When my family left PA in 1947 to move south, we lived in a 28-ft. trailer for 4 or 5 years. It did not have a toilet, much less a shower. And we had a propane stove and heater. We also had an icebox; the melting ice dripped through a piece of hose onto the ground. I remember how my mother almost fainted one day when she opened the icebox and found the ham she had baked the day before covered with black ants! They had found a way to climb up the drain hose! (I don’t know exactly how my dad fixed it, but that never happened again.)
Anyway, people who lived in trailers back then had to live in a camp or park where there was a common bath house with toilets. We were delighted when we were able to move to a new park that had small bathrooms with a shower (a concrete block building) on each lot! What a luxury! But before that, I remember most of the time I washed myself (and my hair on Saturdays) in front of the kitchen sink. We must have used the showers sometime, but for some reason I don’t recall going there myself.
When I was 13 we moved to New Mexico, and after a few months, we sold the trailer and moved into a small, furnished rented house, where we had 2 main rooms. My parents’ bed was on one side of the living room, a couch and chair on the other side, and my first piano on the partition wall. I slept on an army cot in a corner of the kitchen and there was a closet on one wall with a mirror over a chest of drawers, and a clothespole on each side to hang my clothes.
Between the two rooms was a short hall with a bathroom on one side and a coat closet on the other. I walked to 8th grade classes from there.
By the time I was a freshman in high school, we were able to rent a nicer house that was a little closer to the high school (about a mile). Upstairs it still had only 2 rooms, but one of them was mine, and I had my piano in it! The other room was the kitchen, and Mom had a wringer washer in it. Downstairs was a huge cellar where Mom and Dad had their bedroom, curtained off from the living room. The upstairs bathroom was barely adequate, though, with a door only about 20″ wide. Across from it was the coat closet, and between them, a back door that opened onto a small covered porch.
After I went off to college, my parents started planning in earnest to move to California, which had been their destination from the beginning. They bought another mobile home, a better one, with a tiny bathroom and shower, and began to fix it up. Once it was livable, they moved to a mobile home park. In retrospect, I can see that they were only waiting for the inevitable time when I found a husband, though they never, never said that to me. As soon as I had married and had my own home, temporary as it was, it seemed like they took off like a speeding bullet, towing that trailer to CA! They lived in mobile home parks for the rest of their lives, where they always made friends and had a pretty good life.
Then, for a few weeks after I married, we lived in a tiny trailer on the State College campus. As soon as there was a vacancy, we moved to the converted barracks that served as married housing. Those were demolished a few years after we left, and now the married students live in brick homes in a nice subdivision in what is now called University Park.
Since then, we lived in a mobile home only once more– a 14’x 50′ model with 3 bedrooms–in 3 different parks, and on 2 different lots, one of which we had purchased with the intention of building a house there. We never got started, though, and finally traded the lot and mobile home for a large down payment on a new house near the high school, which the kids all attended.
I never lived in a trailer again, and neither did the kids when they grew up. I have been happy to live inside brick walls where we didn’t have to anchor the pre-fab structure to the ground every 10 ft. to make it safe in a storm. But I know that for many people, it is a necessary type of housing, for a variety of reasons. And I will never forget my experience of living in them. It is probably why I can live easily in the small space I now have.