HOUSEKEEPING in a TRAILER (Jun, 1937)
HOUSEKEEPING in a TRAILER
by Esther Hall
Furnishing your home- on-wheels properly is the best way of insuring a care-free trip.
IN PLANNING a trailer trip, what you leave at home is apt to be fully as important as what you take with you. In other words, you will soon learn the value of traveling light. The personal wants and desires of those making the trip must, of course, be taken into consideration and the quantity of essential supplies, such as food, will depend upon the length of the trip, number of persons, availability of fruit and vegetables in season and the general location, whether mountains, seashore or only main traveled roads. The following check list cannot be all-inclusive but it may be found useful as a guide and serve to prevent overlooking some very essential articles. Dishes.—Plates, cups, saucers, platters and servers, bowls, pitcher, glasses (large and small), knives, forks, spoons, salt and pepper shakers, paper plates, paper cups, sugar bowl and cream pitcher.
Kitchenware, etc.—Butcher knife, bread knife, paring knife, large fork, cake-turner, can opener, bottle opener, corkscrew, fish scaler, egg beater, gas toaster, electric toaster (110-volt for use in camps), ice pick, fly swatter, cook book, small broom, dust pan, floor mop, scrub brush, soap and chips, cleaning powder, steel wool, toothpicks, matches.
Pots and pans.—Coffee pot, tea pot, double boiler, frying pans, assorted stew pans of different sizes, pancake griddle, tea kettle, and (optional) fireless cooker, pressure cooker and ice cream freezer.
Food.—Coffee, tea, sugar, salt and pepper, bacon, butter, shortening, eggs, milk (canned), cheese, bread, crackers, flour, pancake flour, cereals, potatoes, syrup, jams and jellies, peanut butter, beans, rice, spaghetti, oranges, lemons, raisins, dried fruits, canned vegetables, canned soups, canned fruits, canned meat and fish, vanilla and other extracts, baking soda, baking powder, mustard, horseradish, tomato ketchup, water, ice.
Bedding, linen, etc.—Sheets, pillow slips, blankets, towels (bath, hand and dish), wash cloths, dish cloths, table cloths (or oil cloth), napkins, paper napkins, paper towels.
Miscellaneous. — Water bucket, waste basket, garbage can, thermos jug, 5-gallon gasoline can, 1-gallon gasoline can, syphon, funnel, fire extinguisher, 100-foot extension electric cord with plug and socket, flashlight, gasoline lantern, electric fan, electric iron, ironing board, clothes line, cur- tain partition (for privacy), fuel for heating stove, first-aid kit, toilet articles.
Miscellaneous (Personal).—Check books, travelers* checks, maps, calendar, ink, pen and pencils, paper, stamps, string, scissors, needles, thread, buttons, watch or clock, compass, thermometer, sun glasses, field glasses, golf clubs, tennis rackets, fishing tackle, camera, films, magazines, books, radio, playing cards or other games for rainy days.
The standard equipment furnished with most of the commercial trailers on the market includes (depending on price) beds for two, four or six persons, mattresses, gasoline cook stove (2 or 3-burner) a built-in sink, water tank (10 to 30-gallon), built-in cabinets and drawers, built-in wardrobes, ice-box (50 to 75-pound), toilet commode or chemical toilet, electric lights (for both 110 and 6-volts), radio antenna, heating stove, dining table, chairs (optional) and in some of the de-luxe models, a bath or shower.
Items which are optional but which add much to success of the trip are—window awnings, screened porch, folding cot, folding table and chairs (the comfortable deck chairs for lounging out doors), a night lamp, an electric hot water heater, and a wind charger.
If we had to decide what trailer feature (not an actual necessity) we had to part with, the family, we feel sure, would unanimously vote for keeping the screened porch. It requires only a few minutes to attach it to the trailer and it makes an outdoor living room by day and an extra bedroom by night. The roof of the porch is a large gayly striped awning (about fi\e feet wide by twelve feet long) which is hung from hooks on the trailer roof or fastened by straps which go across the trailer roof and are fastened to stakes in the ground. Attached to the awning on three sides is strong, khaki-colored netting. The fourth wall is the trailer itself including the door. On this fourth side a strip of dark green canvas fits snugly from the ground to the floor level of the trailer to keep out flies and other insects. The floor of the porch is also green canvas. When lounging chairs and a cot are installed here, this becomes unquestionably the coolest and most popular spot in the daytime and at night it makes a delightful open-air bedroom.
Window awnings, we believe, were largely responsible last summer for the comments of visitors to our trailer home—”How cool it is in here!”, when the thermometer hovered in the nineties outside. When we were traveling we drew down the inside shades and lowered the awning to cover the windows. The result was double protection from the sun enroute and when we stopped we found that the accumulation of heat in the closed trailer was much less than on previous trips. When we lived for a week or more in one place the awnings were a continual joy because of the shade, coolness and privacy from passersby afforded. In addition, they provided a gay tone to the exterior of the trailer which was in itself a contribution to the holiday spirit of our expedition.
A night lamp may seem a small item to mention but, when you are far from home in unfamiliar surroundings, it is a great satisfaction to be able to investigate promptly strange or unusual noises in the night. We find great comfort in a little copper night lamp that operates on so little electricity as to be practically negligible in “juice” consumption.
If we wish to leave the trailer to spend an evening elsewhere, we light the little lamp before leaving and we are spared that awkward stumbling into a dark room and fumbling for a light switch on our return. If one member of the family wishes to retire earlier than the others, the night lamp, placed low at the opposite end of the trailer, spares him the glare of full-sized ceiling or side lights and yet does not require other members of the family to retire in darkness. It is such little contrivances as this, we find, that make for that consideration of the other fellow so essential to harmony in trailer life.
Another modest little device, which is used every day and many times a day in our trailer housekeeping is an electric hot water heater, small enough to be tucked away in a few inches of space or hung by the cord over a hook. Father starts the day by heating his shaving water with it and from then on it meets the many needs for hot water with a final luxurious warm sponge bath made possible at bedtime without the necessity of starting a fire. All you do is to plunge the little gadget into cold water—from a teacup full to a tub full—plug in the other end of the cord to the light current and in less time than it takes to tell it there will be steam rising from the water. A few minutes more and the water will be actually boiling. The heat all goes where you want it to—into the water, not into the air to heat the room— and none of it is lost by having to be drawn through a long pipe. The fact that it sterilizes water makes it a most useful device in the event of sudden illness.
We have a little windmill device fastened to the front of our trailer which protrudes a few inches above the roof. As we drive along it catches the breeze and whirs industriously. As a result of this we are assured, when we stop along the road for our luncheon, of ample electric current in our own battery to operate two fans, a radio and electric lights (if we should want them). It affords a wonderful feeling of independence at night, too, to know that you have a supply of electricity of your own whether or not you are able to plug into an outside current on your overnight stop. This little convenience is called a “wind charger” and we heartily recommend it as a valuable accessory. To the wife whose husband has become— or may be on the point of becoming—a trailer owner, may we say that there is no need to worry over the prospect of “roughing it” when you accompany your husband on vacation trips. It is not an exaggeration to state that the modern trailer kitchen has in it more labor-saving and other housekeeping conveniences than are to be found in many permanent homes throughout the country.
Running water is supplied by faucet or pump in the sink, usually from a storage tank. Some trailer models have pressure systems of their own; others connect with city water systems.
Ingenious devices are utilized to give the maximum convenience, use every inch of space and yet preserve the air of a living room. The cookstove, for example, and often the sink may be cancealed in what appears to be only an attractive buffet. When meal time comes around, a “trapdoor” is lifted, and lo, there is the sink or stove!
Our trailer dining room is like a cozy breakfast nook with big, comfortable upholstered seats flanking a dining table that lets down from the wall and is large enough to accommodate from four to six persons. We set the table with unbreakable dishes that come in attractive pastel shades and are made to nest easily thus saving cupboard space.
As for meals, the trailer traveler is not, of course, required to rely solely on canned goods. The roadside stands and farmhouses along the way offer an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, broilers, milk, cheese and ice cream. But, when a meal from canned goods seems desirable it can be most palatable and satisfying with trailer conveniences to give it the same cooking skill that would be given at home.
A one-hole fireless cooker is a joy to have along on a trailer trip. It takes up a little space but it is well worth it for it minimizes, not only the time spent in preparing the principal meal of the day, but also the heat required at meal time, which in the summer touring season may be the warmest time of the day.
If one of those “meal-in-one” dishes is prepared early in the morning before the day’s journey is started or other plans for the day undertaken, dinner can then be forgotten until the actual mealtime arrives. When the stop is finally made for food in some restful, scenic spot, all that is required is to open up the fireless cooker and the main part of the meal is ready.
This “meal-in-one” dish may be Mexican rice, chili con carne, Swiss steak, Huntley stew or any one of a number of combinations which every housekeeper knows and uses at home in casserole cookery.
With soup or tomato juice cocktail to start the meal and a vegetable combination salad tossed together quickly (from vegetables which have been crisping all day in the trailer ice box), fresh fruit and cookies for desert, a thoroughly satisfactory meal can be provided in a very few minutes.
A pressure cooker is also a short cut to good meals. If you buy a piece of meat from an unknown butcher en route, you cannot be certain how tender it is and you may be a hundred miles away when you are ready to cook it. Or you may have climbed to a high altitude where a longer cooking period must be allowed. But with a pressure cooker you need not worry. In this magic pot, steaks or chops or vegetables can be cooked in four minutes—all together! And the cooker will even whistle to let you know when to take it off the stove!
“A place for everything and everything in its place” is absolutely essential to peace of mind in trailer travel. The husband who objects to finding his pajamas in the same drawer with the tire chains and the remains of a chocolate cake has some grounds for complaint. With a little system, however, the “chores” can be done in a few minutes each day leaving ample time for recreation or travel.
A few suggestions based on experience are offered for what they may be worth: — Try using double cotton blankets to sleep between instead of sheets. You will find them very comfortable in all kinds of weather. They are easy to launder as they do not require ironing and being double at the bottom helps to keep the blankets or quilts in place.
Pillows may serve the double purpose of cushions in the daytime and bed pillows at night if you will make covers for them out of the same material as the upholstering of your beds or your drapes. Either make or have them made with zippers, snaps or buttons to close after the pillow is put in. Placed at the end of your studio couch they are both attractive and convenient. As important a feature, however, is the fact that you do not have to have any storage space reserved for them and this is always a big item in trailer housekeeping.
Wide-mouthed mason jars with glass covers in one-half pint, pint and quart sizes make ideal containers for putting away left-overs. They keep your icebox free of odors and the contents will not spill in traveling. They will not break in transit if placed so they do not have too much space to shift around. Wide rubber bands or small inner tube sections slipped around the outside of them make excellent bumpers.
A wooden step with a foot-scraper placed outside the door will help to keep sand and mud out of your trailer.
Straps of upholstery material, similar to the trailer cushions and drapes, tacked to the wall and fastened together with buckles will hold golf clubs or fishing tackle firmly in place while traveling.
But, once you have embarked on the “magic carpet” you will make fascinating discoveries of your own. That is part of the game. This playhouse living requires pliable natures. Trailer life is suitable only to those who can with complete good nature adapt their needs to what the situation offers. The new and unforeseen is sometimes pleasant, sometimes not. Three days of rain will make country roads impassable, perhaps, for a heavy load and a stop must be made in some isolated spot. But the time passes and the caravan moves on again to the open road with its travelers clean and fresh and rested by the enforced quiet.
Anyone who has ever toured knows that all the best-looking tourist camps and the most desirable hotels seem to be reached about nine o’clock in the morning when no stop is planned. But with your house on your back you do not need to worry about this. You have food; ice; water; light; good, comfortable, clean beds; and no packing or unpacking. When you step into the trailer, your clothing is hanging unwrinkled in a full-length wardrobe and clean undergarments are in the cabinet drawers as easy to reach as they would be at home.
Luncheons each day are a fresh adventure— enjoyed whenever and wherever fancy dictates. One day it may be in the deep, north woods with no sound to break the silence but the trill of the birds; the next day on the shores of a sparkling lake; again, on the crest of a hill with a wide panorama of countryside stretched out before you.
New scenes, new routines—is there anything in the world more truly restful?