Fifty Dollars Worth of Camper

th3EKZ50VW bus 2See this great old school bus.  It is so much nicer than the one Daddy acquired for the unbelievable sum of fifty dollars. He purchased it from his brother-in-law, who’d gotten stuck with it as payment body work.  Daddy was ahead of his time In acquiring this Tiny House.  Mother was furious.  Fifty dollars would have bought more than two week’s supply of groceries.  Though he gave Mother no end of grief about her extravagant spending at the grocery store, he wasn’t short-sighted and saw the great potential in this bus-camper.  It would be a wonderful shelter when he and his buddies went deer hunting, and oh yes, the family could use it for camping, too!  Now our camper wasn’t nearly so nice as the one pictured above.  It had been partially hand-painted bright silver and lacked a motor. The good news was, we could finish it up any color we liked and motors take up a lot of unnecessary space better used for storage.  In that special storage area, items were stored in boxes on one deep shelf or in  boxes on the floor beneath the shelf.  While the rest of us were out fishing, swimming, or just running wild in general, Mother drug boxes out and dug through them for dishes, pots and pans, and food, all this with two babies in diapers.  She complained about her back constantly.  What a whiner!

.nice inside

See how comfortable and well-appointed the camper pictured above is.  Ours was nothing like this.  There was no refrigerator, lighting, water, bathroom, hard-wood floors, or Benjamin Franklin wood burning stove.  There was, however, an ancient gas range Daddy hooked to a propane bottle.  It had two functioning burners and a defunct oven.  That was okay, since Mother insisted it had a propane leak and she was scared to use it longer than it took to heat a can of beans or cook eggs.  She cooked with all the windows open and made Daddy cut the fuel off every time she got through.  In fact, it did have a propane leak in the line, but that’s a story for another day.

Two full-size bunk beds filled the rear of the camper.  Two sets of old army bunks were stacked along either side.  Of course, we fought over the top bunks.  The lower bunks served as seating.  A lantern and flash lights served when light was needed.

It was perfect.  I remember one wonderful camping trip when Daddy pulled it to a creek bank.  We swam, fished, swatted mosquitoes, cooked outdoors, only going in to sleep, so exhausted we hardly moved till morning.  Mother got up several times every night to spray to camper with bug killer and spray the covers and any exposed skin with mosquito repellent.  We scratched bug bites and poison ivy for days after we got home.

That was our only family camping trip.  Daddy used it a time or two for hunting, then gave it up as too much trouble.  It had a couple of other incarnations as a home for a farm laborer who confirmed the stove fuel line leak before it descended so far down the social scale it ended life as a junk shed on Daddy’s farm.

To me, that camper was worth every cent!

Poor Hungry Kool-Aid Kids

Kool

Mary was the child-bride (victim) of an old-goat in his seventies.  God only knows what kind of situation he’d rescued her from, since she clearly adored him.  When I first met them on a ramble with Daddy when I was about ten years old, they lived with their two babies on a creek bank an old school bus that had been converted into a trailer for hunters.  Two full bunks ran across one end.  Twin army cots were stacked along both sides.  A stove, powered by propane sat near the front door.  The family’s few belongings were stored in boxes under the beds.  Though I was only a kid, I could see that Mary was just a teenager.  Mother later told me she was only eighteen.  She was hugely pregnant.  I was enchanted with their trailer, thinking how nice it would be if our family lived such an adventure.

Not long afterward, the neighborhood learned of the family’s dilemma, helping them into a small rental house not far from us.  My youngest sister Marilyn was an infant at the time with rampant milk allergies.  In consultation with her doctors, Mother had tried many formulas.  Finally, in desperation, she and the doctor settled on a frequent feeding regimen, supplemented by feeding her warm Jell-O in her bottle, so she would still have the experience of sucking.  Finally, she thrived.  Young Mary, struggling with two babies under two and newborn twins and a husband averse to working, was struggling find milk for her babies.  All four of her children cried all the time.  The neighbors brought food in, but the newborns just looked pitiful.  She was visiting one morning and told Mother she had put her babies on Kool-Aid, like Mother had, thinking it would help, but it looked like the babies were starving.  Mother was shocked and explained that she was giving her baby Jell-O, not Kool-Aid, and supplementing with frequent feedings.

The church provided many cases of canned milk, as well as other food.  All the children did much better.  Social Services was notified. Mary got some help, though she did have four more children over the years before we lost touch with them.

We did eventually end up with that classy camper, but that’s a story for another day.