To trailer or not to trailer, that is the question

Ok, so it isn’t really a question.

Let me back up a bit.

Meet my mom and stepdad.

If you're eagle-eyed enough, you'll notice that that's Moose's barn behind them. The car blocks a view of Moose, but hey, he can't always steal the show. ;-)


Back in October of 2009, they bought off of eBay Motors a 10′ long, 1959 Shasta “canned ham” style travel trailer. It came cheap — apparently it had been sitting in someone’s back pasture and wasn’t in the best of shape.

In fact, it looked like this.


The inside was pretty ugly too!


In January of 2010, they started the restoration process. This involved a complete teardown of the entire thing, all the way to the frame.



I really want to make a tornado+trailer park joke here, but it probably wouldn't be very nice to do so, so I won't.



Here's the inside again.

They tried to keep the original flavor of the trailer, while adding a few modern tweaks — a slightly higher roofline, a small pump on the (original) water tank to use for showers (the sink is still hand-pump though), and a tankless water heater.

Somewhere along the way, the trailer acquired the name “Hamlet”, a play on the fact that it’s a canned ham-style trailer as well as the fact that it’s a small settlement. A very small settlement. :-)

They finally finished their mostly-DIY restoration in April 2011, with what they thought was a six-month project turning instead into a year and a half. Whoops! :-) But they had fun with it, and the final project is really, really neat! As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I have a think for useful beauty/art, so I find this awesome.

Their inaugural trip with a fully-completed Hamlet was from Washington (where they live) to California back in April. After hitting the road, they quickly discovered that they had to build in extra travel time that they hadn’t planned on, in order to answer questions from people that stopped them. Heh!



Somewhere in the CA desert.


Ok, not only is the sign for this motel in Solvaang awesome, but it turns out the motel owners had a restored 1956 Shasta trailer. What are the odds?? :-)

I'll take "Famous Landmarks" for 1000, Alex.


They came to Sacramento for Easter, so I got out the wide-angle lens to take some nice Hamlet pictures for them. :-)


So come on in, and let's take a look around!


The first thing you might notice is the heart accent in the linoleum. I love it. :-)



Here's a view of the entry from inside. You can see the stove (new to this trailer, but an old stove), icebox (original) and sink (also original) as well as some overhead storage cabinets, closet space, and a small built-in dresser on the right that wasn't part of the original... but can you tell? It looks like it was! Also, on the left side of the picture, note the magazine rack with the S (for Shasta trailers) routered into it. Neat!



Here's a view from the door looking in to the interior. Originally the trailer had two single beds, but they modified it so that it has a double bed instead. Where does the bed go? My stepdad designed it so that the table collapses into a base for the cushions, which are laid down to create the mattress. Check out the awesome upholstery fabric--how perfect is that for a travel trailer?? Oh, and the door on the right with the mirror on it is the bathroom door.



I don't think I can quite explain the process by which a table becomes a bed, so here's a picture of my folks attaching the legs. It's a bit of a process, but hey, it works! Also, check out those cylindrical pillows in the red ticking fabric on the couch. What's so special about them? Well...



Where does the bedding live? Well, the comforter and sheets have to be packed in the car, but the pillows stay on the couch part of the table area thanks to the ingenious pillowcases my mom sewed. Here she is demonstrating how they work.



...and there's the pillow!



Here's the bed all folded out -- it takes normal double-sized sheets. Cozy!!! :-)



Because people always ask, here's a view of the, er, indoor plumbing. Even my awesome wide-angle lens isn't wide enough to get the entire thing, but that's the shower pan on the bottom left side of the picture, and the picture itself is looking at the toilet and tankless water heater. There's normally a shower curtain that separates the two, er, areas.



My mom found this vintage postcard on eBay, bought it, and framed it. It's now hanging inside Hamlet. :-)



He's cute, isn't he? My mom already has plans to make him the star of his own children's book on "The Adventures of Hamlet." She wrote it, now she needs an illustrator. I love it. :-D



7 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. Kim

    I am SO jealous. What a fun {and useful} project!!!

    Jun 20, 2011 @ 8:13 am

  2. Michelle McDaid

    I could handle EVERYTHING except the shower/toilet situation. I just have a ick factor with bathrooms in general, so this would really press my button. But what a CUTE little camper and how fun that they are toodling around in it together!

    Jun 20, 2011 @ 8:49 am

  3. Moneen

    That is so awesome Kari. I love your pictures, and er, details about the 'facilites. Very cute!!! My husband would LOVE to do a restoration project like that!

    Jun 20, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

  4. Mike Lewis

    Hey Kari
    My wife and I are getting ready to redo a Shasta Compact and would love to ask your parents how they did the bathroom/shower combo.
    If they can help ask them to email us.

    Mar 08, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

  5. Frank @ DIYWaterGuy

    I would love to tackle a project like this! But I am too worried I'd get something I couldn't handle myself. Any way I'm a retired plumber and I loved seeing the tankless water heater being used. It is a super solution to space constraints. Great post!!!

    Mar 27, 2014 @ 11:28 am

  6. Chris

    I think I just saw Hamlet in Portland at an RV park! We were there for one night in our 62 Shasta. Hammy and Hamlet were excited to see each other!

    Jan 21, 2015 @ 5:00 pm

  7. Hamlet's People

    Dang, sorry I wasn't "home." Hamlet is currently being used as a weekday apartment as one of us works in Portland, but we live up near Tacoma. What do you have? Compact? Airflyte? Have you seen It's a great forum for all things vintage trailer and to get your interest in them satiated even if you can only have just one.

    Jan 23, 2015 @ 4:37 pm