Monday, July 11, 2016

RV Hall of Fame

Warning!!! Long and excessively picture-y

Elkhart Indiana. (Where else would you expect to find an RV Hall of Fame?!)

Up in the northeast corner of Elkhart, just off CR17 with I80's exit 96 in view to the north, is the RV/MH Hall of Fame - Museum - Library - Conference Center, or The RV Museum for us mortals that have better things to spend our time on than messing about with really long names.

Definitely a place worth the $8 senior entry fee. If you're not old enough for the senior discount you may or may not find the $10 entry worth-while. It's going to depend on your mindset and interest in a specific part of our relatively recent history. I'm pretty sure that even if I hadn't folded, mutilated, spindled and shredded so many birthday cards over the years, I would still have found the place fascinating, but then that's me.

There are no hookups or other campy type amenities here, but they do allow overnight parking and, having arrived on the backside of a front on a day the thermometer didn't quite get out of the 60's, overnighting in the parking lot was just the ticket.

There are a handful of full-length pull-through slots available but if they are all full and you need to span more than a standard parking slot, choose carefully because this place also hosts conferences and apparently once in a while overnighters have woken up to find themselves pinned in by a full parking lot. So don't sleep in so late!!, or if that's not an option, make sure your escape route will stay open.

I took hundreds, OK, several hundreds, of photos but I will try to exercise restraint here. Truthfully, this is one of those places you have to see for yourself anyway so I'm going to try and limit myself to a few key displays and giving just a taste of the place. (Yeah, right! Like that's going to happen. . .)


The reality is, this place is largely the result of a trade association and the first, and smallest by far, of the two main display areas is more about promoting the RV lifestyle than anything else. When I was there the space was dominated by a modern monster of a travel trailer and and and even larger fifth wheel. Clearly these behemoths have the greatest markup and margins for both manufacture and dealer, but - well - OK, in an attempt to prevent myself from going off on a tirade, let's just say rigs like this are not for me.

But there was one display in that first hall that I found very interesting.

They had two Shasta's sitting end to end. The yellow one to the left (Yep, it's a Shasta. The reason the wings are missing is that the one on the driver's side would have blocked a small window at the head of the upper bunk.) is a 1954 unit. The other one - well I'll get to that in a minute.


Back in 1954 water tanks were more likely to be steel than plastic, and this little Shasta had a very sensible, if strange to our 21st century expectations, gravity feed water system. (You could even make it a stove-top pot filler by extending the tube coming out of the petcock.) But not to worry, if you have access to a hose connected to a pressure system there is a more standard tap there to the rear of the sink too!


Of course if you were topping up the tank by water-can filled from a hand-pumped well located somewhere near the center of the campground, as was the norm when I was a kid, you better have a step stool handy, or be pretty dang tall!

Yep, that's the water fill up there between the two windows!

  Now a little bit about that second Shasta sitting there.


What I found so interesting about this one

was that it was built by Shasta in 2015!!


Classic feel, with 50's colors and fabrics, plywood drawer and cabinet fronts, and Art Deco hardware,

but with modern appliances and conveniences,

The USB charging station and system monitor are tucked away behind the panel on the right, next to classic glass-inset plywood cabinet fronts and an Art Deco light fixture fitted with an Edison bulb. And note the sensible curtains! None of those big bulky, largely useless and often intrusive, valences which today's manufactures seem so fond of and we keep buying despite how cheap and tawdry they actually look.
tucked neatly out of sight where possible.

A retro reno without the work!! (OK, that's another one of those lies we tell ourselves to get through the day. I'm sure Shasta is not giving these things away and the harsh reality is, most of us have to work hard for those dollars we're going to transfer from our pocket to the dealer's.)

But on to the main hall!!

I think there was some attempt at chronological order when they set up the hall but I'm not sure that exactly holds up. There's so much crammed into this space (Often making decent photography impossible.) that I think it's best to just go at it without any timeline expectations.


Having said that, one of the first exhibits just inside the entry, is also one of the earliest.

And pretty sharp looking too!

This was quickly followed by a unit only slightly newer that ingeniously folded up into a nice compact little package.


After that the timeline thing sort of fell apart, but who cares!! This place is crammed full of cool stuff!!!


OK, seriously?? These seats might be an improvement over the original backless bench, but I've got a folding camp chair that's way more comfortable than this!


But still, that classic interior sure does tug at the heartstrings.


A pop-up with style (Check out the classy fenders and integrated gas-bottle cover!)

Built for a time when families played together and were big!


And if that wasn't enough sleeping space, behold, the first slideout actually called a slideout.



This stove vent might look crude and rude to us today, but I'll bet it still works, and that steel will never discolor and shatter after a few years of sun exposure like the modern plastic replacement that we're always - well - replacing.

Of course it's not all 'older is better'. Some of those old appliances looked - well - downright explosive!

And staying warm took up rather a lot of space.


But still, that old stuff sure has a way of giving me a warm fuzzy.

And the styling!! How can you not like classy wheel-wells and chromed full-moon hubcaps!

Of course there were a few dark periods there too, such as the one where button-tucked velour and thick shag ruled.


And when shag fell out of fashion - well I'm not sure what the heck that is!!

And no, that's not carpet, that's upholstery!!  Not sure how well that worked out in dusty desert winds or alongside sandy ocean beaches.


Hey! Anybody else remember those stove-grate clips?? I sure do! Back in the day my little hands were just barely strong enough to wrestle them into place and often as not, they ended up flying across the counter in the process.

And remember creasing your skull on the too-short doors? I do, but then that's no real feat of memory-recall, since I did it about 10 seconds after taking this photo. . .

Some of the exhibits are roped off to keep the masses from tramping through the insides, but many are open and you're welcome to climb on in. I don't know how they did it, but when you step into some of these trailers they even smell just like childhood camping!


And some of this stuff looks supper cool

from the outside


but I think the practicality might be a little questionable.I mean just what the heck are you supposed to do with that big ol' flat surface tucked into the skinny little butt-end of this thing!

and I'm pretty sure you'd have to pay dearly to find a driver willing to crawl up and over and stuff him/herself all alone up into that corner with the shifter actually behind his right shoulder.

And seriously! The pop-up pantry is kind of cool but just how much cooking are you actually going to do at this station while standing right in the one and only doorway?


Changing a rear tire will be a bit of a pain, what with having to fiddle with the fender-well cover

but if you get a flat up front - well - you're screwed!  (Don't get excited about that reflection in the bumper. I have my hat on and head down so just move along, nothing to see here.)

And sometimes we got so clever we couldn't tell if we were coming


or going. . .


But it's hard to deny that sometimes there were flashes of pure elegance difficult to find in modern units


Mixed with no-nonsense,

get the job done, engineering.

OK, OK, I get it. I've gone way past my allotted space and time here, so I'll just wrap up with a few more photos.  (Help me!! I can't stop!)


(This isn't the last Studebaker I came across on this trip, but you'll have to wait for more on that. . .)



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