John “Canner” Culp was a young man of 22 who had recently gotten out of the Navy when his parents decided to purchase a Westcraft travel trailer, They traveled from Ohio to Florida and back.
“We bought it new in 1947,” Culp said. “It cost $3,200.”
According to a report in the Naples Fla. Daily News, a salesman tried to talk his parents out of buying it, saying the rivets would pop out while they were traveling and the trailer would fall to pieces. It was the first of its type built from aluminum.
Now, 61 years later, Culp maintains it as his primary residence — with just a couple of rivets out — but the former Buckeye calls Florida home. He takes his travel trailer to Michigan, Ohio and Florida and participates in camp-ins with the Tin Can Tourists organization.
“I don’t know what’s going to run out first,” he said. “The money or my health.”
Those who attended the vintage show last weekend at Koreshan State Historic Site in Estero had the privilege of seeing how the trailer has held up. “I live in mine,” Culp said. “It’s got the old lived-in look.”
He did make one concession to modernize the trailer. He installed a toilet.
This is the second year of the vintage RV show at Koreshan, said Michael Heare, park services specialist at the historic site in Estero.
“We’ve got 20 spaces set aside for the vintage trailers,” he said.
Not all spots were full this year, probably because of the economic downturn. Next year, Heare said, he hopes more people with vintage or unusual trailers will attend.
“I know people around here have unusual or old trailers,” he said.
The Tin Can Tourists organization was a big deal at the turn of the 20th century. The group started in 1919 in Tampa, said Forrest Bone, a director for the organization.
However, it went out of existence in the mid-1970s. The current organization was re-established in 1998 during a reunion and get-together in Michigan.
“The stated purpose for renewal is the preservation and promotion of vintage RVs,” he said.
For travel trailers to be classified vintage, they have to be at least 25 years old. Motor coaches have to be at least 20 years old, said Bone, who owns a 1957 Avion travel trailer.
He and his wife fell in love with traveling after he retired in 1997. “We hadn’t seen the United States,” he said.
They opted to buy a travel trailer to see the country, saving money on motel rooms. Soon, the RV life took over.
“We really enjoy it,” he said. “It’s not only about the older units, but the people you meet.”