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Sue De Lapa

Vintage Trailers at the Beach

Good Will Reigns in Retro Town


Sunday, March 17, 2013

YOUNG MARRIED BLISS: There they were, retro travel trailers on display at Ocean Mesa RV park at El Capitan last weekend, owners wandering from gleaming restored aluminum Airstreams to tiny Shasta 10-footers resplendent in red, green, salmon, and other colors of the rainbow and beyond.

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Outside the trailers, relics we thought went out with shag rugs were spread out. Melmac City reigned in displays of melamine-resin plates, cups, glasses, and utensils in vivid 1960s colors, while proud owners rested in their beloved cheesy fabric patio chairs and clunky metal ones.

People rode around on cruiser bikes, and music tinkled gently from plastic radios of yesteryear. Just about everyone had a dog, on a leash or yapping in a little pen. You were free to peek into anyone’s trailer and strike up a conversation. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all neighborhoods more like that? (Knocking first, of course.)

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Santa Barbaran Robin Lyons chatted with neighbors outside her 13-foot, neat-as-a-pin 1956 salmon Shasta, hitched to a mile-long 1966 white Chrysler Newport convertible with white leatherette seats and fat whitewall tires.

An Ojai man, Craig Fraki, presided over a clan of about 74 vintage trailers at his annual get-together, a low-key affair that featured a Saturday afternoon lampshade hat contest, and later on, after beer and cocktails, there was a swag-lamp competition, lamps being his chosen theme this year. Last year it was small bowling games.

“My feeling is, life is short. If you can’t find a party, make one,” Craig told me.

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The party drew trailer addicts from far and wide, although the Texans had to cancel due to the weather. You wouldn’t believe the time and money spent renovating some of these aging vacation homes on wheels.

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When Phil and Wendy Cervantes of Corona bought their now-restored 22-foot 1954 Silver Streak Clipper, “It was ugly,” Wendy told me. “A bullet-ridden mess, rotten on the bottom.” Sheep herders in the Central Valley had apparently lived in it without benefit of toilet, moving often, naturally.

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Robin Sager and Mike Senzamici of Santa Barbara brought their 1948 Greyhound bus, spacious and well set up, including a shower, somewhat of a rarity in these outfits. When Shelley and Tim Fletcher of Pismo Beach found their bright yellow trailer, “It was trashed,” Robin said. It’s pulled by a gorgeous buttercup yellow 1962 Rambler station wagon in primo condition.

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Eric Bescoby was holding court in his 1948 Spartan Manor, made by a Tulsa, Oklahoma, company that switched from making airplanes after World War II. There were tables laden with stainless steel percolators, mixers, toasters and other cookware, and coolers with names like Pik-Nik and Porta-Freeze.

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The sun was out following rain and wind, and a passing trailer hooted. These are people who know how to have fun. There are an increasing number of vintage trailer camping events (which some happily characterized as “glamping”). Once the province of the middle-aged or the retired, these are now luring the young marrieds, as far as I can see. To learn where other vintage trailer campouts are scheduled, check Google.

Billy Collins & Aimee Mann

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