One-room schoolhouses still educate visitors Schools housed generations of young learners in 19th, early 20th centuries

One-room schoolhouses still educate visitors Schools housed generations of young learners in 19th, early 20th centuries

(Photo by Kyle Bush)

August 2022

Cover Story

One-room schoolhouses still educate visitors

Schools housed generations of young learners in 19th, early 20th centuries

by Corbin Crable

As a new school year begins across the country, it can be easy to forget that one-room schoolhouses, those relics of education from centuries past, remain places of knowledge for students and history enthusiasts alike.

Single-room schools could be found in rural areas both in the United States and abroad – by 1919, according to Forbes.com, around 200,000 dotted rural landscapes in all; these institutions served an important role in molding young minds, especially in 19th- and early 20th-century America. The differences between one-room schoolhouses and the schools of today, of course, are vast. In those one-room schools, students of varying ages – usually grades 1 through 8 — would learn from one teacher – typically, a young woman; most schools could accommodate as few as six or as many as 40 students, according to the “America’s Story” project from the U.S. Library of Congress.

“The teacher’s desk may have been on a raised platform at the front of the room, and there would have been a wood-burning stove since there was no other source of heat,” according to the America’s Story site. “The bathroom would have been outside in an outhouse.”

One Room SchoolHouse

Teachers in one-room schools

Teachers in one-room schools were usually young women. (Image courtesy of Ancestry)

Tutoring the younger kids

The youngest of the students usually would sit at desks in the front of the classroom, while the oldest sat in the back of the room. Rarely did the older students need to be reminded to help the younger ones, as it was expected of them. And besides, according to the America’s Story site – the older students were all too eager to help their younger counterparts with their studies.

“‘Limited’ by one teacher, the students often helped with the teaching; older kids or those who mastered material more quickly would help others. A student who was advanced in math, for example, could simply do math with the older kids,” writes Brandon Busteed in a 2020 article on Forbes.com (Busteed’s father attended a one-room schoolhouse in Elgin, NE). “Because there was more fluidity in the learning, the one-room schoolhouse became more of a community-based education where everyone had to pitch in to some extent.”
Not only did these one-room schoolhouses make up the nucleus of a child’s education; quite often, they were the social and civic epicenter of the small towns in which they were located.

“The schoolhouse was the center and focus for thousands of rural communities, hamlets and small towns,” according to a website memorializing the Gunn School in Holt, MI. “Often, town meetings and picnics were also held there. They hosted plays, dances, box socials, spelling bees, and Christmas pageants.”

one-room schoolhouse at Deanna Rose

One-room schoolhouse at Deanna Rose

The one-room schoolhouse at Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park, KS, allows kids of all ages to visit the past. (Image courtesy of Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead)

Author Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie”

Author Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie”

Author Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” series painted a vivid picture of life inside a one-room schoolhouse in the 1800s. (Image courtesy of Ebay)

Fourth-graders visit a one-room schoolhouse

Fourth-graders visit a one-room schoolhouse

Fourth-graders visit a one-room schoolhouse in Ottawa, KS, to get a glimpse of how students received their education in the early 20th century. )Image courtesy of The Old Depot Museum)

“When I was your age…”

Students in one-room schoolhouses likely would have learned from The McGuffey Reader, first published in 1836. The readers taught students from grades 1-6 how to read using the phonics method and heavily utilized the slates and chalk that each student received at the beginning of the academic year in requiring students to replicate certain sentences or other vocabulary words.

The separation of religion and education was still a distant concept during the time of the one-room schoolhouse. In addition to the McGuffey Readers, students also learned reading from the Bible, which their teacher used alongside other teaching aids. In fact, many teachers opened their school day by leading the students in prayer, according to the Fort Hays (KS) State University Archives, which published an oral history project in which former students and teachers from schoolhouses in the region were interviewed about their experiences.

The earliest McGuffey Readers incorporated passages on national unity, piety and righteousness, and some remain in use today in evangelical Christian homeschooling, author Johann Neem writes in the summer 2018 edition of The Hedgehog Review.

No matter what their school day was like, Forbes’ Busteed says, those studious children grew up into the parents and grandparents who lightly admonished their kids and grandkids by reminding them how privileged their educational experiences are and saying, “When I was your age, I had to walk miles to school in the snow.”

“To this day, he loves sharing stories about it with his grandchildren,” Busteed says of his grandfather, “mainly bragging about how he had to ride his pony several miles to school (including through severe snowstorms).” 

Closures of schools continue, but lessons remain

Though class hasn’t been in session at most one-room schoolhouses for many decades, some 200 remain open to mold the young minds of students in remote areas, according to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

But those schools struggle to remain open, many instead being absorbed by other school districts nearby as families move to more populated areas for better job opportunities. One such school was the Glen School in Sioux County, NE, which had only three students enrolled as of a decade ago. NPR’s Neenah Ellis first visited the school in 2005 and met the last three students attending the school.

“The boys at the school — Travis, Luke and Nick — were all the sons of ranchers, their futures more secure than most,” Ellis shared in her broadcast on NPR. “But still, in just a few years, when they graduate from high school, these boys will be faced with hard decisions: Do we stay and work the ranch, or do we leave? And if we leave, can we come back?”

Contemporary students get to hear voices from the past

Contemporary students get to hear voices from the past

Contemporary students get to hear voices from the past while visiting the one-room schoolhouse in Hensley Township, IL. (Image courtesy of Museum of the Grand Prairie)

The Bichet School

The Bichet School

The Bichet School, built in 1896 and located in Marion County, KS.
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Glen School’s lone teacher, Mori Hourt, had many of the same responsibilities as an educator at a larger school – “It’s her job to get the boys ready to move on, whether that means high school, college or something else,” Ellis writes.

Within mere months of Ellis’ first visit to The Glen School, the decision came down from the school board to shutter the school. It closed in 2006, one of the last few remaining in the rural farming communities across the nation.

“After 120 years, there would be no school in Glen,” Ellis writes in the conclusion of the article that accompanies her broadcast. “The boys would finish in town. … No one was surprised at the closing of Glen School. They’d all seen it coming for a long time.”

Although the number of one-room schoolhouses continues to shrink every year, the students of today can still indulge in a taste of what life was like for those students of yesteryear. The Old Depot Museum in Ottawa, KS, for instance, allows students to tour the Franklin County one-room schoolhouse and replicate a typical day in the life of a student in 1910. Students dress in period-style clothing, with girls wearing pinafores and boys in suspenders. They recite the Pledge of Allegiance to start their day and receive lessons in subjects like reading, penmanship and music. They even use traditional pens and inkwells, as well as slates for their lessons.

It’s all a part of keeping the culture of one-room schoolhouses alive for children and history buffs alike as trends in education evolve and change, says Mori Hourt of The Glen School.

“You know, I think eventually education is going to have to stop and look at the example set by a one-room school and say, ‘Oh, my, maybe they weren’t deprived,’” Hourt said. “Many, many things have been done correctly in a one-room school and the results are there to read in history, if you just turn the right page.”

The McGuffey Reader

The McGuffey Reader

The McGuffey Reader was the gold standard for teaching students in one-room schoolhouses how to read throughout the 19th century. (Image courtesy of Etsy)

student wearing a dunce cap

Student wearing a dunce cap

The idea of a misbehaving student wearing a dunce cap and sitting in the corner originated in the one-room schoolhouse, according to Ancestry.
(Image courtesy of Ancestry)

Summer al fresco Before packing up a seasonal picnic, feed your head with these historical facts

Summer al fresco Before packing up a seasonal picnic, feed your head with these historical facts

Photo by Mike Leavenworth on flickr

July 2022

Cover Story

Summer al fresco

Before packing up a seasonal picnic, feed your head with these historical facts

by Corbin Crable

One of the great joys of pleasant weather lies in the simple picnic, a summer activity whose history is as varied as the lunch offerings to be found there. The late cook and renowned foodie James Beard put it well when he observed that “picnicking is one of the supreme pleasures of outdoor life.”

Before the advent of the very word ‘picnic’ itself, according to May 26, 2013, NPR broadcast, picnicking as an activity could be found in the medieval lore of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, who traveled through the depths of Sherwood Forest, dining informally on bread and cheese – washed down with ale, of course.

An aristocratic activity

The origins of the word ‘picnic,’ meanwhile, are up for debate, but what we do know for certain is that it first appeared in a French satire in which the primary character, named ‘Pique-Nique,’ is presented as a gluttonous protagonist who led a revolution against the ruling class in 17th-century France. Since he was known for eating large, lavish meals, Pique-Nique’s name, which literally translates to “To peck a small amount,” was an exercise in irony.

In the 1700s, enjoying a picnic was an activity indulged in mostly by aristocrats, who requested that attendees bring an item to share, such as a beverage. If they wished, attendees could opt not to bring anything to share, but they could help pay a portion of the overall cost of the picnic instead. At these picnics, while servants would dish out the food and drink, the aristocrats especially enjoyed the wit and rich conversation of their peers, so the picnic was viewed as an activity for the refined and educated. Playing music also was a common accompaniment.

1972 Dark Side of the Moon Tour

Your drink selection is sure to be the centerpiece of your picnic

Whether you opt for a wine, a fruity cocktail or a traditional lemonade, your drink selection is sure to be the centerpiece of
your picnic. (Image courtesy of Our Table)

“The original definition of the word ‘picnic’ denoted something like a potluck, so you would have a bunch of people getting together, and each would be contributing to the feast,” food historian Lynne Olver told NPR in the 2013 broadcast.

The face of the picnic changed completely during the French Revolution, when members of the aristocracy immigrated to England and, their fortunes shattered by the conflict, tried to adapt and maintain their former quality of life.

“This led to two important developments,” according to a 2019 article written by Alexander Lee and published in the periodical History Today. “The first – and shortest-lived – was that, in London, the picnic became less refined and more raucous. This was thanks to a group of 200 wealthy young Francophiles, who – in late 1801 – founded the ‘Pic Nic Society’. Held in hired rooms in Tottenham Street, their gatherings were self-consciously extravagant. Every member was required to bring a dish (decided by lot) and six bottles of wine.”

Who ever heard of an indoor picnic?

Until the early 1800s, picnics were held exclusively indoors. With the dawn of the new century came the activity’s move to outdoors. It would be another 100 years – the early 20th century – before outdoor picnicking became more popular than the indoor version.

“What caused this change is somewhat unclear, but the most likely explanation is that the socially aspirational simply applied a fashionable French word to a pre-existing practice, without being aware of its connotations,” Lee writes. “One of the results of this was that picnicking ceased to be associated with music and dancing and became a simple meal to which people were invited by a host. Another was that it became both more ‘genteel’ and – thanks to the idealisation of the countryside – more innocent.”

Perfect picnic – the ingredients are merely food and fun.

The perfect picnic – the ingredients are merely food and fun

Always remember that there’s no hard and fast rule to making the perfect
picnic – the ingredients are merely food and fun. (Image courtesy of Reader’s Digest)

 Portrayed the picnic as a hedonistic activity

Portrayed the picnic as a hedonistic activity

Edouard Manet’s “Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe” (1862) portrayed the picnic as a hedonistic activity. (Image courtesy of Bridgeman Images)

Sin vs. simplicity

Surprisingly, picnics were a moral issue in the 18th and 19th centuries, when they found their way into both the visual and written arts; though paintings, poems and novels portrayed the picnic as a celebration of innocence and simplicity in life, others still showed the picnic as decadent and hedonistic, such as the nude picnicker in Manet’s “Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe” (1862).

In Victorian England, if one were having a picnic outside, according to the NPR broadcast, one had to include “tables, linens, crystal, chairs and servants – and gourmet fare, of course.”

Author Katherine Mansfield, in her blog The Vintage Kitchen, writes that as picnics moved outside and became more casual, the look and the food that accompanied the activity changed drastically.

“Back in earlier centuries, outdoor eating meant bountiful quantities and dramatic fare. Whole animals roasted over fire pits, multiple courses served by domestic staff, exotic ingredients, rich foods, elaborate presentation,” Mansfield writes. “But as outdoor dining began to evolve over time into smaller parties and simpler affairs, the food that accompanied it changed also. As serving staffs diminished and people became more independent, picnics and the baskets they represented, became simpler – filled with foods that could be easily made, easily transported, and easily unpacked.

Economical, spontaneous, and available to everyone, picnics naturally turned destinations into dining opportunities. All you needed was a basket, a blanket, a small collection of foodstuffs, and an adventurous spirit.”

 

A tisket, a tasket, a picnic basket

And as the 19th century gave way to the 1900s and the pioneering invention of the automobile made the countryside and nature more accessible to those wishing to enjoy a picnic, merchants began to produce baskets in which picnickers could carry their bounty. Around the time when British novelist Kenneth Grahame’s animals dined from a picnic basket in “Wind in the Willows” (1908), the picnic basket (also referred to as a “picnic hamper”) was invented.

“Picnic basket kits as we know today — having placeholders for dishes and silverware and glasses and napkins — actually begin to appear at the very dawn of the 20th century,” NPR’s Lydia Zurow writes.

Antique and vintage picnic baskets, usually made from woven wicker (though aluminum picnic baskets began to be manufactured in the mid-20th century in various colors), can be easily found online for less than $100. Sites such as Chairish.com have some options that cost up to $200, some with stenciled images or other embellishments.

Slow down, enjoy the finer things

Mansfield writes that when it comes to picnics, one thing that hasn’t changed throughout the centuries is an enjoyment of the finer things in life.

“The vintage-style picnic favors china plates and real glassware, classic cocktails and linen napkins, and most importantly, homemade food. It is the sort of affair that wraps you up in a long, restful lazy day adventure fueled with time-honored tradition and attention to detail. It discourages anything fast or obtuse- like technology and frenzied time schedules and plastic utensils,” Mansfield says. “It champions a slower, simpler and more relaxing rhythm. The type of experience that not only feeds your appetite but also your senses, your spirit and your sanity. Basically, a vintage-style picnic is a big, long break in your day meant for resting, relaxing and restoring through small details… the time-worn touch of an old plate, the taste of an heirloom recipe, the time-out of technology, and the tune in to your natural surroundings.

picnic in the countryside in 1933.

Picnic in the countryside in 1933

A family enjoying a summer picnic in the countryside in 1933. (Image courtesy of Vintage Everyday)

picnics in literature.

picnics in literature.

 Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind in the Willows” (1908) is one example of the presence of picnics in literature. (Image courtesy of Philip Mendoza, Bridgeman Images)

your summer picnic basket

Your summer picnic basket

You can pack whatever you’d like into your summer picnic basket, but for a vintage picnic feel, you can include classic foods such as deviled eggs, fruit tarts and wine and cheese. (Image courtesy of In The Vintage Kitchen)

All the standard treats

Much like the location and look of picnics have evolved, so too have the foods enjoyed at such relaxing outings.
The types of foods that we commonly associate with a picnic fell into favor with picnickers in the mid-20th century, according to Mansfield.

“By the time the mid-20th century rolled around, there was a definite type of picnic fare anticipated and defined by the activity,” Mansfield writes. “Fried chicken, salads and deviled eggs topped the favorites list, along with hot dogs, sandwiches, pies, cakes, bread and fruit.”

Regardless of what you’re planning to nibble on, no matter where you’re planning to enjoy the great outdoors with a full picnic basket, Mansfield says there is joy to be found in a simple picnic, as its long history has shown.

“Eating is a ceremonial act,” she says. “The art of the vintage picnic reminds us of that. Just as it has in the past and will continue to do so in the future.” 

 

vintage-inspired picnic baskets

Vintage-inspired picnic baskets

Vintage and vintage-inspired picnic baskets are readily available on websites like Etsy. They usually sell for around $100 or so. This basket, complete with place settings for two, sells for $100 on Westelm.com. (Image courtesy of West Elm)

Get into the groove  Vintage concert posters are collectible pieces of music history

Get into the groove Vintage concert posters are collectible pieces of music history

June 2022

Cover Story

Get into the Groove

Vintage concert posters are collectible pieces of music history

by Corbin Crable

Whether tacked onto the wall of a bar or plastered onto a streetlamp post, vintage concert posters announced small, intimate shows and big, earth-shaking cultural events alike – and years after the music has stopped, they remain fun collectibles, reminders of the soundtrack of one’s youth.

Record stores, antique shops, bars and restaurants display them prominently – both as colorful conversation starters and as decorations designed to get you in the mood for good times.

In the Kansas City metro area, vintage concert posters feature heavily into the interior decoration of at least three merchants. At BB’s Lawn Side BBQ, a perennial favorite for barbecue and blues, concert posters cover the interior walls of the restaurant known for a savory treat called the BBQ Sundae. Hastily affixed to the walls with large staples, the concert posters advertise blues and jazz musicians of bygone performances, giving the establishment a roadhouse feel.

“The décor is eclectic,” one reviewer wrote on Trip Advisor. “So much cool blues history and artwork.”

In the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Vinyl Renaissance has been keeping music lovers’ turntables active for more than two decades. Their store features not just a listening studio and wine tasting room, but also walls decked out in album covers and some concert posters. And on the other side of the state line, in St. Joseph, MO, St. Joseph Auction and Antiques boasts another large space called The Kool Kat Music Exchange where you will find walls decked out in vintage rock ‘n’ roll posters – and crateful after crateful of vinyl records just waiting to be sold to music lovers.

Collectible memories

And not only are these con- cert posters harbingers of nostalgia, of fun times from the not-too-recent past, but they’re increasing in value, too.

“Collectors are willing to pay a considerable premium for the prestige that comes with being able to display their rare acquisitions right on their walls,” says Glen Trosch, founder of the the Baltimore-based Psychedelic Art Exchange in a 2019 blog post. Trosch says he considers any “vintage” concert poster to be at least 50 years old.

Although early collectors of concert posters and other related art might have been only die-hard fans of the band or artist displayed, Trosch says the posters’ appeal has not only expanded to mainstream collectors, but art galleries and museums as well.

“Over the past several years, vintage rock concert posters have enjoyed major, highly successful exhibitions in many of our nation’s most prestigious museums, including The New York Museum of Modern Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Laguna Art Museum, The San Diego Museum of Art, and The Smithsonian Institution,” he writes. “These exhibitions have been —and will continue to be—instrumental in broadening the awareness and appeal of vintage concert posters as millions of new people are exposed to their unique beauty, rarity, and historical importance.”

1972 Dark Side of the Moon Tour

1972 Dark Side of the Moon Tour

A poster advertising Pink Floyd during the band’s 1972 Dark Side of the Moon Tour.( Image courtesy of The Tallenge Store)

Art in the Age of Aquarius

Trosch says that currently, some of the most popular and sought-after vintage concert posters are those from the 1960s – after all, they’re eye-catching, colorful, and, well, psychedelic. Be ready to shell out some dough for mint-condition posters from the decade, however, as posters in pristine condition can be fetch thousands of dollars, and even those in fair condition can command prices in the high hundreds.

The value of such posters is so high because they were produced in such small numbers and because mint copies are rare – after all, Trosch says, posters are examples of ephemera, or items that are designed to last only a short time.

These works of art were initially produced as advertisements for live events. They were posted on telephone poles, bus stops, bulletin boards, store windows and other places all over town.

“After the event, they served no purpose, so they were quickly torn down and replaced with a new poster advertising the next big concert,” Trosch writes. “The only ones interested in this groundbreaking art were teenagers passionate about the bands and music, or hippies that were attracted to the poster’s cosmic visual appeal.”

Since these free spirits were the only ones collecting at the time, very little (if any) attention was paid to the state of preservation. Any knowledgeable collector will tell you that this is the primary factor in determining the value of any collectible. Very few of these works of art were carefully saved, and it is indeed a miracle that any have survived in mint condition today.”

One of the most well-known posters produced in the 1967 Summer of Love was by artist Bonnie MacLean, advertising a joint concert from The Doors and The Yardbirds beginning on July 25 in San Francisco. Featuring striking, vibrant oranges and greens, the centerpiece image on the poster showed a peacock, with a woman’s face on the right side of the poster.

“The Yardbirds performed three days, The Doors performed three days, and all six shows featured the James Cotton Blues Band and Richie Havens,” Bill Graham, owner of Wolfgang’s, writes of the piece. “The serene visage of this maiden was a clear reference to the detached spirituality of the era.”

 

The Yardbirds and The Doors poster

The Yardbirds and The Doors poster

A 1967 poster advertising a joint concert between The Yardbirds and The Doors. (Image courtesy of liveauctioneers.com)

David Bowie concert posters

David Bowie concert posters

Many David Bowie concert posters of the 1970s displayed the musician portrayed as his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. (Image courtesy of Notoriously Morbid)

Colorful lettering and images

Wolfgang’s sells original poster artwork of famed musical artists; Graham himself worked as a concert promoter for many years. Other posters by MacLean, a self-taught artist, include Jefferson Airplane (May 12); Martha and the Vandellas (May 19-20); Pink Floyd (Oct. 26), all from 1967 performances at The Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, the epicenter of the counterculture movement. Artist David Byrd, as The Fillmore’s exclusive concert poster artist, drew Jimi Hendrix at his peak in 1968 for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. On the other side of the country, color was splashed across the most popular concert posters of the 1960s and 1970s as they advertised artists playing New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. A Feb. 15, 1973, poster shows David Bowie as his androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, while that same year, Pink Floyd was advertised as the headliner in concert there on March 17, during the band’s Dark Side of the Moon Tour (an original copy of that poster, listed in ‘poor’ condition, was recently sold at auction for $375).

Concert poster artists of the 1960s made liberal use of the Art Nouveau style, popular during the turn of the century. Their psychedelic posters, then, featured large, bulbous letters and sensuously drawn women, inspired using a little LSD, of course. According to Rachael Myrow of KQED Interactive Media, the Art Nouveau style “celebrated organic life: curling tendrils of vegetation, vivid colors, and lots and lots of curvaceous women.”

Individual artists and bands aside, concert posters also announced the arrivals of the 20th century’s biggest and best music festivals, chief among them the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock, arguably one of the most widely recognized concert posters ever created.

The three-day Monterey Pop Festival, from June 16-18, 1967, is considered to be one of the beginnings of the hippie/flower child movement; the festival boasted a lineup of musical giants, including Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar, Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company (still an up-and-coming talent), Otis Redding, and the Who. The poster itself features stage and silent film actress Maud Allen in costume as the biblical title character in the 1908 play “Vision of Salome.”

The Monterey Pop Festival

The Monterey Pop Festival poster

Art advertising The Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967 mixed psychedelic lettering with a reference to silent film star Maud Allen. (Image courtesy of Lofty)

An iconic image

The poster advertising the August 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel, NY, now fetches nearly $7,000 for those original posters in mint condition, according to a 2019 podcast from New England Public Media, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the event.

Massachusetts artist Arnold Skolnick, the graphic designer who created the original poster while living in New York in 1969.

“(They) said, ‘We’re going to have a festival with arts and crafts and music,’” Skolnick recalled in his initial conversation with festival organizers. “And I turned it around to say, ‘three days of peace and music.’ So, it started with the words.’”

Unlike the elaborately designed psychedelic concert posters of the latter part of the decade, Skolnick decided that a simple design was better.

“Everybody was doing psychedelic posters, which I think are awful,” he said. “A poster is supposed to be so simple that if you’re driving by slowly in a car, you can see it.”

Skolnick’s finished product featured simple images – a guitar and a bird.

“I used a catbird instead of a dove, because a catbird is fat, and a dove is like a pigeon. It has no shape whatsoever,” Skolnick said. “When you say the word ‘peace,’ you think of a dove. It’s just a symbol.”

Skolnick’s iconic design was later incorporated into a monument at the site of the festival.

 

Woodstock concert poster

Woodstock concert poster

The design and the message of the iconic Woodstock concert poster are both simple and striking. (Image courtesy of Fine Art America)

Led Zeppelin poster

Led Zeppelin

Rock legends Led Zeppelin traversed North America while on tour in 1973. (Image courtesy of Pinterest)

Collectibles you can afford

Trosch of the Psychedelic Art Exchange says that quite often, collectors just starting their collection don’t realize how affordable some vintage concert posters can be, making it easy to jump into collecting. And even better – these pieces document major gatherings in the history of music.

“These fantastic works of art are, without a doubt, the most authentic historical artifacts of this historical era. Unlike any other collectible or art in the world, they most closely represent and embody the ideals and values that helped shape our nation — then and now,” he writes. “For this reason alone, the appreciation and importance of these unique works of art are guaranteed to grow with each passing year.”

Your home away from home Vintage campers ready for summer adventures

Your home away from home Vintage campers ready for summer adventures

May 2022

Cover Story

Your home away from home

Vintage campers ready for summer adventures

by Corbin Crable

As temperatures grow warmer and nature calls out to you for yet another summer adventure, many longtime camping enthusiasts are gassing up their vintage campers and hitting the road.

The camper had been around since was invented in the 1930s as modes of transportation began an era of steady improvement. Although production of the camper slowed during World War II (the materials needed to be conserved for the war effort), campers exploded in popularity in the years immediately following the war’s end in 1945, as suburbs sprang up around the country and soldiers returned home to start their family.

Families who yearned for road trips enjoyed how cost-effective these campers were, and how they allowed travelers to bring their modern conveniences from home and drive right past roadside motels and travel lodges that dotted the landscape.

“Although camper travel meant pitching on road sides and traveling for long hours, it proved to be very cost-effective and a much more personal journey than on a train or plane,” according to the website classic-car-history.com.

The plywood, aluminum, and fiberglass trailers bore names like DeVille, Shasta and Airstream, standing as a status symbol for middle-class Americans in the post-war years.

The camper has been called by many names over the years, but no matter what you call it, it serves the same purpose.

“Well, historically, they were all the same thing. Simply put, trailers. Even the industry was unsure if there were any differences,” Tom Heintz writes for Tin Can Tourists, a website for vintage trailer enthusiasts. “I have seen trailers as short as 16 feet called mobile homes and trailers as long as 35 feet called travel trailers by their own manufacturers in the 1950s and ‘60s.”

This 1963 Yellowstone camper is a fine exapmle of a Glamper Camper project. (Image courtesy of pinterest)

1963 Yellowstone camper

This 1963 Yellowstone camper is a fine exapmle of a Glamper Camper project. (Image courtesy of pinterest)

Teardrop trailers and onward

One of the more distinctive styles of vintage camper is the teardrop trailer, usually stretching out a mere 4 to 6 feet in width and 8-10 feet in length. Designed for only one or two campers, these trailers were sleek in design, their roofs made of curved metal and featuring pop-out back windows, according to the website. They remained popular for being compact, but declined in popularity throughout the 1950s as campers expressed a desire for more space for their growing family.

The modern-day “travel trailer,” or RV, and its many iterations proved to be more attractive to campers in groups. Older models didn’t have plumbing, but they did have features like wood-burning stoves designed to both cook food and heat the camper. The later vintage models, with a kitchen, a bathroom, and a sleeping facility, offered a way for families to camp out in style and with all of the modern conveniences of home in tow (some luxurious models included air conditioning, TVs, a water heater and quartz countertops as well). Though travel trailers had been around since the late 19th century, they, too, rose sharply in popularity in the mid-20th century as families grew and people had more disposable income.

RV parks began to spring up as campers enjoyed long-term time in nature. The decade of the 1950s saw added improvements in RV and camper technology, including lightweight construction techniques; more powerful gas and diesel engines were added which made RVs bigger and faster, according to The Caravan and Motohome Club.

 

restored vintage teardrop

Restored Vintage Teardrop

Here’s an excellent example of a beautifully restored vintage teardrop camper trailer. (Image courtesy of vehiclegeni.com)
interior of their 1970s camper trailer

Interior of their 1970s camper trailer

These owners amped up the adorable factor on the interior of their 1970s camper trailer. (image courtesy of countryliving.com)

Living a life off the grid

Of course, there are people who toss aside life in a conventional apartment or house and instead opt to live in their camper or RV full time. A retired person who makes the choice to live in an RV as his or her primary residence is referred to in Australia as a “grey nomad.” According to a November 2018 article in The Washington Post, an estimated 1 million people live full-time in their RV.

From the article: “We’re a family of four redefining what the American Dream means. It’s happiness, not a four-bedroom house with a two-car garage,” said Robert Meinhofer, 45, who lives in an RV with wife Jessica and their two children.

Another couple, Steven and Joyce Seid, originally from Wichita, KS, traverses the country in their RV during the warmer months of the year. Joyce has decorated the interior with big, beautiful sunflowers, a colorful reminder of Kansas.

“This is a great life,” Steven said in the Washington Post article. “We meet the nicest people.”

Despite the trend of retirees deciding to live in RVs full-time, the RV Industry Association says that half of new RV sales are going to buyers younger than 45, and nearly 11 million households own at least one RV.

Tin Can Tourists

Though modern campers and RVs continue their rise in popularity, the Tin Can Tourists group was founded in 1998 and still has various regional rallies throughout the U.S. In cyberspace, Heintz and the group’s other members post photos of elongated travel trailers, some as long as 50 feet. They also share the original owners’ manuals for their camper or trailer, as well as advertisements and other related ephemera.

“My family also has a very long history of pulling such large trailers as full-timers from the 1940s to the 1970s,” Heintz writes. “I still own the pink and white 1958 Skyline (8’x45’) that my parents purchased brand-new in late 1957.”

Shasta Camper

Shasta Camper

Shasta, originally one of the biggest names in the camper industry, advertised its campers in a way to bring families together in the great outdoors. (Image courtesy of vintagecampertrailers.com)
Restored Camper Trailer

Restored Camper Trailer

This shining example of a restored camper trailer was featured in Camper Report magazine. (Image courtesy of camperreport.com)

Purchase the trailer of your dreams (or at least look at it)

The Tin Can Tourists website also features a classified ad section, where sellers can advertise vintage trailers for sale. The latest offerings in the classifieds section include a 1968 Road Runner ($18,200), a 1961 Shasta Airflyte 16SC vintage trailer ($15,000), and a 1952 16-foot Pleasurecraft ($14,500).

If those beauties are a bit out of your price range, you can at least see many on display this summer in our coverage region. In Leasburg, MO, the 2022 Missouri Loves Company Vintage Camper Rally will take place June 2-5 at the Ozark Outdoors Resort (for more information, call 573-245-6837). This is the first year for this particular rally. In Arkansas, the 72 West Vintage Camper Show (at 11507 West Highway 72 in Centerton) will be held June 11 and will include a contest, with entrants vying for best interior, best exterior, and best in show trophies (call 479-206-2491 for more information).

 

Campers and restoration projects

Campers and restoration projects

Campers proudly share their campers and restoration projects with others on Facebook. (Image courtesy of Vintage Camper Trailers FB group)

Keeping your treasured camper in good repair

Just like any home, whether it’s tethered to a foundation or on wheels, some of the more common repairs and preventative maintenance for vintage trailers will include asbestos removal. Moisture and condensation also pose dual problems to maintaining a clean mobile living space, with water vapor specifically created by the drying of clothes and the cooking of food having the potential to wreak havoc on the camper’s interior.

Tin Can Tourists recommends proper ventilation of one’s camper, and doing everything you can to lower the humidity inside.
Tin Can Enthusiasts identifies asbestos as a potentially deadly problem for anyone restoring a vintage camper.

“There are numerous items that can contain asbestos in vintage trailers,” according to the group’s website. “Some of these materials include insulation, vinyl tile, and brake linings. If you have a vintage RV, there are several car parts that could contain asbestos as well. Some parts such as the hood liner, various gaskets and clutch plates could have been made with asbestos.”

1961 Frontier Trailer

1961 Frontier Trailer

Advertisement for a 1961 Frontier Trailer, which featured a “fold-out living room.” (Image courtesy of Heintz Designs)

Nostalgia on wheels

No matter the type of vintage camper or the decade in which it was manufactured, the important thing is to get out this summer and enjoy yourself with your own personal style. Vintage camper owners know their aluminum treasure will always attract onlookers with plenty of questions, comments and exclamations.

“Vintage trailers are an excellent way to connect to the past while enjoying the great outdoors,” the Tin Can Tourists blog states. “One might be drawn to vintage trailers because of memories camping with their family in an Airstream or traveling to see the national parks, toting a trailer behind the family station wagon. Vintage travel trailers are packed so full of charm and classic features that often evoke nostalgia. No matter the reason, that vintage, polished aluminum Airstream is certain to turn heads cruising into a state park for the weekend.”

For more information on vintage campers and the history of travel trailers, or to join the organization itself, visit the Tin Can Toursists’ website at www.tincantourists.com.

Retro cool

Retro cool

Retro cool – having a matching car to pull your trailier adds a real WOW factor. (Image courtesy of vintagecampertrailers.com)

America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful

April 2022

Cover Story

America the Beautiful

Ad campaigns deter littering, encourage preservation of country’s natural beauty

by Corbin Crable

It’s hard to believe that what we know as recycling today was largely unfamiliar to Americans just a few decades ago. You likely can recall its beginnings through colorful characters, slogans, commercials and other public service announcements throughout the mid- to late 20th century.

In the late 1930s and ‘40s, recycling, conserving, and rationing materials was done in the name of the war effort. Propaganda posters and films commissioned by the federal government fed media consumers the narrative that to recycle materials, reuse items, and reduce waste would help Americans forces overseas win the war against the Axis Powers. According to an April 2020 article from History.com, “people recycled nylons, tin cans, cooking fats, and even the tin in toothpaste tubes for the war effort.” When paired with the trend of planting victory gardens and using ration books for items like sugar and bread at the supermarket, Americans felt they were not only exercising their patriotism – they were making a difference in the fight against fascism and the Nazis as well.

In the years immediately following World War II, as members of the Baby Boomer Generation were born and grew up in the newly formed suburbs, a new focus on consumerism and larger families in densely populated areas meant more waste created. The conservation efforts of the early 1940s died out with the decade as Americans bought larger houses and shiny, new appliances to put in them as both a matter of convenience and as a status symbol.

Real Smokey cub

Smokey the Bear

Smokey the Bear was modeled after an actual bear cub. Here, the real Smokey sits on a Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser. (Image courtesy of smokeybear.com)

Keep America Beautiful

The 1960s saw a shift in Americans’ concern for the environment around them. In the White House, President Lyndon Johnson began passing legislation for the betterment of the environment; First Lady Lady Bird Johnson launched her beautification project, “Keep America Beautiful,” which aimed to keep cities throughout the country by removing junkyards and instead replacing them with flower gardens and trees.

Johnson believed that making one’s community more beautiful would help improve not just the environment, but all of Earth’s citizens.

“Ugliness is so grim,” the First Lady once said. “A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions.”

It was a message that was heard by a few environmentally responsible Americans, but the focus on reducing waste didn’t pick up steam until the 1970s – as landfills became filled to the brim with waste. Conservation education took on a new importance with the very first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. The Environmental Protection Agency was established by President Richard Nixon later that same year.

Gerald Ford takes the oath of office

Earth Day rally in New York City

A crowd gathers for an Earth Day rally in New York City in the early 1970s. (Image courtesy of earthday.org)

Smokey Bear warning ..dangers of wildfires

Smokey Bear warned ... dangers of wildfires

Wielding a shovel, Smokey the Bear has warned campers of the dangers of wildfires since 1944. (Image courtesy of History.com)

Only you can prevent forest fires

On the media front, the mid-20th century gave rise to campaigns that both children and adults could learn from and enjoy. One of the older campaigns launched by the U.S. Forest Service – still recognizable to Americans everywhere – was Smokey the Bear, introduced in its Wildfire Prevention Campaign. Clad in blue jeans and a wide-brimmed hat, though Smokey didn’t preach waste reduction, he nonetheless was instrumental in teaching Americans about the value of protecting the country’s natural resources. Introduced in 1944, when the American involvement in World War II entered its third year, the first Smokey poster bore the words, “Smokey says – Care will prevent 9 out of 10 forest fires.” Three years later, in 1947, Smokey’s slogan was changed to, “Remember … Only YOU can prevent forest fires,” then, in 2001, to, “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

Smokey was modeled after a real-life 3-month-old American black bear cub, found in 1950 following a New Mexico wildfire. Smokey was transported to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he lived as a living symbol of the anti-wildfire campaign for the next quarter century. The original Smokey died in 1976, buried now at Smokey Bear Historical Park in New Mexico.

Throughout his lifetime, Smokey became a cultural icon, being featured in cartoons, comics, and in merchandising; one of the most popular Smokey collectibles was a doll that came with a membership card for the U.S. Forest Service’s Junior Forest Rangers. Most recently, for Smokey the Bear’s 75th anniversary, the National Zoo hosted a special exhibit honoring the advertising icon and his influence on pop culture.

Give a hoot!
Don’t pollute!

Another brainchild of the U.S. Forest Service, Woodsy Owl, was focused on anti-pollution efforts and protecting the environment. A more recent creation, was introduced in 1970; his famous slogan, “Give a hoot! Don’t pollute!” was coined the following year, in September 1971. Like Smokey, Woodsy appeared as the star in comics and conservation-themed campaigns and PSAs; Woodsy even had his very own comic in the mid-1970s. Geared toward young children to get them excited about taking care of the environment, Woodsy’s slogan was updated in recent years.

“Caring, friendly and wise, Woodsy Owl is a whimsical fellow, and he’s got his heart set on motivating kids to form healthy, lasting relationships with nature,” according to the National Forest Service’s website. “As Woodsy flies across our land, he encourages youngsters to marvel at and explore the natural world, even the city. His motto, ‘Lend a Hand – Care for the Land!’ encourages everyone to make a positive difference in their world.”

According to an article in the periodical Forest History Today, published on the occasion of the character‘s 40th birthday, much like Smokey, “with the weight of the government’s public relations machine behind him, Woodsy quickly entered the American popular culture mainstream. Articles in Time magazine and other national magazines and in major newspapers like the Denver Post, Minneapolis Tribune, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Stars and Stripes all touted the birth of America’s new leader in the fight against pollution and littering.”

Woodsy motivates children

Woodsy motivates children

Woodsy motivates children “to form healthy, lasting relationships with nature,” according to the National Forest Service. (Image
courtesy of Twitter)

Iron Eyes Cody

Iron Eyes Cody

Iron Eyes Cody was better known to TV audiences as “the Crying Indian” in a 1971 anti-littering campaign. (Image courtesy of The Chicago Tribune)

“People start pollution.
People can stop it”

Though Smokey the Bear and Woodsy the Owl appealed to a young audience, the 1970s also saw anti-littering public service announcements and advertising campaigns geared toward their adult counterparts. Along with the Ad Council, the nonproft organization Keep America Beautiful, founded in 1953 in an attempt to battle the growing problem of litter along America’s new Interstate Highway System, aired a now-famous PSA in the early 1970s featuring actor Iron Eyes Cody in Native American costume, shedding a single tear when trash lands at his feet, having been thrown out of the window of a passing car. A voiceover solemnly states, “People start pollution. People can stop it.”

According to Keep America Beautiful, the ad, referred to as “The Crying Indian,” had a near-immediate impact, claiming it “helped reduce litter by 88 percent across 38 states.” It was first aired on Earth Day in 1971 and has since been named one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th century by Ad Age Magazine.

“The central crux of this message conveyed that the average American can and should shoulder the burden of caring for our lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, and coastal areas,” according to a 2018 blog post on pbs.org.

 

Time Magazine cover Earth day

Time Magazine

The Jan. 2, 1989, issue of Time Magazine focused on the continued presence of environmental threats. (Image courtesy of Time)

The endangered Earth

Environmental issues have remained in the public consciousness of both the young and old in the decades since, with Time Magazine forgoing its annual Person of the Year announcement in 1988 and instead naming “the endangered Earth” as its “Planet of the Year.” It was the first time an inanimate object received the distinction as the biggest newsmaker of the year since 1982, when the home computer was named.

Time’s editors wrote in the Jan. 2, 1989, issue: “No single individual, no event, no movement captured imaginations or dominated headlines more than the clump of rock and soil and water and air that is our common home. … Now, more than ever, the world needs leaders who can inspire their fellow citizens with a fiery sense of mission, not a nationalistic or military campaign but a universal crusade to save the planet.”

Such powerful rhetoric and calls for action may have found their way into present-day social media into present-day blogs and social media posts, but they were born decades ago, with the inception of well-loved mascots who brought with them a positive message of loving and taking care of the Earth.

“(In the era of) the 1960s and 1970s,” the PBS blog post states, “the message was that individuals ought to be stewards of the natural world.”

Smokey the Bear doll

Smokey the Bear doll

This official Smokey the Bear doll was just one of many products that bore the bear’s likeness in the mid-20th century. (Image courtesy of eBay)