Roughing It.

05/07/2012 § 4 Comments

Fact: I have never been camping.

Corollary: My mom will probably dispute this.

Who’s right?  I suppose it depends on how broadly you construe the term “camping” — because if to you, camping means you’re in a sleeping bag in a tent in the woods somewhere, then I most definitely have never been camping.  However, if you are like my mother, and think camping includes driving some sort of van or trailer to a “campground” and parking for a few days near some nature, then maybe you’ve got me there.

My parents did own a sweet Minnie Winnie in the late 90s.  It was sort of an odd purchase for a completely non-camping family that was spurred by the experience of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.  We did use it a few times, mainly for soccer tournament weekends, but also for camping at Lake Cachuma and the Kern River.  We actually did Thanksgiving one year, turkey and all, entirely on wheels!

So while I don’t really count those experiences as camping, I do have plenty of great memories of those weekends, which were jogged when I came across this set of photos in the Life Archive, taken at various points around the country by Ralph Crane in 1970.  Capturing different kinds of motor homes and trailers, and the folks who used them, they are a slice of Americana that seems perfectly apropos for the day after Independence Day.

Some of these images originally appeared as part of a special group of articles in the August 14, 1970 issue of LIFE entitled “Home, Home on the Road,” which details “Caravans on the open road.  Houseboats on the busy waters.  Youth in its frustrated festivals.  Venturers abroad in trains.”  If you’d like to read the article — and I definitely recommend it, mainly for some great pictures of a convoy of pretty aluminum Airstream trailers — you can find it here.  Enjoy!

Bob Newcomb with his 12-member family in Hershey, PA.

Sidenote: Can I just say that I have NO idea how 12 people could coexist for any extended amount of time in a trailer.  My family only numbered 5 and speaking for the kids, I know we regularly contemplated pulverizing each other when we “camped.”  Newcombs, hat’s off to the lot of you, indeed.

Baby Newcomb in her bathtub bed!

The Wally Byam Caravan Club converging upon Hershey, PA.  The club, named for the founder of the Airstream Trailer Company, still exists — and caravans — to this day.

Airstream owners and Caravan Club members, saluting the flag.

All images via the Life Archive.

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§ 4 Responses to Roughing It.

  • Ruth says:

    I’ve done everything from sleeping bags to motorhomes, and it sucks if you don’t have indoor plumbing, and electricity, and beds, and stoves, and a refrigerator! I HATE camping any other way, even if I can do it well now. ( I even did it with three little kids for six months when the hubs was between jobs.) Give me an Airstream, or something similar any day of the week and I’ll happily do it again.

  • Becky O. says:

    I’ve been camping with my family only once…it was about 30 years ago. when we drove up to Yosemite National Park. Both my brother had a BLAST until the second night when my mom and I got trapped in the campground restroom because there was a momma bear and her cubs foraging for food right out. I still remember my mother and I huddled together in the last stall in the bathroom waiting for them to go away. Finally, after an hour, they went away. After than incident, my mom refused to go camping ever again.

    I love the Life photos! So nostalgic. 🙂

  • The parents of a friend decided that camping would be quality family time, so they bought a trailer camper for themselves and their grandkids. After one trip the new trailer was dubbed the Cramper!

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