I found the above photo while surfing the internet last week. It reminded me of a time in the 1950s when I was a wee lad living in a western suburb of Denver. I was probably ten or eleven when my parents and I went to a trailer exposition like the one shown above. We were not planning on moving into a trailer. Instead, my folks had purchased a building lot in a Clear Creek County in the foothills just west of Denver that lead up to to the Rocky Mountains. After finding out how much it would cost to build that little dream cabin they envisioned, they decided buying a trailer might be an affordable option.
For the less knowing, the foothills are the smaller mountains which lead the much higher Rockies that rise thousands of feet. The foothills are less imposing and most were easily accessible by ca even back then. In the 1950s the foothills were basically uninhabited except for small towns such as Evergreen, Conifer, and Bailey. That all changed with the construction of Interstate 70 cut travel time through the mountains to a few hours. The new suburban communities like Genesee sprang up along the "Front Range". The photo above shows US 40 looking back toward Denver in the 1940s.
Sometime before going to the trailer exposition, my parents had purchased a building lot in a subdivision called Harris Park. The developer basically cut roads on surveyed lots upon which new owners were supposed to drill wells, add septic systems, build a house, and live the dream life. I don't how much they paid for the lot, but I do remember they had a mortgage on it. The l price had to be in the high hundreds or very low thousands of dollars. The US Department of Commerce reports the median family income in the US in 1958 was $5,000. My family was normal. Buying a second home in the Rockies seemed like a dream that they could make into a reality.
I remember going trailer shopping on West Colfax Avenue with my parents. I don't know how many times we went, but I do remember the experience. And I remember the trailers we initially looked at were long and looked more like the photos at the top than the Shasta they bought. While I don't have an actual photo of it, I found many pictures of a red Shasta that looked just like ours.
We lived on a large corner lot when I was a kid. My dad sacrificed part of his garden area to provide a parking space for our new trailer. I sort of turned it into my little clubhouse where my friends could come over. I hooked up the garden hose so we could have running water. The trailer was laid out with two seats and a folding table at front. The table would collapse and the seat cushions would push together to create a sleeping space for two up front. The miniature kitchen had a stove, sink, and refrigerator. There was a bed at the rear with a single cot-like thing above. The trailer could effectively provide sleeping for five people.
The one and only time my family used the trailer was probably in the summer of 1959. My mother drove a pink and coppertone Plymouth Belvedre which had a trailer hitch installed so that we could take the Shasta up into the mountains. Instead of going to the lot they owned (the purpose of buying the trailer), we went up to some lake to go fishing with their friends. And instead of going to a recognized campground, they found some flat space in the middle of nowhere to park. I happened to have a cold during this trip. They took me along rather than leaving me with a sitter. They sat at the little table and played cars while I sat on the upper bunk doing who knows what until that moment I did what you might now see on Youtube or America's Funniest Home Videos (except we did not have videos back then). I put a used Sylvania Blue Dot flash bulb in my mouth. And for some damn fooled reason, I bit on it. I think I may have expected to crack the glass bulb and make it crackle as opposed to shattering into a thousands of tiny shards of glass - in my mouth. Which is exactly what happened.
I remember there was momentary chaos and a lot of why did you do thats?. I got the glass out and learned to never do that again. Since then I have been more thoughtful about a lot of things I do, especially when it comes to avoid getting hurt.
After that I tried to go to sleep but my cough persisted. I was told to go to the car to sleep. I don't think I ever spent a more frightening night in my life. My mother was no June Cleaver.
I have reported here before that my big brother often told me I was adopted. Sometimes I wish he was right. That would explain how someone would be so dumb as to buy a building lot in the mountains before understanding how much it would cost to build a dream cabin. No matter how small a place might be, construction costs money. And it could also explain how a parent could make a child sleep alone in a car in the wild Rocky Mountains filled with bears and mountain lions. I did, however, make it out alive.
Today I sell houses in Key West. A lot of my buyers are purchasers of second homes. I like to think I keep people from making dumb mistakes like my parents did. You can have your dream home.