Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cozy Camper

Even without any sprucing up yet, the itty camper is still quite cozy in the evenings.  Allie Joe, the Aljoa offers a warm, welcoming place to relax!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Vintage Camper: Good, Bad, the Ugly

This post is more for me, so that I will remember what she once was like before we spruced her up.  So don't really expect any one to read all this, unless of course, you are thinking about buying your own little vintage camper.  It might help you to closely before you buy.

Allie Jo, the Aljoa Sportsman
Not sure how many owners this lil' 1954 Aljoa Sportsman has had, but the gal who owned it before me was Shannon Wright who lived south of Gadsden, Alabama.  She must have been quite young when she first bought it in 1999 because she didn't look like much more than a girl today.

What impressed me about Shannon is that she appreciated its vintage look and appeal and did not try to change it or update it to be more modern.  That my goal, too, to keep her original beauty so that when you step inside, it's like stepping back in time.

With some work on our parts, we hope to turn it into a real vintage gem.  This little Aljoa (pronounced al-JOE-ah, rhymes with Alcoa, as in aluminum) is not perfect yet but very solid.

The BAD: The birch wood panel at the bottom front under the window next to the bed has some water damage. The GOOD: Will be easy to pull out the damaged birchwood and replace. No water damage anywhere else in the camper and believe me, we looked at every nook and cranny. The rest of the birch wood is a little dull so I am going to clean it, polish it, and see if I can make it shine again.

The UGLY: The electrical is original 1954 wiring and at some point it got hot and there are some burned spots where the wiring touched the wood inside the top cabinets. It's a miracle the camper did not burn up at some point. GOOD: My hubby said it is an easy fix - he can rewire it himself. Yay!

BAD: One of the window latches is broken. GOOD: Hubby said it is an easy fix.

BAD: No propane tanks. GOOD: Easy to replace.

BAD: The outside door to the storage area under the bed is broken off its hinges. GOOD: Hubby said, not to worry, can be fixed.

UGLY: The only thing not original is the flooring. Just some linoleum laid down loose. GOOD: The flooring underneath is solid, no soft spots at all. I think I would like to put down black & white diamond shaped linoleum, to give it that 50's era look.

GOOD: A little 1954 Preway brand 20" stove with oven and bread warmer at bottom. A oldie goldie! BAD: One knob missing. GOOD: Already found a place online that sells knobs for old stoves.

GOOD: Original 1954 ice box - not refrigerator - but an old fashioned ice box! UGLY: Outside of the tin ice box door needs to be painted. GOOD: I know how to wield a paint brush!

GOOD: Original wall light fixture. UGLY: The brass looks really bad.  BAD:  The wiring to the light fixture is the one that burned and can't be pulled out of the wall because it is probably stapled.  There's no glass globe or lamp shade.  GOOD:  I can shine the brass and find or make a 1950's vintage looking lampshade.  The light won't work, but the light under the kitchen cabinet works very nicely and casts a lovely glow.

UGLY:  Original kitchen countertop was replaced with butcher block.  GOOD: It's a tiny space and won't be expensive to replace with a more vintage style.

GOOD: Cabinets have these cool, original 1950s latches. Never seen anything like these before.

GOOD: A 1950's three-rod towel holder and 1950's toothbrush holder and 1950s thermometer on the walls.

GREAT: Signed Aljoa authenticity certificate inside closet that confirms it's year, make, etc. She was born 12-22-1953 and is a 1954 model.

GREAT: It has the original screen door and it's in near perfect condition! Don't see too many that old that still have their screen door.

GOOD: Two original steel plates with Aljoa details still attached to the outside of trailer and still readable.

BAD: Outside aluminum looks good but needs cleaning in places. I'm going to research this and figure out what to do to make it gleam again.

BAD: Needs caulking replaced outside in several places on the outside. GOOD: I know how to use a caulking gun!

GOOD: All the 1950s outside brake and running light covers are there and NOT broken!

GOOD: Great tires and original rims - in excellent condition! The jack works great, too. It tows like a dream.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I've been craving a canned ham for years.
Not the kind that will expand your waistline
but the aluminum retro kind.
The kind you can pull behind your vehicle and camp in.

This is my mother, Ella, 
and my little granddaughter, Ella, her namesake.
My canned ham craving was put on hold for years 
in order to care for Mama until she went home 
to be with the Lord on March 5, 2012.
I miss her terribly.

For the past several weeks my mornings have started
with a cuppa joe and the internet.
Learning all I can over at the Tin Can Tourists web site.
Scouring Craigslist & eBay for campers for sale.

This Craigslist ad caught my eye:

Vintage 1954 Aljoa Sportsman Camper.
Very Rare, 11ft long, 80" wide with a weight of 1420 lbs. 
All birch wood interior, aluminum exterior, gas heater, 
gas oven, ice box, and sink.  Inside the closet is original date of 
manufacture on a signed certificate.  Original curtains, 
beauty tire rings and original key for the door lock.
Good condition for its age. 
No trades.

Please...Serious inquries only!

I read it over and over.  Oh my.
When I contacted the owner, believe me I was serious!  
The longer I talked to her on the phone, the more excited I became.  
The camper sounded just like what I wanted.
I wanted it!  I wanted it! 

But the hubby reminded me that the price was higher 
than I had budgeted 
we needed to check every nook and cranny 
for damage, repairs, etc.  
He's the sensible one.

We set up a time and headed out on a Friday afternoon 
to make the 1 1/2 hour drive into Alabama.

The first time I saw her, the little as-yet, un-named vintage camper, 
she was sitting in the grass next to the river's edge.

I immediately squealed in excitement.
"She's beautiful!"

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband cringe.
So much for keeping things low key with the seller
until we checked the condition 
and found out if the price was even negotiable.

When I opened the outer door, I became very still as I stared.
Most screen doors on vintage camper are either gone
or rotted out at the bottom.
I burst out in happy excitement,
"Oh my gosh, she has her original screen door!"

My husband gave me the "look" but I was beyond reach by that point,
already in love with this little canned ham!

I think the seller probably was beginning to suspect 
that she might just make a sale!

Almost everything inside was still original except for the floor.
No one had gutted her or pulled out her fabulous old appliances.
No one had painted the birch wood walls.
No large or significant water leaks.
Water damage is Enemy #1 of vintage canned hams.

Her vintage stove is missing a knob but otherwise very clean inside and out.
It's a Preway brand stove, which I have never heard of before.  
Few vintage campers have the stove top 
plus an oven AND a bun warmer in the bottom.
Usually you only see the stove top.

Across from the stove was not a refrigerator 
but an ICE BOX!
The door needs a coat of paint 
but the inside tin was not too bad.

Once you take out the circa 1960s shelf paper,
you would be able to put a block of ice on the top shelf.
Then put your food on top of the ice or
on the shelf below to keep it cool.  

Even the seal around the ice box door was still in good shape!

Yes, I swooned over the stove and ice box to the owner, too.
The hubby rolled his eyes and went out to check the exterior.

How fantastic is this?
Which I expressed happily to the owner.  
Hubby didn't hear me, I don't think.

When I opened the closet door, there was the original certificate of construction.
Yellowed and fragile looking.
Make: Aloja
Model: 13
Serial No. 54131187
Year:  1954
Length:  11'
Weight:  1,450 lbs.
Width:  80"

One of two plates on the outside of the camper.

The Aljoa Sportsman
Mfg by
Modernistic Industries
Distributed by
Aljoa Industries
171 W. 135 St.  Gardena, Calif.

No, she wasn't perfect.
We found several defects and things that needed to be fixed.
It will take awhile to bring her back to her former glory.

Happily we were able to negotiate a price with the seller
that we were both were happy with.

The money changed hands.
The seller got a little teary eyed.
I was on cloud nine.
We hugged and she made me promise
to send pics as we fixed the old girl up.

We got on the road with the little canned ham in tow.
The tires were good, held air all the way home.
No sway.  The truck didn't even know she was back there.
I  kept staring back at her through my side mirror.
She's a good lil' traveler.

Almost home!

Pulling through the gate.
I could swear she was smiling,
happy to find a new home.

So excited, our very next meal was a makeshift picnic inside!

There are two happy campers 
on Buck's Mountain.
Me and her, the two of us.

We're a a lot alike, this old girl 'n me.
We're about the same age.
She's sportin' silver and so is my hair.
We're both older, showing those signs of age.
We both want need a face lift.
Doubt I'll get one, but she definitely will!

Now she needs a name.
A cute 'n sassy one
that just fits her.

Next up is the restoration work!

More on Vintage Campers

I found this great book called
"Sisters on the Fly"

Women everywhere are buying these little campers...
...restoring them them individual personalities 
...camping in them
...and camping together for girlfriend fun!

And they are giving their little campers cute names like
Gypsy Chick
Ham Can Inn
Cowgirl Cadillac
Wander Woman
The Tea Cart
Shabby Shack
Porta Party

Go to the "Sisters on the Fly" name page 
to see more camper names!

Check out my image gallery 
of vintage campers on my 
Pinterest Camper Board
Pinterest Camper Interior Decor Board

More of my musings...

Klutz in the Kitchen Making Cheescake Filled Strawberries
The Black Curse or Battle with the Dust Bunnies
An early dates with the hubby

Shot Through the Heart (by Cupid's arrow)
Crushing on The Professor
How I Met Pollyanna Whittier
The Avocado Tree

My Favorite Dolly
It Started with a Pajama Party!
Betcha Can't Pop Just One

Cups for hot mochas.Say Good Night Gracie.
Theory of Pancake Relativity

The Unmade Bed
A lesson in biscuit making
The lost art of letter writing