“Living in a Trailer”
July 8, 2014 7:22 AM   Subscribe

James Jones, the author of From Here to Eternity, wrote about life as a trailerite for Holiday magazine in 1952.
THE FIRST TIME you tow a house trailer you keep jerking the wheel to compensate for that crazy sway in the back end. It takes a long time to get enough used to it to ignore it. The first haul I ever made with mine—a trip that, although I didn’t know it then, turned out to be the first leg of a junket that would take me clear across the country and back and consume a year and a half—was to Memphis, Tennessee, from my home in Illinois. That’s about 400 miles, and it took me four days to make it. A year and a half later, on my way home from California, I hauled from Tucson, Arizona, to El Paso in one day. I had left a green-eared neophyte, and I was coming back a veteran. There is no pride in the world more rabid than that of a confirmed and dedicated trailerite. The next winter I took my trailer to Florida in four days, just about 1,200 miles.
posted by thursdaystoo (14 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Mr Leahy? Oh, dear...
posted by goo at 7:35 AM on July 8, 2014

I laughed when he made brief mention of a trailer park run by a Mr. Leahy.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:36 AM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Excellent. Thanks very much.
posted by valkane at 7:42 AM on July 8, 2014

I'm pretty sure "the publisher was concerned about getting through the censors" is going to be among the most wrongheaded, depressing things I read all day.
posted by atbash at 7:44 AM on July 8, 2014

"Or maybe we just want to live in the Far West where we can wear a big hat, Levis and boots without being laughed at."

How times have changed. Well, I think you still get laughed at for wearing boots on the east coast, but only if it's obvious you're a douche.
posted by hanoixan at 8:23 AM on July 8, 2014

Pulling a 26 ft trailer down the road with an 80 inch wheelbase 4 cylinder Jeep. No wonder he kept jerking the wheel!
posted by Floydd at 8:26 AM on July 8, 2014

My, how times have changed!

A dollar a night or $5 a week? I'm in my camper right now in a California State Park. It's $35 a night for "dry" (no hookups) camping. If you want electricity, water, sewer, it's up closer to $50 a day at many RV/Camper sites.
posted by CrowGoat at 10:09 AM on July 8, 2014

This whole thing is great, and I will have to be very careful to not lose my entire afternoon on the other Holiday articles on that site as well.

This bit stood out to me in a different way.

The retired people are much more difficult; largely, I think, because of the fact that they are retired. They may be ex-plumbers or ex-executives, and some have more money than others, but they all have that one thing in common which sets them apart: they are retired; they are no longer part of the stream of building, expanding, fighting life—except in their capacity as Consumers; and the knowledge makes them an intensely proud, tight-knit, jealous, crotchety clan which intends you to know they ain’t askin’ nobody for nothin

Out of context, this paragraph certainly sounds just as relevant today as it was in 1952.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:50 AM on July 8, 2014

That was a great read. I've driven between Memphis and Peoria several times, and wonder what roads he took, and what condition they were in, that made a similar trip take four days. Even though this was written before the interstate system, that's still a pretty long time.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:01 AM on July 8, 2014

Pulling a 26 ft trailer down the road with an 80 inch wheelbase 4 cylinder Jeep. No wonder he kept jerking the wheel!

He was probably hauling with a Jeep Wagon with the Lightning V6. Even if he was hauling with the pickup or CJ-3, the Go-Devil was stout enough to pull an all-aluminum Spartan Manor at backroad speeds (I assume that's the 26' trailer he was referring to - he was talking about upgrading to the 33' Spartan (which would be the Royal Mansion) and a big car to haul it at the end.)

Handling on the rig, however, would be - ah - fun.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:37 AM on July 8, 2014

If you love mid-century Americana, don't miss Lucy and Desi in "The Long, Long Trailer", made a year after this article was written and based on a novel written a year before it. The whole thing -- less the opening titles, for some reason -- seems to be available here.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:41 AM on July 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

He was probably hauling with a Jeep Wagon with the Lightning V6. Even if he was hauling with the pickup

He mentions driving with the windshield down, so it's definitely a CJ.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:50 AM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding The Long, Long Trailer. One of my favorite nostalgia movies.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:57 PM on July 8, 2014

For my entire childhood my father, who died a year ago, talked about renting an RV and driving around for a week -- where was never specified; it was the platonic ideal of a family vacation in his mind, but we never got around to it. (Also, my sister and I would've killed each other.) I've never been in a trailer, but that essay makes me want to sell all my worldly possessions, buy one and, I guess, a jeep of some kind, grab my pregnant wife, and putter around the country till the kid's off to college. I love the way it's written -- I wish every printed word could be filtered, somehow, through 1952.
posted by thursdaystoo at 7:48 AM on July 9, 2014

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