An amazing contraption!

This week, Sepians were asked to look for mechanical contraptions. I wasn’t able to get out to a shop, so I perused my photo collection for something that would fit. Just recently, I posted a Sepia Saturday post that would fit the current prompt perfectly. It had a clay processing station and two pony traps; but since I don’t really want to recycle a post like that, I’ve come up with a more modern amazing contraption.

1971 Puma Tent Trailer

1971 Puma Tent Trailer – Vivitar 110 camera

Americans have long had a love affair with the “inexpensive” vacation, camping. The camping, fishing, hiking, and hunting industry has not only grown through the years but thrived with a wide variety of gizmos and gadgets to facilitate the perfect camping weekend. Up until recently, it wasn’t uncommon for families to own or rent tent trailers – a combination of a tent and a travel caravan that had the best of both worlds. This was our tent trailer and it saw thousands of miles of American roadways over its 20+ year lifespan. The tent trailer when closed looked like a oblong box on wheels, but when raised, the canvas sides would expand, the beds would be pushed out (the bit protruding behind the trio there), and it included a propane stove, water pump sink, and flushing portable toilet! This was the height of camping luxury in 1971 when it joined our family.

Jan 14, 1971 Inside of new Puma trailer bought Jan 13, 1971

Jan 14, 1971 Inside of new Puma trailer bought Jan 13, 1971 – Polaroid Print

camping 2

The dining area of our trailer – Kodak print

Each of the “bedrooms” had curtains that could be closed for privacy, as well as zippered windows to allow in fresh air. The plates you see on the table there we had until about 8 years ago when I gave the camping boxes to a friend. There were four plates, bowls, cups and saucers – red, green, yellow and blue. It got to the point that we each (i.e. my sister and I) had to have our “own” plate. We each had a drawer for our stuff and a space for our suitcase. The icebox took a huge block of ice, Dad had various barbecue implements to cook outside and Mom could whip up just about any sort of meal on the inside stove.

The lemon

The lemon- Little Deschutes River area, Oregon

To pull the tent trailer, we originally had a blue Ford station wagon – the type with the faux wood siding. The above car was the second station wagon and my mother hated it. It was a lemon in more than color, but I remember this was ordered off the line, special to our needs. It had power locks! The station wagon, once delivered to our home, was then taken to a local mechanic where it was wired specially to feed power to the trailer so the breaks would work, and also the frame was reinforced for hauling. In the early days, the trailer was pulled out by my parents from its storage area beside the house and then hooked up to the car. Pretty fast my Dad bought a special two wheeled pulling device which was crank & chain driven, although I don’t recall exactly what it was called. This allowed him to more easily maneuver the trailer around the corner of the house and down to the car. Having a trailer inspired a variety of special equipment purchases, including a special sewing kit to repair torn canvas, special jacks, mirrors for the car, and tools to fix or repair whatever we could while on the road. Also, a chain saw.


Cutting firewood, Oregon – Kodak print, Brownie camera?

camping 3

Watching Dad cut firewood – Vivitar 110 shot of the same event


And a minibike. A Honda, as a matter of fact. My mother hated this one.

Hold on tight!

Hold on tight!

We bought the tent trailer when I was 3 years old, and my parents sold it when I was around 25 or so. After so many years, wood rot had taken hold and the sides of the trailer were just falling apart. They had replaced the uprights that raised and lowered the roof, and upon cranking it up, one of the uprights punched through the floor! It was sold to a scrap hauler who intended to strip it down to  the steel frame and repurpose it.

There is so much more I could say about this amazing contraption, our Puma tent trailer, but I will perhaps save that for another day. For more amazing contraptions, click over to Sepia Saturday. You will be happy you did!

And away we go!


31 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. La Nightingail
    Aug 09, 2013 @ 12:43:57

    I always thought tent trailers would be so great. Better than tents, but not as heavy & cumbersome as a regular trailer. Then we discovered the wonderful merits of rental cabins! Indoor plumbing where you were safe from running into a bear on the way to the outhouse, and private showers or even baths, plus the dirt got left outside where it belonged. I did camp with tents & camp stoves & all for 50+ years, though, & enjoyed it for most of that time. But cabins are nice, too! :))


    • Mrs Marvel
      Aug 09, 2013 @ 18:49:56

      I’m more of a hotel camper these days, lol but cabins definitely have an appeal. I might be able to convince my husband on that one. Have you ever seen the yurts? Those look fun!


  2. Wendy
    Aug 09, 2013 @ 13:41:53

    Thanks for taking me inside the pop-up tent. I’ve always wondered what they were like.


    • Mrs Marvel
      Aug 09, 2013 @ 18:51:13

      We used to have a little comic drawing of a tent trailer with one of the beds flopped down on the side…the husband said to the wife (who was flopped down) “maybe we should lay off the potato salad for a while.” LOL


  3. Auntie Kat
    Aug 09, 2013 @ 13:57:10

    I believe the “Biker Mama” picture was taken at Crystal Lake. I have a similar picture on the bike. When I was 17 I drove the car with the trailer when we went on a trip to Mammoth. It was an interesting experience.


    • Mrs Marvel
      Aug 09, 2013 @ 18:52:42

      I was trying to figure out how we got the bike and the trailer up there…where did the bike go? It didn’t go inside the trailer, not behind it, not in the car. Do you know? Was that the infamous year of THE STORY?


      • Auntie Kat
        Aug 10, 2013 @ 20:00:39

        I think we were older for the Infamous Story with Bob Hope, John Wayne, Indians, Mariachi Bands and everyone else. Just so everyone knows – the story can’t be repeated because we are not camping, we are not at the camp fire telling stories, and parents drank all the wine. We did camp at Crystal Lake quite a number of times as it was only a couple of hours drive to the camp ground.

        The bike might have gone on the front of the car but maybe it was on the back of the trailer. This inside of the trailer was packed with all our stuff! Dad would know for sure.

  4. gluepot
    Aug 09, 2013 @ 14:21:08

    I never camped in one of these, but was always envious of the few that we saw when I was small. The camping we’ve done with our kids has been in tents – quite a lot simpler and cheaper than towing a caravan or tent trailer. Great photos, thanks for sharing them.


  5. Lorraine
    Aug 09, 2013 @ 18:33:18

    Looks like you have some great photos and fantastic memories. Loved the bit about your dad immediately embellishing everything – nothing changes. I’m on a caravan forum where there is a lot of chat about things people add to their vans and campers (to keep up with the Joneses).


    • Mrs Marvel
      Aug 09, 2013 @ 18:55:08

      And there is SO much you can do these days. I imagine the big motorhomes must have every imaginable whistle and bell!


  6. Joan
    Aug 09, 2013 @ 19:36:20

    Boy, did this post bring back memories. Although we were not tent campers, we hauled our kids all over oregon and the Pacific Northwest on camping, rafting, canoeing tips —and sometimes Doc would even get to fish. BTW campers also get many of the same accouterments — so that the load gets higher and sometimes required a trailer or two cars.— but o what fun.


    • Mrs Marvel
      Aug 12, 2013 @ 08:36:07

      Our camping friends had a camper and yes, they had so many features! I found it so different when we would step inside their camper, haha.


  7. Jackie
    Aug 10, 2013 @ 05:35:32

    I only do hotel camping!! But am tempted by the great RVs out there these days.
    Great post.


  8. anyjazz
    Aug 10, 2013 @ 10:49:25

    I am a motel camper too. I enjoyed the visit inside the camper. Interesting adventure!


  9. Little Nell
    Aug 10, 2013 @ 12:22:52

    I’ve never been camping in my life but your pictures certaibly make it look like fun. I had lots of caravan holidays as a child in equally cramped conditions – does that count?


    • Mrs Marvel
      Aug 12, 2013 @ 08:38:03

      Oh yes, a caravan would be quite similar! Don’t worry, we camped in “parking lot” conditions as well as in the wild. That trailer went anywhere we could take it.


  10. luvviealex
    Aug 10, 2013 @ 14:05:17

    Camper trailers. Yay! What fun. We have only ever stretched to tents. And even then only little ones really. We dream of a camper trailer and a car big enough to pull the trailer :)


    • Mrs Marvel
      Aug 12, 2013 @ 08:39:14

      Coincidentally just yesterday I saw a neighbor had his tent trailer out in front of his house. It was a little smaller than ours, but it sure brought back memories. The problem these days is where to store them. Home lots just aren’t as big as they used to be.


  11. Deb Gould
    Aug 10, 2013 @ 15:54:48

    That lemon station wagon looks enormous; I remember when cars were all long like that. What fun your family had in that camper — I always wanted to travel with one, but my family never went camping! EVER!!!!!


    • Mrs Marvel
      Aug 12, 2013 @ 08:39:55

      When I learned to drive it, it was like looking out across a football field, the street seemed so so far away, haha.


  12. postcardy
    Aug 10, 2013 @ 17:36:25

    I wish my family had had one of those. My mother didn’t ever want to go camping.


  13. Kristin Williams
    Aug 10, 2013 @ 19:54:39

    We considered buying one of those in the 1970s but we weren’t even campers.


  14. Mike Brubaker
    Aug 10, 2013 @ 20:31:01

    A super post with just the right idea for a contraption theme. Camping seems to inspire more new gadgets or inventions that supposedly solve problems that no one ever had trouble with before.


  15. Alan Burnett
    Aug 10, 2013 @ 23:51:49

    It’s not just Americans who have a love affair with cheap holidays, I grew up in such a family as well and my childhood is littered with all manner of strange camping equipment. And isn’t there something about the colour of these old prints that transports ou back across the decades.


  16. Rosie
    Aug 11, 2013 @ 04:32:06

    I used to go tenting long long ago with the family, but have since discovered the world of Bed and Breakfast, love these places, it is like visiting distant relatives…


  17. tatteredandlost
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 00:20:04

    I love that these are still being made. Why fix something that isn’t broken. Of course these days there also ones with pitched hard roofs that are quite fascinating. And what a grand station wagon!


  18. Bob Scotney
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 07:43:04

    I admire anyone who goes camping not just with a tent trailer (which I’ve never seen). I went camping once with my sons and their and my friends. Never since thanks to that monsoon experience. I can see that your tent trailer really earned its keep.


  19. Sharon
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 04:35:25

    I imagine that you have many wonderful memories. I hope that you have written them down for future generations to enjoy also.


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