Taking your home into the great outdoors, any time, any place is the freedom that the Scribner family has with their fully refurbished 1948 Palace Royale trailer and 1948 Higgins pop-up trailer-tent. Whether they’re going to the beach or to one of the national or state parks, the Scribners know they’ll always have a comfortable place to stay, and the million-dollar views from their trailer windows are something to behold.
“It really is home sweet home,” says Justin Scribner, who’s the founder and owner of Flyte Camp Vintage Travel Trailers in Bend, Ore. The Scribners will be featured in an upcoming episode of “Flippin’ RVs” on the Great American Country (GAC) cable channel restoring two vintage trailers purchased from the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
The Bend Bulletin reported that Justin and his wife, Anna, have built a successful business around restoring old trailers that date between 1930 and 1965. Together, they have an encyclopedic knowledge of the era that spawned these traveling homes.
“It’s crazy, but in the 1940s there were more than 3,000 trailer manufacturers,” says Anna. “After World War II, all these plane manufacturers had all these parts that they had used to build warplanes, and they converted their shops to start building travel trailers.”
Justin picks up the story, saying that everyone thinks that the famous Airstream spawned the industry, but in truth it was a man named Hawley Bowlus who built airplanes during World War I, including the Spirit of St. Louis, which Charles Lindbergh flew in 1927 in the first trans-Atlantic solo flight.
With Bowlus’ knowledge of building light planes, he was able to develop the lightest travel trailer in the mid 1930s. He made them so well — and so precise — that he could only stay in business for one year, because they were so expensive to make.
“So Bowlus auctioned off his factory, and Wally Byam bought it and started producing exact designs, which later became known as Airstreams,” says Justin.
“We’re restoring an authentic 1936 Bowlus trailer now, and as far as I know there are only three that are road worthy today.”
‘Home sweet home’
Taking us into their personal 24-foot-long Palace Royale, Justin points out qualities he loves in this particular vintage trailer.
“They just had amazing designs and craftsmen. Take a look at the roofline. That’s called a trolley design, so when you park it, you can open all the vents and have a lot of fresh air circulating,” says Justin. “And the chrome bumpers are so beautiful. You just don’t see that today.”
The shiny gray and blue trailer, which are its original colors, also sports two doors on opposite ends of the trailer for cross-breeze ventilation, each with reproduction wooden-framed screened doors.
The couple found their home away from home in a backyard in Arizona, and Anna recalls it was in “pretty rough shape,” but she was confident that if anyone could bring the Palace Royale back to its former glory, it would be her husband. She had seen him do “miracles” to dozens of other trailers that looked in worse shape.
“We put more than 500 hours just into the exterior body work alone,” says Anna, who estimates they probably have more than $100,000 invested into their prize travel trailer. This one, Justin says, he’ll never sell.
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