Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tin Can Tourists

Warning: This is a very lengthy post so keep that pot of tea or coffee or your bottle of wine close to your computer. Remember to take bathroom breaks and if you find yourself nodding off, please just take a nap and come back – or not.

This passionate group of RV’ers was what attracted us to Backus Conservation Area.

While shopping in Port Rowan the previous day a small parade of antique vehicles and RV’s passed through proudly tooting and waving to everyone. Let me say that this was quite a display for this sleepy little town. They seemed to be heading north towards Backus Mills. Having caught our attention, as soon as we got back to the motorhome I checked it out on the internet and we made plans to attend their show the next day.

Approximately a dozen vintage vehicles and twenty RVs were on display.



Visitors were all welcome to take inside tours

Remember these?


Quoted from the Port Rowan Good News newspaper:

Vintage RVs were marvels of design - When Mom & Dad took the family camping in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s, it was a very different experience than today. The “vintage recreational vehicle show” at Backus Heritage village from July 29 to 31st was a reminder of just how much things have changed. The show paid tribute to the innovative RV’s that appeared over sixty years ago to help the family “get out of town” for a holiday. In the process, an industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars, was also created.


This must have been one of the first of what is now called a Fifth Wheel.


This magnificent black and chrome ‘Silver Streak 8’ Pontiac sedan hitched to a hand made varnished wooden trailer.


All of the tires matched, the trailer even bore the Pontiac Chief emblem.


We always take a special interest in these little fiberglass beauties. It’s much like our Dave (SIL) & Shy’s (DD). You’ll read more about that in another post.


Some of the details in their elaborate displays amazed us.



Check out this portable bathtub!


You non RV’ers may not find the following of any interest.

To our RV’ing friends  *** Bathroom Break ***

This is an excerpt from their website:

The Tin Can Tourists were organized at Desoto Park, Tampa, Florida, in 1919. They received the official state charter a year later. The groups stated objective was “to unite fraternally all autocampers”. Their guiding principles were clean camps, friendliness among campers, decent behavior and to secure plenty of clean, wholesome entertainment for those in camp. The group known for the soldered tin can on their radiator caps grew rapidly during the twenties and thirties. Members could be inducted fellow campers through an initiation process that taught the prospective member the secret handshake, sign, and password. After singing the official song “The More We Get Together” the trailerite was an official member of the Tin Can Tourists of the World.

1920 Tin Can Tourists in Tampa, FL “Watching the Ball Game”


Summer reunions were held at various Midwest locations, with Traverse City, Michigan serving as a primary host city. The club spent winters at Desoto Park until 1924.

"Tin can tourists. 1921 or 1922." Car camping and watermelon in or around Washington, D.C.

Tin can tourists - 1921 or 1922. Car camping and watermelon in or around Washington, D.C.

Because locals grew tired of their park being over run with northerners, the park was closed a month early in March. The canners took the hint and moved the Winter Convention to Arcadia, where the community had built a municipal park especially for the Tin Can Tourists. By 1932, with membership estimates ranging from 30,000 to 100,000, city Chambers of Commerce were actively pursuing TCT to choose their community for either Homecoming, Winter Convention or Going Home meets. The Winter Convention was the best attended and was an economic boon to the host community. Sarasota had its eye on the prize and lured the Convention away from Arcadia in 1932. The vote on the Winter Convention site was hotly contested. Many Canners were loyal to Arcadia, the town that wanted them after their ejection from Tampa. A 250 strong car caravan let by Sarasota’s mayor and other public officials, helped swing the vote selecting Sarasota as the Winter Convention site for 1932. As a concession to those that favored Arcadia, it was designated as the official site for Homecoming festivities. In 1938, the mayor of Sarasota indicated that the national perception that Sarasota was a tin can tourist’s town was hurting the community and that he would not renew the Winter Convention contract. Tampa offered the canners a five-year deal to return to Tampa. It was accepted and the Winter Convention returned to specially built Municipal Park. The group faced membership declines due to combination of factors, (1) a schism with in the ranks and the formation of ATA, the Automobile Tourists Association, (2) an economic recession in 1939 that greatly diminished the number of trailer manufactures, and (3) the onset of World War II. Winter Convention photograph depict a much smaller group in 1948 at Tampa. The original groups “Swan Song” convention was held in Eustis, Florida in 1968. By the mid-80’s the club was no longer in existence in any form.

Well, I’m proud of all you readers who hung in there till the end. Hopefully you found this as interesting as we did.

For more info you can click here for the Tin Can Tourist’s website.

Today I am grateful for our motorhome’s modern bathroom.

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