Woman washing windows on an expandable trailer located in Treasure Island Trailer Park. Laguna Beach, California 1956 (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Ready to Roll: In Praise of Vintage Mobile Homes

A fond look back at the early days of trailer parks — and life just off the road.

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.)

Hawaiian Luau party at a trailer beach community called Incline trailer Park. Lake Tahoe, Nevada 1956 (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY Above: 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 ... Man blowing up raft beside a trailer at transient trailer site in Incline Park, Lake Tahoe Nevada 1956 (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection MADE IN THE SHADE While 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.

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An unidentified woman sunbaths on the lawn around the Egyptian-themed ramad that encloses her trailer home in the Blue Skies Village, Cathedral City, California, 1962. (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER A woman sunbathes on the lawn that runs around the pseudo-Egyptian-themed structure enclosing her trailer home in Cathedral City, California, 1962. View from inside a trailer parked on the beach and owned by the Mr. and Mrs. Raleigh Graham family. El Morro Trailer Park in California 1956 (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty images) Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection MILLION-DOLLAR VIEW The view from inside a trailer parked on the beach at El Morro Trailer Park in California, 1956. Trailers parked on the beach at El Morro Trailer Park, California 1956 (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection BEACHSIDE El Morro Trailer Park, California, 1956 Man smoking pipe in bunk of trailer along water in trailer park in Lida Beach, California 1956 (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection QUIET SMOKE A man smokes a pipe in the bunk of a trailer parked in Lida Beach, California, 1956. Teenagers dancing on a wooden porch owned by Grace Kildebechat located in a beach trailer communuity called Treasure Island park. Laguna Beach, California 1956 (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection SAND IN THEIR TOES Teenagers dance on a wooden porch located in the beach trailer community of Laguna Beach, California, 1956. A group of people at a Hawaiian themed party inside Incline trailer park lake community. A dog in the foreground rummaging through the left over plates of food. Lake Tahoe Nevada 1956 (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection TRAILER PARK PARTY Lake Tahoe, Nevada, 1956.
Airstream trailers parked with American flags at a camping convention in Hershey Pennsylvania 1970 (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gamble enjoy ocean views from their trailer that has a colorful fountain and built in porch. Aliso Park, Laguna Beach, California 1956 (photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Trailer and planted flowers in Lido park, california 1956 (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection LUSH FRONT YARD Lido Park, California, 1956. Children floating on rafts and trailers and streamlined trailers line the beach at Incline Trailer Park, Lake Tahoe, Nevada 1956 (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection LAKESIDE Lake Tahoe, Nevada, 1956. Studebaker parked in front of trailer. Laguna Hills Park, California 1956 (Photo by Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection HOT WHEELS Laguna Hills Park, California, 1956.



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