Thursday, August 17, 2006


If you have been reading this biographical blog, you know that I first lived in a trailer in 1954, but that was only a temporary situation when my mom and I stayed the summer with my dad in Paducah, or rather Kevil, Kentucky while he worked at the government’s gaseous diffusion site there.

My family abandoned the traditional frame house in 1956 when we moved to Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Dad had resigned himself to following the Tennessee Valley Authority construction work as an electrician and bought our first “house trailer,” I think it was an Elkhart model made in Indiana. It was blue, white, and just 8-feet wide and about 35-feet long. There were two bedrooms and my brother’s baby bed sat in the alcove space in front of the back door.

Besides the scary moment when the lady scared me during the Wolfman movie, the only other thing I remember about the trailer was that mom almost caught it on fire one day went the pilot light on the oven went out and the propane flowed out and ran invisibly underneath my bed, which was nearest the kitchen. When she struck a match to light the oven, it flashed over and almost cost us the trailer. However, it apparently did not cause much more than some singed hair and life resumed.

We lived in that trailer until we moved to Florence, Alabama. During that time dad purchased a 10 by 48 footer that was oddly painted brown, golden-yellow, and white. I remember this because mom insisted we wash and wax it once a year! To us this was a mansion of great proportions! There were still only 2 bedrooms, but everything was much larger and the kitchen and dinning area were located in the front section, with the living room located mid-trailer, and now the washer and dryer were inside.

Two other trailers come to mind, between this one and the next one my family owned, but they were only rented for the summers: one was in Birmingham, Alabama, the other in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

I do not remember too much about either trailer, but I do remember the trailer in Birmingham had a foot peddle to flush the toilet and we often got called down for kick starting the toilet just for the fun of it.

However, we lived in the brown, golden-yellow, and white one until I left home for the Air Force in 1964, at which time my brother got full custody of our bedroom. I remember that bedroom, because my feet extended into the hallway and every time someone passed by, my feet got brushed and I woke up.

I also remember sleeping with my brother and giggling and poking at each other almost every night. Once dad told us to quite down and go to sleep and said he did not want to hear another peep out of us.

Well, that recalled a story from my mom who slept in a room with at least 4 siblings and they were told to do the same one night and that if another “peep” was heard they would all get a spanking. Well, someone said “PEEP” and they all got it! So, my brother said “Peep” and we got it!

However, in the dark my dad could only see general shapes. I raised my leg up slightly, deflecting the burnt of the belt licks and my brother and I screamed as though he was killing us. He soon tired and felt satisfied we had learned our lesson and left the room reminding us to “go to sleep.” It was all we could do to keep him from hearing us snicker under the covers with our faces muffled against our pillows!

While I was in the Air Force, maybe in Vietnam, mom and dad bought their last trailer. It was a grand 12 by 65-footer from Norris. They were made not too far from where we lived in Norris, Tennessee. They even got to visit the factory and watch some of the construction. Dad was so proud of the real 2X4 and 4X4 wall construction that he could talk for several minutes about how much it was like a “real house.”

This trailer seemed like home to me mostly because I had my own bedroom in the front of the trailer, but also because it was my last home with the family. I only lived there only a short time before I married and moved out.

Just a few years before my dad died, they bought a lot in a residential area, took the wheels off, put it up on a block foundation, put aluminum awnings on both sides, and made it appear as a much like a real house as they could. It was a nice place and because they tore an old eye sore down, even the neighbors welcomed them to the neighborhood. The place was full of flowers, a garden, children playing, and mom continued to wash a wax the trailer until it was sold some five years later and a permanent house was built on the lot.

As I look back, I have to say that I am proud of my “trailer trash” past. The people that traveled the country in the late 40s, the 50s, 60s, and 70s helping build power plants, dams, and secret government research sites were a different breed of folks. In a way they lived the end times of the American pioneers and just followed the work. They pulled up stakes, jerked the kids out of school, and just moved expecting only better conditions and better pay. They were welders, electricians, boiler makes, pipe fitters, carpenters, masons, and all the other craftsmen and labors that built a better world for us all.

They did not live in trailers because they could not afford better, but because it was easier to move their families and follow their work. They did not sit around and let things grow up around them, rust, and fall down around them. They were proud of their little home on wheels and their pride was evident to those that passed. Evident in the mowed grass, the brilliant flowers that grew from seed they saved and moved with them, in the waxed trailer and car, and in the laughter of the happy children that lived there.

They also took their values with them and passed it own to their children - the boomers of today. These people, our parents, still valued God and family, friends, and this country. The worked hard for what they had and took care of it, and instilled the same pride in their offspring.

In my mind they are a dying breed that is not being replaced, and dying with them is our sense of values. And deep in my heart I know that you are only “trash” if you sit by and let things that should be valued slip away, and you do not have to live in a trailer to let that happen.


Goddess said...

You rented a trailer in PITTSBURGH??? LOL...please tell me it wasn't a "vacation."

BTW, trees in the front yard. How unique. I have a washer, dryer and a burned out stove in my front yard. Also a live flamingo that I can't seem to get rid of...

Marie said...

Wonderful insights. Thank you.

Fathairybastard said...

Once again, you're a long winded, eloquent SOB. Seriously, where the hell does this stuff come from? I'm bustin' my ass and all I can come up with lately is nasty pictures.

Is it the hooch, gettin' ya all sentimental? Whatever it is, keep it up. love reading it. You keep this shit up and I'm gonna have to read yer book.

And your last comments are spot on. And stop callin' yourself trailer trash. There's pour folks and then there's trash, real trash all over, spreading like a medieval pestilence. Herd needs thinnin' bad.

My mom's folks lived in a tiny house they ordered out of a catalog in the 1920s, and my dad slept in a shotgun shack, in the same bed with 2 or 3 brothers, when they weren't out in the heat hoeing or picking cotton. Those were the days. Thank God for WW2 is all I can say, for givin' us and our folks other options in life.

'Cause homey don't pick cotton, unless it's comin' out of an aspirin bottle.

Jewels said...


You have such a way with words. They paint such vivid pictures and I'm so glad that I stumbled upon you and your blog. It's a blessing to come here and read such wonderful things here. I always leave with a smile after having had a laugh or two. I enjoy myself everytime I come to see what you've written. Ta for now dahling.

Mushy said...

Thanks fathairybastard and Jewels for the wonderful comments. You and the rest keep encouraging telling what will come out next.

The last thing I wrote "The General Store" just sums up what I tell my family...I close my eyes and I can see it and smell it again. The pictures just keep coming and I'm loving it too.

I'll post the "store" tomorrow.

Sorry for the delay in answering, but Comcast has had a major outage in this area. I've been down and jonesing for 2 days!

phlegmfatale said...

I LOVE this post. My family, too, lived in couple trailers in our day, and I wouldn't trade my upbringing for anything. You said so perfectly in the last sentence what I was thinking. It's not the trailer that made people trashy. A home well-cared for and full of laughter is a home to be proud of, be it a mansion or on wheels.

Mushy said...

Thank you for the nice comment PF!

I was White Trash when White Trash wasn't Cool said...

Beautiful post!