More than 40 Tin Can Tourists arrived in vintage motor homes or pulled classic travel trailers to spend the weekend at Sunset Isle RV Park and Motel in Cedar Key.
“It’s a fun little gathering. You‘ve got a nice town. We enjoy coming,” said Bob Kilpatrick of Cross Creek, dressed in a Gator Booster cap and a “Have camper, will travel” t-shirt.
Tin Canners, as they call themselves, came from as far away as New York, Michigan, and Wisconsin to visit Cedar Key for the third time in the last several years. Although many are retired, they range from the 20s-80s in age. Danny Kent from Tampa has participated for four years and especially enjoys the diversity of the group. “People come together from all different backgrounds,” he said.
Jim Heiser of Archer arrived in a 1953 Chevy Suburban pulling a 1957 Air Stream Bubble. He dates his interest in restoring vintage trailers to his childhood. “I used to stay in one as a little kid. I would visit an aunt who lived on the Hudson River.”
Craig Leach of Detroit travels with his wife in a 1969 Newell that he found in a junk yard. She decorates the inside and he takes care of the outside. “Every year we add something more.”
Brenda and Norm Standal of Fort Meyers spent three years rebuilding their 1968 Ultra Van that sat in a junk yard for ten years. The vintage motor home gets 22 miles per gallon. “When my husband brought it home, I said I’d never ride in it. I had to eat my words,” said Brenda. That was six years ago, since then they have traveled to “Canada and everywhere.”
Dave and Lee Abell of North Carolina bought a 1957 Air Float trailer that had never been driven on the road. It came with the original tires. Painted in gold and featuring a wood interior with a full size cast iron bathtub, the rig was marketed to movie stars. Its previous owner lived in it but never put it on the road. “We still have the original spare tire, and it still has the knobs,” he said.
“Life on the road is a great thing. I’m a holdover from the old trailer ride era when construction workers would follow the work,” said Navy World War II veteran John Culp, who purchased his 1947 Westcraft new. He has lived in it full time since his wife died 11 years ago. His son died a year later. Culp divides the year between his native Ohio and Florida, spending time with friends as he travels between the two states. He finds camaraderie with his fellow travelers. “The Tin Canners are my family now.”
Tin Can Tourists was organized in 1919 in Tampa and reached peak membership of more than 30,000 in 1932. By the mid 1970s the group no longer existed. Forrest and Jeri Bone renewed the club in 1998, according to the group’s Web site www.tincantourist.com. The next gathering will be held in Manatee in March.
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