It gives you a spiritual lift, that's what those wings do.”

There were other standouts, too, including Diane and Rich Espinosa's teal and white 1976 Argosy with wrap-around windows and a matching 1959 Chevrolet Apache to pull it, and Bubby Smith and Marlene Eaves' bubble-shaped 1989 Scamp, perfect quarters for the couple plus their dog, Sassy. Travel trailers aren't just a place to sleep and cook while you travel, they're a reflection of your personality. And if I get a vintage trailer someday, you'll know it's mine by the retro mermaids I'll have painted on the side.

Diane and Rich Espinosa with 1976 Argosy
Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine 
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