A fond look back at the early days of trailer parks — and life just off the road.
Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection
Published August 9, 2018
Published 8 days ago
It's no coincidence that trailer parks have long thrived in the United States, where the only trait more common than a love of private property is a longing for the open road. Mobile homes, after all, are just that: Residences that, on short notice, one can pack up and drive away. In a December 1956 article, though, LIFE magazine noted that "trailer life" was, in the magazine's words, suddenly "acquiring a luxury look," and backed up its claim with pictures of mobile homes and trailer parks that made a life on the road seem not only accessible, but desirable. (Pictured: A woman washing windows on an expandable trailer, Laguna Beach, California, 1956.)
Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture CollectionDANCE THE NIGHT AWAYAbove: A luau party at a trailer beach community, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, 1956. "The trailer dweller," LIFE reminded its readers, "used to be thought of as a tired soul encamped in roadside dust where he heated cans of soup, read at night by flickering lights, and finally retired exhausted to a cramped bed. But nowadays he can live in splendor. The modern trailerite," the story continued, "is more often found parked in a congenial campsite, lounging inside an air-conditioned trailer on a foam-runner sofa and listening to soft hi-fi recordings while a roast for the family sizzles in an automatic electric oven." Whew! In two sentences the "trailerite" went from near-hobo to king of a rolling castle. Talk about upward mobility ...
Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture CollectionMADE IN THE SHADEWhile extolling the joys of mobile-home ownership, LIFE also pointed out that, even in 1956, some trailer parks were "unpleasant, noisy, and poorly equipped." Nevertheless, "the veteran trailerite soon learns to spot the bad ones and rolls on." Pictured: A man inflates a raft at Incline Park, Nevada, 1956.
Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesGRASS IS ALWAYS GREENERA woman sunbathes on the lawn that runs around the pseudo-Egyptian-themed structure enclosing her trailer home in Cathedral City, California, 1962.Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture CollectionMILLION-DOLLAR VIEWThe view from inside a trailer parked on the beach at El Morro Trailer Park in California, 1956.
Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture CollectionBEACHSIDEEl Morro Trailer Park, California, 1956Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture CollectionQUIET SMOKEA man smokes a pipe in the bunk of a trailer parked in Lida Beach, California, 1956.Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture CollectionSAND IN THEIR TOESTeenagers dance on a wooden porch located in the beach trailer community of Laguna Beach, California, 1956.
Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture CollectionTRAILER PARK PARTYLake Tahoe, Nevada, 1956.
Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture CollectionLUSH FRONT YARDLido Park, California, 1956.Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture CollectionLAKESIDELake Tahoe, Nevada, 1956.Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture CollectionHOT WHEELSLaguna Hills Park, California, 1956.