I went riffling through my postcards in search of inspiration for today’s column. The first thing that occurred to me was that riffling counts as wear and tear, and probably lowers the value of the postcards involved. Like a lot of people, I understand the risks of my bad habits; it’s just that I really enjoy riffling. Unlike a lot of people, however, I decline to become the inventor of a 39-step Stop Riffling Program, or a website which explores the psychological causes of riffling in an effort to make you understand why you riffle, and suggesting therapeutic methods of breaking your riffle addiction. Riffling may be one of the few vices which does not already have an as-seen-on-tv product to make you quit, like a menthol-infused postcard mitten which slides on easily and is available for only…where were we?
Anyhow, as I riffled through my Vacation postcards, wondering if it’s too early to consider a blog on that subject (Sixty degrees yesterday, snow possible on Monday) I noticed a goodly number dealing with the craze for hitching a camper onto the back of your car and going out to enjoy the wider world, like the people at the top there, who are ecstatic about their freedom. What struck me was that itty-bitty bedroom hitched to their roadster. Looks like they’d have almost as much room to sleep in their car.
The history of heading out on the road for a vacation goes back at least to the nineteenth century. People had been doing a lot of camping before this, but the idea of doing it on purpose, for fun, had to wait for people in the big cities to figure they could afford a change. Even then, the craze could not become general until the automobile was a common item. There WERE horse-drawn campers, and you COULD pack a tent and other supplies and just take the train, but the ideal of a road trip with a portable bedroom and/or kitchen came to us attached to the horseless carriage.
There are other places where you can check on the history of the car-turned-vacation home, from the tinkerers who built new backs on their ever-modifiable Model T through campers nicknamed the Teardrop, the Silver Bullet, or the Canned Ham. What we are going to look over is what the cartoonist at mid-century THOUGHT about camping and campers. These chaps liked their pictures to be reality-adjacent, but the joke took precedence.
One thing you’ll see right away is that the average camper was teeny. I’m not sure the twin bed sized model on the right here actually existed, but the cartoonist pointed out that living in a space which your car could haul necessitated living in close quarters, not to mention remembering not to stand up straight.
It also required you to do some things the old-fashioned way. They did not come equipped with washers or driers, for example.
Speaking of old-fashioned ways, almost none included toilets, either.
There WERE larger models. The bus had been invented, after all, and some people just closed off the windows and lived larger. For the cartoonist, the larger trailer was a necessity simply to allow for broader humor.
Some people went in for a double hitch, allowing even more comforts of home. (Note that our cartoonist seems to have been afraid you wouldn’t know what the wooden shed out back was there for.)
With Dr. Seuss and Rube Goldberg as examples, cartoonists could propose ever more luxurious arrangements. It’s all about comfort. (Do not try this at home. I’m sure the authorities will require you to provide seatbelts for your cattle.)
But the whole principle of camping being reverting to the simple life, other cartoonists suggested you limit yourself to the necessities.