‘Groovy’ travel trailers finding new life

By Dawn Aerts

Iron County Today

Who doesn’t remember rolling down a highway with parents or grandparents to a favorite campground with their cozy little travel trailer tumbling behind?

The 1950s and ‘60s were an iconic decade that reminds us of simpler times – the birth of rock ‘n roll, the sock-hop dance in poodle skirts and saddle shoes, the waitresses on roller skates at the local drive in.  It’s that kind of ‘nostalgia’ that Ginnie Dixson can’t resist.

Her thing:  restoring and re-furbishing travel trailer memories.

Despite the worn paint, dated exteriors or bent frame, Dixon is all about finding those little ‘old’ ladies of the road, capturing the retro look, and then bringing them back to their glory days with elbow grease and cans of paint. She has been on the hunt for salvageable models since 2015 – like the curved corners and corrugated walls of a 1954 ‘canned ham’ or other quaint models from the past that have captured the attention of serious enthusiasts from across the country.

“I spent many years as a quilter,” said Dixson of her former past time and the dozens of show-worthy examples she completed.  “But now I’m into these little trailers.”  As a collector and fixer, she has rescued three models so far: Gussie, Dollie and Betsy (now under construction).

She accessorizes each trailer to match a specific decade with memorabilia from the past.  “My Grandmother Minnie had a little trailer like these,” said Dixson of her project, and I remember those days, spending time with her as very special.”

It’s about getting them back to their prime.

Dixon looked for ‘rescue’ trailers in LaVerkin and Sun River and then in a used-trailer sales lot in St. George.  “You can find old ‘junkers’ out there for a few hundred dollars but it really depends on the model and condition of the trailer.”  She paid just over $ 2,000 for a 1954 ‘Gussie.” Her second find was Dollie — a 1968 Aristocrat.  

“For me it’s usually about the hunt, and when the things I love that come together.” According to Dixson, vintage trailers often fall victim to weather and neglect. “The main culprit is weather.  Have they been left outside without any cover or care?  The rain, sun and water damage may be significant.”  That said, Dixson and her husband Gary have pulled off the road to look at hundreds of abandoned models.

She has also enlisted the know-how of a next-door neighbor to help restore them.  “I’ve stripped off layers of wallpaper, de-paneled, sanded, and then re-painted inside and out.  Sometimes there’s a need to rebuild cabinets, a bench or a countertop.”  She works in a small space and preserves the original design.

No project is too big, or too small for vintage hardware, fixtures and detail.

“I would say two people and maybe a small child can stay comfortably inside,” said Dixson as she points to limited floor space and no walls to handle modern technology or big screen TV’s.  But each has personality and charm. While Gussie is her show-off model from the 1950s, Dollie is at home with the groovy ‘60s.

“We’ve looked at hundreds of models over the past two years,” said Dixson.  “We pull over, knock on doors and tap on windows, and if we can find the owners, we ask ‘Hey would you be interested in selling this one?’  

She’s always on the look out for authentic embellishment.  Depending on the decade, Dixson dresses them up with frilly curtains, and decorative detail.  And, she has become active on blogs like ‘tin car tourists’ and ‘road runner’ where people share tips about their projects and passion for trailers.

A labor of love.  

Her current project, ‘Betsy,’ is a 1968 Roadrunner that was scaled down to the frame:  she will undergo a major facelift this year.  “I hope to dress her up with palm trees, coconuts and a more tropical theme,” said Dixson of the little model that sits in a nearby garage.

“It’s my thing,” said Dixson with a smile, “Something I love to work on.”

Caption:  Ginnie Dixson finds a creative outlet in finding vintage travel trailer models that she can repair, refurbish and decorate with the colors, trends and nostalgic items from the past.  


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