TCT Chronology

Tin Can Tourists – Edited Chronology

Much of the TCT information came from materials donated to the Museum of Florida History by Ray and Mary Levett on July 3, 1986.  The collection consists of minutes of officer meetings, convention and necrology programs and photos of fellow Tin Can Tourists.  Other sources include news clippings and feature articles from the Tampa Newspapers.

Official Colors: Black and Tan

Stated Objective: To Unite Fraternally All Auto Campers

Guiding principles: clean camps, friendliness among campers, decent behavior and to secure plenty of clean, wholesome entertainment for those in the camps

  • 1919 – Tin Can Tourists formally organized at Desoto Park in Tampa.  Charles T. Fales was elected the first Royal Can Opener.  Charles was known as the “Mayor of Easy Street”, the main street formed by campers in Desoto Park. The original recognition emblem of the T.C.T was a tin can soldered to the radiator cap of a member’s car.
  • 1921 – Desoto Park becomes the Tin Can Tourist’s Mecca.  723 camps with 1,841 persons; a local branch of Tin Can Tourists was formally organized in Palmer Park, Sarasota, Florida, on Friday, January 1, 1921.
  • 1922 – April: Outdoor Life covered a TCT gathering; February, Tin Can Tourists to hold Winter Reunion at Green Cove Springs, Florida
  • 1924 – December 23rd:  Journal entry:  trip from Ohio to Florida – Total mileage for trip 1893 – Estimated 146 hours driving time 12.9 MPH AVE/; Camping Tourists of America split from TCT to purchase 34 acres surrounding the Braden Plantation in Manatee County – Develop Braden Castle Park; “There is no insatiable restlessness behind the trailer movement, no gypsy inclination. It is the climate – escape winter cold and summer’s heat.”
  • 1926 – The TCT wore out the welcome at Tampa and moved to Arcadia
  • 1928-29 – The “white-pants Willies” were beginning to take over the club. They wanted to change the name of the club to Tin Can Tourists of the World, started referring to the Royal Can Opener as the Royal Chief, and had dropped the old soup can on the radiator cap in favor of a fancy new diamond-shaped radiator emblem you had to pay fifty cents for!
  • 1930 – By mid-30’s nearly all municipal camps had closed – shift from auto camping to tourists cottages; The depression shifted the perception of sleeping in one’s car and lashing ones possessions to the running boards as no longer symbolizing romantic adventure, but disadvantaged Americans struggles to survive;
  • 1930s – TCT found they were no longer outsiders and undesirables.  Suddenly they were being courted by every aggressive small town Chamber of Commerce in the state of Florida – “Come to Arcadia for Homecoming Week”; “Don’t miss the Big Thanksgiving Party at Winter Haven”; “Plan on Attending the TCT Reunion in Lake City”; Ollie Trout’s famous trailer park, an east coast mecca in Miami was built in 1931
  • 1932 – Sarasota was selected as the site of the next Convention. The selection followed an intense fight between Sarasota and Arcadia. Dade City’s invitations seemed to have little weight.
  • 1933 – The Summer Reunion was held in Madison, Wisconsin – each nominated officer was to state his position on name change.  William Hickey said he wanted the group, TCT, taken out of what he termed a mild “beggar” class.
  • 1934 William Hickey elected TCT Royal Chief; TCT made up of 70 year olds – F.E. Sylvester, past president, said most canners resented the presence of young folks at camp – “They should be home in business or if young enough in school or college.”; Meat strewn around camp to poison dogs, seven have died – similar event occurred at Arcadia during homecoming;
    The Royal Chief’s acceptance speech noted the clubs current members as 800,000; Name Change resolution was effectively defeated by tabling the name change motion until 1950; A resolution pass to change the name of the Royal Can Opener to Royal Chief; Winter Convention date moved to second week in February to avoid conflict with the State Fair; the 17thAnnual Convention at Sarasota welcomed 1,500 trailers and 5,000 men, women, and children. Membership RV units recorded at 6,800 – theme song for the gathering “Merrily We Roll Along”; the TCT parade in Sarasota stretch three miles
  • 1935 – Homecoming in Arcadia from January 4-9, then move to Sarasota for the Convention; TCT opened the Winter conventions with a huge parade through downtown Sarasota; the parade started with a Model T loaded to the hilt with food and supplies from this the evolution went into more modern trailers and house cars right down to luxurious land yachts of the present day – after the parade a presentation of flags representing each state was conducted – the women’s washboard band added additional color and music to the affair; 800,000 to 1,000,000 estimated members, this is the first year that TCT had a formal registration and membership cards; camping vehicles averaged 17 ft. in length (actually 14 honest feet); Over 1,004 rigs and 2,369 persons showed up at Sarasota’s Municipal Trailer Park, the official TCT campsite; An official bell traveled with the TCT to be placed at the entrance to the campground.  It was rung to signal each member’s arrival and call meetings together – A splinter group, the Automotive Tourists Association (ATA), broke away from TCT to protest the name (Tin Can Tourists)
  • 1936 Negative press and the recession of 37’ precipitated the collapse of the trailer industry; two thousand members attended a rally in Sandusky, Ohio;  1,589 rigs showed up in Sarasota’s Tourists Park – 4,003 people; Royal Officers are the only ones that can officially induct new members; over 1000 attended the business meeting – discussing two items – nominations for a member to take motion pictures of all convention sessions – and that a formal ballot instead of acclaim would determine next summer’s convention city; dancing has always been popular at the camp with four dances being held weekly, during the winter season;  the business meeting lasted 5 minutes; a schism occurred and a formation of a rival group, the Automobile Tourists Association, pirated every last by-law of the TCT right down to its Golden Rule motto
  • 1937 – Tourists Park population nearly 4,000 with 1,453 camping units; Ira Green, TCT Royal Chief “I have watched this form of camp life attract the finest citizens of America to a winter of sunshine, health, and happiness here in the beautiful state of Florida; organization incorporated – Tin Can Tourists of American to Tin Can Tourists of the World. Unseasonable heavy rains and warm weather in the Mid-west prevented manufactures from bringing their trailers down to the convention; a small quorum of TCTers at the winter convention moved the summer reunion from Sandusky, to a Menominee Indian Reservation up in northern Wisconsin – almost nobody came; bids for the 1938 Convention came in from Sarasota, Mexico City, Tampa, and Arcadia – Titusville expressed and interest, but the camp was not big enough as of yet – summer invitations from Shawano, Wisconsin; Muskegon, Michigan; Grand Rapids, Michigan and Akron, Ohio were taken under consideration. Akron indicated that the Goodyear Zeppelin Hanger would be used for the Convention – it is the largest building in the world with interior support; Elcar won best decorated at the Trailer Show. At the Winter Convention in Sarasota the membership voted to hold the 1938 Winter Convention in Mexico City. The newly elected officers put an end to that plan and Tampa was chosen for the Convention. The TCT Keshena meeting had atmosphere, but no crowd – 400 units with a total attendance of 1,200; 78 Trailers were displayed by 25 manufactures; and 10 parts and accessory manufactures hawked their products. Many visitors lured by the promise of excellent fishing left when they were informed that the special licenses permitting them to fish on the reservation were recalled by the Indian Office in Washington because of a protest filed by the Indians themselves.

250 new members were added during the summer encampment bringing the membership to 24,000 (complete records have been kept the last few years). Membership estimates – recorded and unrecorded approximately 90,000

The ATA meet at Orchard Beach Park, Manistee Michigan was more generally attended and more enthusiastically received that the TCT meet in Keshena. ATA reported 430 units with 1,300 visitors. Many attendees came as early as a month early and didn’t depart until September.

1938 – Membership numbered 30,000- members arrived for Thanksgiving in Dade City, moved to Arcadia for Christmas, and by January, situated in Sarasota; the seventh consecutive TCT Convention was convened at the Sarasota Municipal Campground; Orchard Beach State Park, Manistee, Michigan, expanded facilities to host Tin Can Tourist conventions by adding 33 acres – allowing baseball to flourish.  The present day indoor picnic shelter built to accommodate Tin Can Tourist meetings; TCT files Incorporation on Wednesday February 10th

In 1938 Sarasota Mayor Verman Kimbrough indicated on the day the Convention opened that the city would not extend the offer to host the Convention in the city beyond 1938. The Mayor indicated that there was a general perception that Sarasota was a tin can tourist town. The TCT leadership responded to what they thought was in implied slur by the Mayor and the Canners Royal Chief McKnight said members will match brains, money or marbles with the mayor and that the campers had spent of $650,000 in Sarasota since December 1st – 400 units registered for Summer Reunion 48 units at trailer show during the summer

  • 1939 – Annual Homecoming at Arcadia has a capacity of 1,200 trailers – Arcadia, Florida, January 4, 500 people in attendance for homecoming before going to Convention in Sarasota;  last year 900 trailerites were barred from attendance through lack of space in the Sarasota campground; Oscar Peters, Royal Chief of TCT released an estimate of 3,000 members will be in attendance. – Official roster (card index) holds 37,000 names; Trailer News – the only Gulf Coast’s trailer Newspaper – reported that the Tamp Municipal Camp was less than desirable – lacked shade, no grass underfoot or trees overhead – lots not numbered and confusion reigned during Convention parking; 400 trailers and 1,000 guests are reported at the Bradenton Camp for the ATA Convention – January 23, 1939. 1939 – Winter Convention date changed to January 6-29 to avoid conflict with Florida State Fair. Date Change put it in conflict with ATA convention.
  • 1940’s – The governor of Florida wrote letters to the President asking that the Tin Can Tourists be exempt from gas rationing and tire rationing because Florida’s economy depended on the tourism; several thousand Tampans visited the manufacture’s display of more than 100 brand new trailers all ready to hit the highways.  1940 – 1450 Coaches present at Winter Convention – 350 parked in parks on outskirts – 92 new coaches exhibited representing 24 manufactures, and 16 accessory exhibitors. Paid membership registration 1,984 with 865 new members – Spring Get-Together – held at Dade City, Florida March 11-16; Second Spring at Winter Garden Florida on March 23-30; Summer Reunion at Traverse City Michigan July 22 to August 3; and the Winter Convention at Tampa Florida from February 10-24, 1941

Note: Captain Edward H. Jungclas headed up ATA for many years – ATA had plans for sectional organizations whereby state or territorial chapters of the parent organization are formed – for small intimate meeting

  • 1941 – signed a formal agreement with city of Tampa to hold gatherings at a municipal trailer park in West Tampa on North Oregon Avenue.
  • 1946 – After WW II, they gathered in Traverse City during the summer.
  • 1948 – Attempted to change name to Trailer Coach Tourists
  • 1949 – Membership numbered at 80,000
  • 1956 – November 12th- 24th; a Thanksgiving reunion was held at Melbourne’s Trailer Haven
  • 1958 – Camping Tourists of America changed name to Braden Castle Park Association
  • 1959 – Another attempt at name change, prompted by cheapness associated with “Tin Can” name.  Proposed name “Twentieth Century Tourists of the World” – although a plurality favored the change, the vote lacked a necessary two-thirds majority.
  • 60,s – group pictures showed members “in yellow snappy caps” with the TCT emblem.  All officers had their hats on in pictures taken during this decade.
  • 1962-68 – the summer reunions were held in Traverse City, Michigan
  • 1963 – Membership 100,000 claimed by group’s bookkeepers
  • 1966-67 – A “swan song” meeting was held in 1966 and the next winter meetings held in Eustis.
  • 1972-73 – summer reunion held in Portage, Wisconsin
  • 1973-76 – summer reunions were held in Chesaning, MI
  • 1978 – summer reunion was held at Dick Smith’s Locust Ranch in Dagger, Pa; winter gatherings were spent at Eustis RV Park, Eustis, Florida; Last information found on the original Tin Can Tourists
  • 1998 – First Renewal Gathering held at Camp Dearborn, Milford, Michigan, on May 14th- 17th- 22 units in attendance
  • 1999 – Second Annual Gathering, Camp Dearborn, Milford, Michigan, May 20 – 23, 1999 – 39 units in attendance

2000 – Winter Reunion, Tampa, Florida, in conjunction with the Florida Trade Show and Super Rally  11 units in attendance; Third Annual Gathering, Camp Dearborn, Milford, Michigan, May 18-21, 2001.   47 units in attendance

2001 Winter Reunion, Tampa, Florida, in conjunction with the Florida Trade Show and Super Rally   8 units in attendance; First Annual Southwest Gathering Phoenix, Arizona, in conjunction with the Pioneer Village Bluegrass Festival.   7 units in attendance ; Fourth Annual Gathering, Camp Dearborn, Milford, Michigan, May 17-20, 2001 48 units in attendance; Majestic Mt. Baker Rally, August 17-19, 2001.  30 units in attendance – portion of event financially supported by TCT

2002 – Third Annual Winter Reunion, Tropical Palms, Kissimmee, Florida, January 23-27, 2002, 18 units in attendance;  Fifth Annual Gathering, May 16-19, 60 units in attendance  Shelburne Museum Rally, Burlington, Vermont, May 31 to June 2, 25 units in attendance; Majestic Mt. Baker Rally, August, 27 units in attendance – partially support by TCT; Fall Campout at Camp Dearborn, Milford, Michigan; 35 units in attendance; Fall Fuel-up at Flywheel Park, Avon Park, Florida 13 units in attendance

2003 – Winter Reunion, Kissimmee, Florida, Tropical Palms, 26 units in attendance; Sixth Annual Gathering, Camp Dearborn, Milford, Michigan: 55 units in attendance -Travel Channel/Discovery Network shot footage for “RV Crazy” for 2004 show – Ready to Roll Calendar Released, by Doug Keister; Fall Campout at Camp Dearborn – 26 units in attendance; Coverage by Detroit

2004 – Southwest Gathering – Phoenix, Arizona – 24 units in attendance; Winter Convention at Flywheeler’s Park – 37 units in attendance coverage by RVTV of Ontario Canada; Seventh Annual Gathering – Camp Dearborn – 84 units in attendance – coverage by RVTV and Chicago Tribune; Mt. Baker Rally – 60 trailers and motor coaches in attendance – 12 TCT members in attendance; Fall Campout – Camp Dearborn – 46 units in attendance

2005 – Southwest Gathering – Pioneer Park, Phoenix, Arizona – 28 units in attendance; Winter Convention – Florida Flywheeler’s Park – 51 units in attendance;  Eighth Annual Convention – 115 units in attendance; Fall Campout & Flea Market – 77 units in attendance; Northeast Regional Rally – Sodom Mt. Massachusetts

2006– Winter Convention – Cedar Key Florida – 50 units in attendance; Ninth Annual Gathering – Milford Michigan – 133 units in attendance; Historic National Road Caravan from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois. Stops at Grantsville, MD; Addison, PA; Uniontown, PA; Brownsville, PA; Wheeling, WV; NHR/Zane Gray Museum, Zanesville, OH; Columbus, OH; Springfield, OH; Richmond, IN; Knightstown, IN: Terre Haute, IN; Marshall, IL; Greenup, IL and Vandalia, IL. 29 units at the start, 27 finished. Five of the trailers were from the 1930’s including a Covered Wagon and a Curtiss Aerocar; Northeast TCT/Tearjerker Rally, Scarborough, Maine – 27 units in attendance; 2006 Fall Campout – 75 units in attendance; Going South Rally, Spencer North Carolina – 13 units in attendance

2007 Winter Convention – Cedar Key, Florida 44 units – Tenth Annual Gathering – Camp Dearborn, Milford, Michigan “A Backward Glance” 140 Units in attendance – Gilmore Museum – Red Barns Spectacular – 27 Units in attendance – Hindley’s People’s Choice Winners – Great Canadian Hideaway – TCT/Glassers – 12 Units in attendance – Mulligan Stew Spectacular – Algonac Truck Show – attendance dampened by rain – coming back in 2008 – Fall Campout and Flea Market – 70 units in attendance – Rolls International trailer given away – Grim Brother’s winners –  Koreshan Unity Settlement Vintage Trailer and Motor Coach Rally and Show – 16 rigs in attendance – near 800 visitors to Saturday’s show – will become an annual event

2008 88th Winter Convention – Lake Manatee State Park – 50 rigs in attendance – Open House very well attended – TCT Return to Archer – 14 units parked around old city hall – group recreated the picture of autocampers around the building in 1924

2008 TCT Return to Archer – Archer Florida –15 units in attendance – Armand Caldron’s home the former city hall – recreated the picture from 1921 of TCT campers staying on the grounds

2008 Eleventh Annual Gathering – Camp Dearborn, Milford, Michigan – 132 units in attendance – feeling the effects of $4.00 per gallon of gas.  Dr. Holman Sr. posthumously inducted into the TCT Hall of Fame; Terry and Michelle Bone inducted also.

2008 Special invitation only to Fleetwood Cruize In at Steve Puckett’s – London Ontario – 2500 cars in on Saturday – entertainment provided by Little Anthony and the Imperials + Martha Reeves and the Vandells – 15 units invited by Ken Hindley

2008 Vicksburg Historical Village Campout and Car Show – Ken and Lee Evensen hosted 15 units – great location and show

2008 St. Clair Sesquicentennial Celebration – 13 units in attendance – TCT has been asked to participate in future Vintage Boat and Trailer Shows

2008 Red Barns Spectacular – 24 units in attendance – McCool’s, Parson’s & Conway’s award winners

2008 Ontario Canada Campout – Rick Myers host 9 units in attendance

2008 Ferndale Retro Fest and Dream Cruise – 9 units in attendance – our Urban Camping Group – Host John Truitt

2008 First Annual Northeast Regional Rally – Sampson State Park – Finger Lakes Region – hosted by Bill and Denise Fletcher, NE Regional Representatives – 32 units in attendance

2008 First Annual California Regional Rally, Coloma, California – October 16-20 Hosted by Penny Cotter and Charlie Neinow – Jeri and Forrest attended – History of TCT presented – 31 units in attendance

2008 Koreshan Unity Settlement Rally & Show – Hosted by TCT and Koreshan State Park – 14 units in attendance

2009 Cedar Key Campout – 40 units – Gathering highlighted by a fish fry put on by the Heintz family. Tim Heintz is the Southeast Regional Representative

2009 Winter Convention – Lake Manatee State Park – Park sold out – 50 units in attendance

2009 12th Annual Gathering – Camp Dearborn, Milford Michigan – 160 in attendance – first time we have sold out camp

2009 – First Annual Western Canada Vintage Trailer Gathering – Gerry and Sue Measures Western Canada Regional Representatives hosts

2009 – Vicksburg Campout and Car Show – Vicksburg, Michigan Ken & Lee Evensen hosts – limited to 20 units

2009 TCT Presentation at the Lincoln Highway Conference – showed trailers at the RV Heritage Museum for LHA members

2009 St. Clair Vintage Boat and Trailer Show – Limited to 20 units St. Clair, Michigan

2009 Red Barns Spectacular, Gilmore Automotive Museum, Hickory Corners, Michigan – 20 units in attendance

2009 Fall Campout and Flea Market – Camp Dearborn, Milford Michigan – 107 units in attendance

2009 2nd Annual Northeast Regional Gathering – Sampson State Park, Finger Lakes Region New York Sold Out all 60 spaces

2009 TCT Nashville Music Rally – hosted by Bob & Jewel Dee Muncy – 15 Units in attendance

2009 California Regional Rally – Coloma, California – Sold out – 30 units

2009 American on the Road – Hilton Head Concours – selected TCT members participating in display

2009 Koreshan Unity Settlement Gathering & Show Limited to 20 units

2010 Cedar Key/Dade Battlefield 25 at Cedar Key and 20 caravanned over to Dade Battlefield

2010 90th Winter convention 50 units in attendance – coldest winter in memory – frost on Thursday

2010 13th Annual Gathering 150 Units in attendance – Bowlus Feature Trailer –

2010 2nd Annual Western Canada TCT Vintage Trailer Meet – 60 units in attendance – the Measures continue to be strong regional representatives.

2010 3rd Annual Northeast Regional Gathering – 40 units in attendance – the Fletcher’s do a great job

2010 Route 6 Caravan – 15 units traveled the Route in Pennsylvania –

2010 Fall Campout – over 100 registered units – Trailer Park Tacky is the Friday night dance theme and the King and Queen of Tacky will be crowned.

2010 Fourth Annual Koreshan Unity Settlement and Show – 17 units in attendance

2011 Cedar Key – continues to be a Florida Favorite thanks to the Wilson’s of Sunset Isle

2011 91ST Winter convention 50 units in attendance – great site – great people

2011 13th Annual Gathering 150 Units in attendance –

2011 3RD Annual Western Canada TCT Vintage Trailer Meet – 60 units in attendance – the Measures continue to be strong regional representatives.

2011 5TH Annual Northeast Regional Gathering – 53 units in attendance – SOLD OUT – BECOMING A NORTHEAST TRADITION

2011 Fall Campout – over 130 registered units – The Bugs Beddow Band had them dancing on the tables – Trailer Park Tacky was the style of dress for the night.

2011 Fifth Annual Koreshan Unity Settlement and Show – 15 units in attendance

2012 Cedar Key Swansong  – 23 units in attendance – Sunset Isle has so many winter residents that they really can’ accommodate our group.

2012 92nd Winter Convention – Sertoma Youth Ranch – Brooksville Florida – 57 units in attendance – very successful Convention with room to grow at this site. Booked for 2013 – February 21st – 24th.

2012 15th Annual Gathering – Camp Dearborn – Milford Michigan – 165 units in attendance – Made In Michigan Theme honoring trailers and motor coaches manufactured in Michigan.

2012 4th Annual Port Crescent Gathering – Port Austin Michigan – 855 units in attendance – John Truitt is in his third year as host of this event. It has seen spectacular increase in attendance.

2012 6th Annual Koreshan Unity Settlement and Show – 15 units in attendance – Gail Kent put on another spectacular costume and trivia night – Theme 60’s and the Hippies

2012 – December 1-3 TCT  Got the Blues – Inaugural Bradenton Blues Festival – Camped at Braden Castle Park

2013 January RV Super Show – Tampa Florida – 15 units struggled through 5 straight days of open house at the largest RV Show in Florida – TCT lobbing the directors for gas gift cards or some other form of reward for participating.

2013 February 93rd Winter Convention – Sertoma Youth Ranch – 58 units in attendance – Great weather; Great time

2013 March – Manatee Historic Village Gathering – Dinner at Historic Linger Lodge – Celebrating Heritage month in Manatee County

2013 March – Return to Tropical Palms – End of Season Celebration – Kissimmee Florida

2013 May – 16th Annual Gathering – Camp Dearborn, Milford Michigan 163 Units in attendance – Spartan Trailers Featured

2013 June – 5th Vicksburg TCT and 33rd Vicksburg Old Car Festival – Ken and Lee Evensen Hosts

2013 June – The Cars R Stars automotive show was held at the Packard Proving Grounds on June 9th and trailers from the Tin Can Tourists were the featured exhibit. We were invited to arrive on Saturday afternoon and then participate in a private tour of facilities, after which we all went to the Packard Grill for dinner.  Sunday’s car show was a huge hit and the Tin Can Tourists were the stars of the show. Thomas Mitchell, chairperson of the event, said “The TCT turned out to the best thing that ever happened to the Cars R Stars @ PPG. I can’t thank your members enough”. * TCT units in attendance

2013 June 22 to July 5th – Lincoln Highway Centennial Celebration Caravan – Hayesville to Kearney Nebraska – 25 units participating

2013 July – Port Crescent – 83 units in attendance – John Truitt Host

2013 Aug 2-4, 39th Fiddlers Picnic Rally, Livingston, MT. Dal Smilie host

2013 – August – Port Sanilac, Michigan Antique Boat Show and Vintage Festival – John Truitt Host

2013 – August – Oakland Grove County Park – Michigan – Hosts the Tate’s

2013 September – TCT 6th Annual Northeast Rally at Sampson State Park, Romulus NY, September 12th -15th   106 participants.

2013 September – Orbie Mungall NW Rep had the Watt’s up at the Bay Rally in Utah, middle week of Sept. We had about 25 units, a poop load of mosquitoes and Sat. visitors, great blues tunes and a short rain that did not hinder the smoked pulled pork dinner. Karen Campbell (SW Rep) was a great help with my 1st rally. The vintage Airfloat was the prize eye catcher. Feel pretty sure next year will have more trailers due to visitor interest and news coverage. Most folk’s “fun meter” was close to being pegged out. 2014 rally will be at Crystal Hot Springs just north of Brigham City.

2013 September – Fall Gathering Milford Michigan – 165 units in attendance – Billy Mack and the Juke Joint Johnnies Rock the House

2013 March and September – The West Texas Round Up March 28th-31st, attendees (38) and the Texas fall Tin Can Tourists Round Up September 26th -29th. Attendees (25) – Host Teresa Archer

2013 – November – 6th Annual Koreshan Unity Settlement Gathering and Show – 20 units on the settlement grounds and three newer units camping in Estero State Park – Beatles the Theme and another super job by Gail Kent – event organizer

2013 – Bus Nuts – Arcadia Florida – Joint event with a Bus Nuts – not many TCT members are able to come to Arcadia. The dates for the event leading up to New Year’s Eve just wasn’t conducive to attendance. Seems that the Bus Nuts are mostly full timers and these dates fit them just fine.

2014 – Winter Festivus – January 16-19 Alachua Conservation Trust, Gainesville – Micanopy, Florida  – 24 units in attendance – helped raise money for the trust and for the Cross Creek volunteer fireman

2014 – Florida Chautauqua Assembly January 23 – 26, 2014 De3funiak Springs, Floria – 7 units in attendance

2014 – Winter Social January 25, Colorado –

2014 – 94th Winter Convention of the Tin Can Tourists – Sertoma Youth Ranch – February 20-13, 2014 – 50 units in attendance – John “Canner” Culp Remembrance

2014 – End of Season Gathering Kissimmee –Florida – Tropical Palms – must be undergoing a management shift. Didn’t seem to have their stuff together. We won’t be going back. 16 units in attendance

2014 – March 27-30 West Texas Round-up

2014 – John “Canner” Culp’s Westcraft on summer display at the RV Heritage Museum, Elkhart, Indiana

2014 – April 24-27 Trailer Trot – Tybee Island, Georgia

2014 – 17th Annual Gathering , May 15-16 – Sold out 175 units in attendance

2014 – Vicksburg, Michigan – participated in Annual Vintage Car Show

2014 – Camping Rally – Gold Rush Days, Victor, Colorado

2014 – Port Crescent Rally, Michigan – July 24-27 80+ units in attendance

2014 – Pt. Sanilac Michigan, August 1-3

2014 –  40th Fiddlers Picnic Rally, Livingston, MT. Dal Smilie host, August

2014 – Groveland Oaks, Retro Weekend, Holly Michigan August 21-24

2014 – Graton trailer transported from Trumansville NY to Camp Dearborn for permanent display.

2014 – California Rally – Petaluma, California September 19-21

2014 – Fall Gathering, Camp Dearborn, Milford Michigan – 180 units in attendance

2014 – Korshan Homecoming Rally – October 30-November 2 – Halloween spectacular

2014 – TCT Return to Cedar Key – last organized trip – too much competition for sites with seasonal renters

2014 – Year closed with great growth in membership and number of events hosted by TCT Regional and state Representatives.

2015 – TCT Scheduled Events

Southwest Region Schedule for 2015

FEB 7 Winter Social, Denver, CO, Donna Spinelli

APR 23-26 Texas Group of Vintage Campers TCT 2015 spring rally, Fentress Texas; Teresa Baldwin

MAY 8-10 Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez, CO, Nancy May

MAY 22-24 Starlite Classic Campground, Canon City, CO – Memorial Day Weekend, Jean Bundschuh and Mary Kay

MAY 29-31 Getaway to Monterey, Mazda Raceway, Monterey, CA

JUN 5-7 Glenwood Canyon Resort, Glenwood Springs, CO, Leader: Donna Spinelli

JUL 3-5 Mueller State Park, Divide, CO, Donna Spinelli

AUG 21-22 Desert Diamond Rally, Elephant Butte Lake RV Resort, Elephant Butte, NM

AUG Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO

SEP 24-27 Texas Group Of Vintage Campers Tin Can Tourists Fall Rally, Mill Creek Ranch Resort, Canton, Texas; Teresa Baldwin

OCT 2-4 Fall Colors Pagosa Springs, Bruce Spruce Ranch, Pagosa CO

Northwest Region Schedule for 2015

JUN 5-7 Western Canada “Tin Can Tourist” Vintage Trailer Rally, Sons of Norway Country Club, 11901 Seux Road, Mission, BC V2V 4J1

JUL 31-AUG 2 41st Fiddlers Picnic Rally, Livingston, MT. Reg and Steve Bittner host

SEP 5 Willard Car Show, Willard Utah

SEP 18-20 Northern Utah Rally at Crystal Hot Springs, Crystal Hot Springs, Honeyville Utah

Northeast Region Schedule for 2015

MAY 14-17 Bring Some Kids Camping Rally, Kayuta Lake Campground, Forestport, NY

SEP 10-13 8th Annual Northeast Rally, Sampson State Park, Romulus, NY

Southeast Region Schedule for 2015

JAN 22-25 Florida Chautauqua Assembly’s TCT Exhibit – DeFuniak Springs, FL   – Forrest was a presenter at the Chautauqua “The History of the Tin Can Tourists”

FEB 19-22 95th TCT Winter Convention – Sertoma Youth Ranch, Brooksville, FL  – set attendance record for the renewed version of TCT – 70 units in attendance – featured the wedding of Larry Perry and Angie Deo

APR 30-May 2 TCT Panama City Beach Rally, St. Andrews State Park, Panama City, FL  – Hosted by Tim Heintz – very success inaugural event, already scheduled for 2016

SEP 10-13 2015 TCT Southern Georgia Rally, Brickyard Plantation Golf Club & RV Park, Americus, GA – Hosted by Tim Heintz

OCT 23-25 Falluminum – Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds Campground in Hiawassee Georgia

NOV 5-8 Koreshan Homecoming Gathering – Koreshan State Historic Site, Estero, FL  – Filled to Max on Unity Settlement Grounds – 23 units representing numerous styles and manufactures

DEC 3-6 Sertoma Youth Ranch Casual Mingle and Jingle – Christmas Lights – Sertoma Youth Ranch, Brooksville, FL

Mid-States Region Schedule for 2015

MAY 8-9, Spring on the Farm, Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm, Rochester Hills, MI

MAY 14-18 18th Annual Gathering – Camp Dearborn, Milford MI – 183 units in attendance – new Maple area available for the first time  for electric only site near TCT Tent

JUN 4-7 4th Annual Hoffmaster Vintage Gathering, Muskegon MI (non TCT event)

JUN 11-14, Ohio TCT Gathering, Colonial Campground, Coshocton, Ohio

JUN 11-15 35th Annual Vicksburg Old Car Festival, Vicksburg, MI  – hosted by Ken and Lee Evensen

JUN 18-21 Wizard of Oz Festival – Ionia MI

JUL 16-21 1st Annual TCT Great River Road Vintage Rally, Illiniwek Forest Preserve Campground, Hampton IL

JUL 17-19 International TCT Trail Balloon Rally – Elora Gorge Conservation Area, Ontario, Canada

JUL 23-26 7th Annual Vintage Camper show and TCT gathering – Port Crescent State Park, Port Austin, MI

JUL 30-AUG 8 TCT U.P. Caravan – Upper Peninsula of Michigan

JUL 31-AUG 2 Classic Camper Caravan in the Park III – Wilson Park, Milan MI

AUG 1 Red Barns Spectacular Show – Gilmore Car Museum – Hickory Corners, MI

AUG 6-9 4th Annual Vintage Camper Event – Branson KOA, Branson MO

AUG 13-16 Port Sanilac Antique Boat & Vintage Show – Port Sanilac, MI

AUG 13-16 Tow Jam Music Weekend – Rapid River Campground & Cabins – 7182 US 131 Mancelona, Michigan

AUG 27-30 Retro Revival Rally – Holly, MI

SEP 24-27 Fall Gathering – Camp Dearborn, Milford, MI  – Steve Hingtgen of Vintage Trailer Supply was the featured speaker – the Graton trailer was on display for the first time at Camp Dearborn

**2015 was highlighted by continued growth, a redesigned website thanks to Terry Bone, and a gradual expansion of camping opportunities through the hard work of the Regional and State Representatives. The most meaningful experiences in 2015 where hearing from members how their meeting of others at TCT events altered their life in immeasurable ways. We hope to shore a story or two in upcoming newsletter. Thanks to all for your support.



  Tin Can Tourists 

Tin Can Tourists at Tampa’s De Soto Park, 1920
Burgert Brothers, Digital Florida Studies Center Gallery.

The Twentieth Century Pioneer

With the arrival of the 20th century, Americans continued in the pioneering spirit of their forbearers and took to their automobiles to explore the great unknown. Thousands of Americans packed their vehicles with their tents, an extra 5-gallon can of gasoline, lots of canned food, and a spare tire or two, and began exploring the country in a manner not unlike Lewis and Clark.  They became the symbol of restless, adventuresome America, overflowing with curiosity.  These were the Tin Can Tourists.

These pioneers weren’t travelling because of economic hardship in search of a better source of income.  These were quite often middle-aged folks who had their fling at earning a living and now wanted to live “the life of Riley.”  They were families of retired and working Americans and Canadians, many of whom were businessmen, lawyers, doctors, dentists, merchants, policemen, war veterans, jewelers, and people in show business who worked in the summer.

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

The Dixie Highway Opens the Gates

After the completion of the Dixie Highway from Montreal to Miami in 1915, the number of automobile tourists to Florida increased dramatically every year, and Florida’s rural areas and small towns began to change as well.  The 1920s featured a faith in the material growth of the nation and with Florida’s natural allure, caused much of the state to seemingly mushroom overnight. According to one local historian, “it seemed that all the people of the Midwest and farming regions of the North were coming to Florida to spend the winter in their trailers.” Lured by the accounts of friends who had visited the area, intrigued by Florida sunshine and sand, and spurred in the 1920s by the mobility of Henry Ford’s inexpensive cars, the numbers of immigrants to the state steadily increased.

Parade celebrating the opening of the Dixie Highway, Dania, FL 1915
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

The Dixie Highway system in 1923


The automobile and the prosperity of the nation after World War I made possible the first great tourist invasion of Florida. The winter of 1919-20 marked the arrival of the so-called Tin Can Tourists; visitors driving homemade mobile trailers and eating out of tin cans. Cars from all over the North headed to Florida piled high with bedding, tents, and boxes of canned food. In no time at all the highways leading south were crowded, and the Tin canners swarmed over the south Florida landscape. Celebration of the Dixie Highway opening in Brevard County, FL.  Tin Can Tourists In Florida

The Dixie Highway nearest to the Tampa bay region, circa 1923
Burgert Brothers, Digital Florida Studies Center Gallery. .

Tin Can Tourists Take to the Roads

Even before the organization was officially formed, the name “tin can tourist” was given to motorists who could live for weeks or months out of their vehicles. One member said, “The called us tin can tourists, because of our cars (Model Ts or Tin Lizzies) and the fact that canned food was frequently on our menus.” It was common for these travelers to fill their vehicles with enough canned food before the journey to last the duration of the trip, much to the chagrin of restaurants and hotels. In fact, the Tin Can Tourists were notorious around Florida for being thrifty.

The Dixie Highway near Lakeland, circa 1917
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

In Florida, the roads connecting cities and towns were little more than deeply rutted dirt roads with very few bridges and even less places for lodging with amenities.  Tin canners who set out on the open road often encountered fallen trees, swollen streams, swamps, and other obstacles not much different than what the early Florida pioneers encountered.   A tin can became a sign of distress — sort of like a road flair when hung from the radiator of a car. If somebody passed by and was a fellow Tin Can Tourist, they would stop to help.  There was a Good Samaritan aspect to it. Flat tires were a huge problem in the early travel days and there were a lot of other problems.

Osceola County gate on the Dixie Highway, 1920s
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

A campground just north of Jacksonville, circa 1919
Tin Can Tourists In Florida

The lack of lodging and amenities made tents the shelter of the day.  Many Tin canners incorporated their automobile with part of their tent structure, thus making it their transportation and lodging. All this only meant that their trek was guaranteed to be an adventure, no matter what route they took.  When Tin canners saw something of interest, they just pulled over off the side of the road and set up their camp.


Panoramas of Tin Can Tourists at De Soto Park, Tampa – 1920

The Formation of the Tin Can Tourists of the World

The Tin Can Tourists were organized at De Soto Park, Tampa, Florida, in 1919 and received their official state charter a year later. The association formed to coordinate the conventions of the new and expanding practitioners of automobile-camper travel, with their stated objective as, “to unite fraternally all autocampers”. Their guiding principles were clean camps, friendliness among campers, decent behavior and to secure plenty of clean, wholesome entertainment for those in camp. The group known for the soldered tin can on their radiator caps grew rapidly during the twenties and thirties.Members could be inducted by fellow campers through an initiation process that taught the prospective member the secret handshake, sign, and password. After singing the official song “The More We Get Together” the trailerite was an official member of the Tin Can Tourists of the World.  an applicant had to be at least 12 years of age and of good moral character; must be living in a tent, car house, car, trailer, or camp (tourist) cottage, on or near the site of a meeting at the time of application for membership was made; and must apply for membership in person.

Membership in the organization provided a clear distinction between those who travelled the for fun and recreation and those who travelled due to economic hardship.  It is difficult to distinguish the tin-canners of the early 1920s from the Okies of the late 1920s in old photos.  The Tin Can Tourists organization provided the distinction.  The formation of the organization gave the Tin canners a high degree of clout.  Municipalities throughout the nation began to realize influx of seasonal visitors to their area could help boost the local economy, so many towns and private citizens began to develop areas to accommodate them.

 Tin canner men relax while woman washes clothes at De Soto Park, Christmas Day – 1920
Burgert Bros. collection


De Soto Park, Tampa

Tampa, much to its credit, provided the best facilities available at the time at a location in De Soto Park, on the shores of Tampa Bay.  Camp sites were free, as was nightly entertainment.  In the early years, the park was little more than a clearing in the trees, but soon there was plumbing with hot and cold running water available, and for only fifty cents weekly, children from the camp could attend school in the Hillsborough County system.

Tin canners and their tents at De Soto Park, 1920

De Soto Park is located at the northeast end of McKay Bay in Tampa (not to be confused with Fort De Soto Park founded on Mullet Key about 1955, in the St. Petersburg area.)

Tin Can Tourists at De Soto Park, 1920



The Tin Canners were the harbingers of the wild speculation of the boom years.  Annual “convocations” were held for years here and in Arcadia during the winter tourist rush.  In 1921, there were approximately 17,000 members throughout the the US and Canada.  Tampa itself had a total population of only 51,608 in 1920, and the impact of masses of tourists spurred the fantastic speculation of the era.


A crowd of Tin canners gathers around a man offering pony rides, De Soto Park, 1920

Throughout most of its history, the group convened for its winter meetings in Florida and its summer gatherings in a northern locale, quite often around Traverse City, Michigan. The main order of business at these conventions, led by the organization’s leader (appropriately named the Royal Can Opener), was to decide where and when to stage the next convention. The rest of the time — which for some members could last months before and after the conventions — was devoted to horseshoe matches, card games, baseball, and dancing.

Tin canners at De Soto Park, 1920



 The Florida Land Boom of the 1920s

David Paul Davis – 1925

George S. Gandy, 1922

The boom of the early twenties sent land values skyrocketing. Real estate speculation was rampant and furious.  In 1920 a 40-acre parcel of Florida land sold for about $45; four years later it sold for $40,000.  In the Tampa Bay area, men such as D. P. “Doc” Davis parlayed their vision and salesmanship into millions of dollars of profit. Indeed, on the west coast, the newly opened Gandy Bridge symbolized the era of prosperity and development that had engulfed the region.

On Florida’s Gold Coast the land boom was even more explosive. Between 1921 and 1925 the payroll of the city of Miami grew 2,449 per cent. The assessed value of property in the city jumped 560 per cent in that same time span. The value of issued building permits skyrocketed from $4.48 million to $58.65 million. During the “Florida Boom,” it was estimated that in 1925 the state spent $400 million on building construction; $50 million on railway track and equipment; and $7.5 million on 286 miles of new state highway.  Moreover, tourists spent $250 million in Florida during the 1924-25 winter season. This cycle of gambling, greed and glut continued until the Florida land boom bust in 1926.

Davis Islands land office on Franklin St., 1925

Gandy Bridge Completed, 1924

See Tampapix feature D.P. Davis and his Islands

See Tampapix feature The Gandy Bridge, First to Span Tampa Bay


The main thoroughfare through De Soto Park was named “Easy Street” by the Tin canners.  This way, they could legitimately write home to friends and family that they were in Florida, living on Easy Street.Charles T. Falles, known as the “Mayor of Easy Street,” was the organization’s first Royal Sergent.

Tin Can Tourists In Florida


Former St. Pete mayor Al Lang had an axe to grind with the Tin Can Tourists and referred to the 1920 campers as “undesirables” and criticized them for starting a grocery store on city property, in competition with local merchants.  He advised Miami to “lay off catering to this class of tourist” and said “they are of no benefit to a town whatsoever.”Read the entire article
Al Lang, mayor from 1916 to 1920, lured the first baseball teams to train in St. Petersburg, starting with the St. Louis Browns in 1914. “Before Al Lang came along, St. Petersburg was viewed by baseball as little more than blip on the map,” wrote author and baseball historian Wes Singletary. “He changed all that.” Baseball had already discovered Florida in 1888 when the Washington Nationals began training in Jacksonville. The Chicago Cubs discovered Tampa in 1913. But Lang wanted the sport in St. Petersburg, believing it would boost tourism.  He died in 1960 at age 89.   Remembering Al Lang, St. Pete’s Mr. Baseball


De Soto Park Closed to Tin Can Tourists

Summer reunions for the Tin Can Tourists were held at various Midwest locations, with Traverse City, Michigan serving as a primary host city. The club spent winters at Desoto Park in Tampa until 1924.   Many native Floridians did not welcome the vagabond travelers with open arms — in 1924, Tampa locals grew tired of their park being overrun with northerners and forced the closing of DeSoto Park to rid the city of the Tin Can Tourists shortly after the group was formed.  Yet,  the organization continued to flourish.  The canners took the hint and moved the Winter Convention to Arcadia, where the community had built a municipal park especially for the Tin Can Tourists. 

Tin canners and their dog at De Soto Park, Christmas day, 1920
Burgert Bros. Collection


Above:  House car named Harriet at Tin Can Tourists convention: Arcadia,1929  Harriett belonged to Mrs. Harriett Warren, Mrs. Flora Kavanaugh, and Westel Ashe, all of Brattleboro, Vermont.
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Left:  Preparing BBQ at Aracadia Tin Can Tourist convention, 1920s
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

BBQ buffet at the Arcadia convention, 1920s
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

1922 Membership Card

Tin Can tourists camping at Gadsden Point, 1921
Gadsden Point is the area of Tampa that became Mac Dill Air Force Base

Tin Can Tourist camp in Gainesville, 1922
Notice the sign on the right column, “No Peddlers Allowed.”
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,


Royal Chief Otho Granford Shoup at Gainesville, 1922

Otho G. Shoup was born around 1868 in Pennsylvania and grew up in Scranton.  He then moved to Detroit around 1909 where he worked as mason and contractor for Interstate building and Land Co. until around 1923.  By 1925, he and his wife Rose had settled in Gainesville, FL, where they lived until at least 1945.

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Tin Can Tourist Camp at Gainesville, 1920s
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,


Tin Can Tourists in Gainesville, circa 1922.  Seated in front of the table on the right is Otho Shoup.  To the right of him is his wife, Rose.State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,



Thatched hut at a campsite in Palmetto, 1922
Palmetto is the area located just west and southwest of De Soto Park,
bordered on the west by 22nd St. and on the north by Adamo Drive

Tin canners at Suniland Magazine Tourist Camp, Six-Mile Creek in 1925
Burgert Brothers, Digital Florida Studies Center Gallery.

Six Mile Creek

Bridge over Six-Mile Creek, circa late 1890s

Hillsborough County’s Palm River is south of State Road 60 / Adamo Drive and flows into McKay bay south of Ybor City. Upstream, the Palm River bends towards the north and was called Six Mile Creek. Here was where Plant’s railroad first entered the area. In the first half of the 20th century if you were traveling into Tampa from Brandon, Plant City, Lakeland or any other community to the East you had to travel down Broadway over an old bridge spanning Six Mile Creek. Surrounding the bridge was the small community of Six Mile Creek that contained a market and service station ready to meet the needs of travelers. When settlers first came to the area they set up farms along the creek and river. As the area grew industrial factories began to set up shop near the creek and river shores. 

See “Tampania” website, “Palm River–Burying Our Past.”

Suniland Magazine Tourist Camp Tin canners at Six-Mile Creek in 1925
Burgert Brothers, Digital Florida Studies Center Gallery.

Jack’s Place, Green Gable Tourist Camp & the Oaks Restaurant, Tampa – 1927
Burgert Brothers, Digital Florida Studies Center Gallery

Conventions Gain Popularity

The Tin Can Tourists conventions grew in size and began to include commercial vendors coming from points throughout the country. By the early 1930s, Florida communities recognized the impact of the tourists — even Tampa city officials begged the group to return. Though one of the rules of being a Tin Can Tourist was that a member couldn’t own property in Florida, the group is said to have had a significant impact on the booming land development in the state. Many snowbirds would decide to stay permanently, while others returned to their homes in the Midwest with wonderful stories about the Sunshine State.

Housecar from Minneapolis at the Arcadia convention, 1929
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

The annual trek, fueling the twin industries of tourism and real estate, suffered during the depression years. But by 1932, with membership on the increase, city Chambers of Commerce were actively pursuing Tin Can Tourists to choose their community for either Homecoming, Winter Convention or Going Home meets. The Winter Convention was the best attended and was an economic boon to the host community.


Sarasota’s Convention Bid

It was not until 1932 that Sarasota hosted the winter convention of the Tin Can Tourists.   In 1931, Mayor E.A. Smith and other community leaders decided to lure the annual TCT convention away from Arcadia, where it had been conducted for a number of years.

Tin canners at Payne Park, Sarasota, 1936
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

A motorcade of nearly 250 cars drove from Sarasota to Arcadia, parking in the camp. Carrying banners inviting the TCT to Sarasota, community leaders distributed free copies of the Sarasota Herald and gave speeches promoting the change in venue. The Sarasota Bay Post 30 American Legion Band presented a concert to the 2,000 campers. When the vote was counted, Sarasota had won the contest. The vote on the Winter Convention site was hotly contested. Many Canners were loyal to Arcadia, the town that wanted them after their ejection from Tampa. As a concession to those that favored Arcadia, it was designated as the official site for Homecoming festivities.

Tin Can Tourists band in Sarasota, circa 1941
Florida Memory,

Their arrival in January was headline news for the city that had fallen on hard economic times: “SARASOTA WELCOMES TCT FOLK.” For the locals still suspect of the group, given its Tin Can name, Royal Chief R.W. Vaughn informed them that the group was made up of respectable people from all walks of life: doctors, lawyers, manufacturers, preachers and bankers and noted that they “spent hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for gasoline, oil, tires, new cars, motor repair and upkeep.” The group gathered annually around Payne Park, and their community later morphed into the Sarasota Mobile Home Park.
By 1938 the organization had grown to approximately 30,000 members and incorporated as Tin Can Tourists of the World.  More than 3,000 “nomads” from 45 states, Canada and two foreign countries poured into Sarasota. Several thousand campers attended each year and participated in a variety of activities. The annual TCT parade along Main Street included trailers from the modern to the historic, floats representing the camper’s home states, clowns and a number of bands. In 1938, the mayor of Sarasota indicated that the national perception that Sarasota was a tin can tourist’s town was hurting the community and that he would not renew the Winter Convention contract.


Tampa Wants Tin Can Tourists to Return

In mid April of 1939, 300 to 400 operators of Florida tourist parks met in Tampa Municipal auditorium for its 2nd annual program to discuss matters of vital importance to the cottage and trailer park industry, under the supervision of William Tusz, owner manager of Camp Nebraska in Tampa.  

Tampa Municipal Auditorium was built in 1926 behind Plant Hall on the University of Tampa campus. A few years afterward, prominent Tampan D.B. McKay died.  In 1960, the building was renamed McKay Auditorium in his honor.  A 1993 fire left it gutted and unusable. In 1997, local computer entrepreneur John Sykes donated $10-million to the University of Tampa, and most of the funds were used to refurbish and expand the damaged neoclassical structure into the John H. Sykes College of Business, which opened in 2000.

Monument Rises With New Name

Tampa Municipal Auditorium in 1926


Camp Nebraska at 10314 N. Nebraska Ave. in Tampa
USF Special Collections, Burgert Bros.

Watch these videos:  Travel Trailer Life in 1937 Florida Snowbird Park    Blue Sky Barber Shop    Tin Can Tourist Cartoon

Tampa Municipal Tourist Camp

Tampa then offered the tin-canners a five-year deal to return to Tampa. It was accepted and the Winter Convention returned to specially built Tampa Municipal Park in 1939. 


In 1938-39, Tampa municipal tourist camp opened at 2300 N. Oregon Ave. to host the 1939 convention.   Managed by Fred W. Holtzman with his wife, Violet Holtzman as “Hostess”, the park was located along the west bank of the Hillsborough River just south of Columbus Drive, bordered by Rome Ave. on the west and Spruce St. on the south.

The 1945 Tampa street map shows the location of Tampa Municipal Tourist Camp.

 See this area today

The newly completed western ranch-style community house at Tampa Municipal Tourist Camp, 1937

Fred Holtzman, manager, 1939
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,


A Christmas party at the community house, 1939
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

 Hostess Violet Holtzman, 1939
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Their brochure advertised “Tampa’s newest and finest trailer park offers you spacious lots with 24-hour electric and water service.  There are modern and complete restrooms with steam heat, holt and cold showers, a large laundry with electrical equipment, city water and sewerage service.”  Two persons per day paid 35c a day or $1.50 per week.  Extra persons were 10c a day or 25c per week.  Electric rates were 15c a day or 60c per week for a 3 amp hookup and 25c per day or $1.00 per week for a 6 amp hookup.  In the rare event the Tampa winter was cold enough to need heat, a 15 amp heater could be purchased at 50c per day or $2.50 per week.

Click the brochure pages to see them larger
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

The park had facilities for shuffleboard, horseshoes, volleyball, a children’s playground, and a pier for boating and fishing.  In the large, Western Ranch style community house there was a card and game room, a large dance floor and stage, a reading room and the camp office.  Services included a post office, mail delivery, telegraph, telephone and taxi services, police and fire protection, daily newspaper and ice delivery.

LIFE Magazine, 1939


Another 1939 view
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Jan 26, 1930 St. Pete Times

The group soon faced membership declines due to combination of factors.  A division within the ranks of the Tin Can Tourists, the formation of ATA, the Automobile Tourists Association, an economic recession in 1939 that greatly diminished the number of trailer manufactures, and the onset of World War II.

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,


Postcard circa 1939

In 1942, the 22nd annual meeting of the Tin Can tourists was expected to bring 2,000 trailers with 6,000 tourists from Feb 16 to Mar 2.

Municipal Trailer Park Tin Can Tourists convention, 1942
Tin Can Tourists Rolling History
Click to see larger

A couple of young campers having dinner in their trailer, 1946.  Young couples comprised a small percentage of trailerites and even smaller percentage of Tin Can Tourists.  Most young couples were newlyweds just starting out on scant budgets and stayed put.

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Ex-Cops Throng Tampa Trailer Park-  St. Pete Times, Dec. 26, 1946

Trailerites Find Life Far From Dull – St. Pete Times, Dec 23, 1946


Post-War Tin Canners

After World War II, more and more Americans took to the open road to explore the nation and spend vacations in their vehicles. Although the increasing number of hotels and resorts eventually caused a decline in camper-traveling, ever-more-sophisticated trailers and campers allowed people more comfort and convenience as they sought to combine leisure with their love of traveling.  Winter Convention photographs depict a smaller group in 1948 at Tampa.  By this time, the park was managed by Hal and Ann Carder.


Mrs. Charlie Treffert serves refreshments to fellow Tin canners at Tampa Municipal Trailer Park, 1948


Typical Tin Can Tourists

In 1948, the Tin Can Tourists of the World members numbered 80,000 strong.  Cities clamored to host the convention with hopes of netting the $200 to $300 a month each Tin canner spent.  Typically, Tin canners were around age 50 to 65 and either had no children or had grownup ones  Families of two owned 61% of the trailers.  Families of three and four, 38% and larger families, the remaining 1%.  The sentiment of the majority of older trailerites was that a trailer camp was not the right atmosphere for children. Most parks had an area designated for families with children, but families with dogs were not zoned.   A considerable percentage were retired farmers, policemen, firemen, and civil servants, living on pensions or the rent from houses they own. 

25th annual convention at Tampa Municipal Trailer Park, 1948

The average joint annual income of married trailerites was around $3,000.  Some of their income came from government bonds, purchased while still working a job.  They spent very little time in their hometown and 3/4ths of them prefered their trailer to a permanent home.  With the first hint of cold weather, they headed for Florida and returned back up north around May.  “True trailerites” were mobile and referred to permanent residents who removed their wheels as “squatters.”  At the 1948 convention, about a third of the 1,600 trailers were “squatters.”  Gambling, drinking and rough language were considered to be not in keeping with Tin Can Tourists’ ideals of social behavior.


Trailer manufacturers took advantage of annual conventions and other events to show off their new products, such as seen here in Tampa, 1949.


Wednesdays and Saturdays were dance nights at the park.  The military schottische, a favorite among trailerites, is a lively group dance seldom seen outside of trailer park circles.Listen to a sample of the Military Schottische

In addition to the Tin Can Tourists conventions, Tampa Municipal Trailer park hosted many events through the years.  In early April, 1954, the 2nd annual Florida Square and Folk Dance Festival, sponsored by the Tampa Recreation Dept. and Florida Square Dance Callers and Teachers Association was held in Tampa with one night featuring a dance in the Municipal Trailer Park gym where callers from 21 state areas presented their style.  The grand climax of the 3 day event was a mass square dance at Plant field with over 1,000 dancers expected. The Rockhounds of Tampa Bay Mineral and Science Club held their event there 1957.

Tampa Municipal Trailer Park was still hosting the annual Tin Can tourist gatherings in March of 1966 when the 43rd annual convention of the Tin Can Tourists of the World held its two-week long session there.  The Royal Chief of the club was Richmond Chapin of Traverse City, Mich.  In 1966 it was held in Ocala.The Gym and Auditorium was used throughout the year for other events:   Gradually, these tourist camps began to diminish in importance as small and affordable motels replaced them in the 1950s and 1960s.  According to the club’s bookkeeper, membership in the association peaked at 100,000 in 1963.  Exactly when or why the group disbanded is unknown. 

Square dancers in Sarasota, 1957
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Campers in Thonotosassa, 1961
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

The Final Tin Can Tourists Convention

By the mid 1970s and 80s, the towed house trailer was replaced by the all-in-one recreational vehicle, or “RV.”  As the number of Tin Can Tourists dwindled in the 1960s and 1970s, the original club’s last winter reunion took place in 1978 at Eustis RV Park, Eustis, Florida.  

Harry McDonald, Jim Flannery and Foster Little at Eustis, FL 1979
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Kermit Brown of the Museum of Florida History with his home-built 1923 Model ‘T’ Ford truck Tin-Can camper replica, 1979 at the 56th annual convention of the Tin Can Tourists in Eustis, FL
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Tin Can Tourists Resurrected

The Tin Can Tourists of the World then experienced a 20-year hiatus that ended in 1998 when Michigan high school teacher and coach Forest Bone and his wife, Jeri, resurrected the organization.  The reconstituted Tin Can Tourists’ first gathering in 1998 in Milford, Michigan, drew 21 units. Their 2010 Winter Convention on Feb. 25-28 at Lake Manatee State Park east of Bradenton drew 50 RVs and about 120 people on a first-come first-serve basis due to site restrictions.

At the beginning of 2010, the club had 834 remembers, down from just over 1,000 at the start of 2009. The downturn was attributed to gas prices and the economy, but membership was returning.  The Tin Can Tourists 12th Annual Gathering at Camp Dearborn in Milford, Mich., was held in May of 2010, along with two other regional gatherings scheduled that same weekend in New York and New Mexico.

Foresst Bone and his 1955 Trotwood trailer at Cedar Key on Jan. 27, 2010
Tin Can Tourists: Travelers to embrace friendship, trailers

In addition, three other local gatherings were planned in 2010 in Michigan and three in Florida while regional rallies were planned in  Canada, California, Washington, Arizona and New York.Today, Tin Can Tourists typically own vintage units but it’s not required. Still, 75% of Tin Can Tourist members own vintage trailers. Shasta, Serro Scotty and Airstream brands are popular. There are lots of ‘canned ham’ trailers that look like Shastas that were manufactured in the ’50s.  The cost of membership in Tin Can Tourists is minimal — only $20 a year. And more than 800 members are led regionally by seven representatives in North America and others in the United Kingdom and Japan who provide input to the organization and run Tin Can Tourists get-togethers
From Camps to Trailer Parks

The fondness of many of Florida’s millions of visitors and new residents for leisurely accom-modations and vacationing helped establish new communities that catered to people looking to stay for extended periods without living in one location year-around. Still other places, such as trailer parks, offered both the chance to put down roots and to pick up stakes and move on when the time was right.


Guernsey City Trailer Park, 4851 Gandy Blvd. – 1956
Burgert Bros. Collection

Florida is a state well-suited for those who choose impermanence as a lifestyle. In some cases, however, trailer parks and resort camping areas became so well-established that they constituted new towns in themselves. Florida cities that experienced tremendous growth, prosperity and popularity as vacation and relocation destinations, such as Sarasota, also benefited from their trailer parks which helped draw visitors and new residents.Trailer parks proved particularly attractive areas for the thousands of retirees that annually chose Florida as their new homes. Successful parks gained enough population and established enough infrastructures to be incorporated as distinct towns. Trailer parks also provided necessary housing for the droves of new workers brought to areas of Florida transformed by new industries such as Cape Canaveral, the center of United States space-age development in the late 1950s and 1960s.


645 Tourist Trailers Jam the Tampa Municipal Trailer Park LIFE Magazine Jan 30, 1939 issue – Tin Can Tourists Celebrating 91st* Year in 2010

Tampa Bay History, Vol 14 # 1 The Carousel of Progress, Palmetto

Tampa Bay History Vol. 15 #2 “Mass Culture Meets Main St.”   

Tin Can Tourists: Travelers to embrace friendship, trailers

Tin Can Tourism – Florida Memory Project photo exhibt

The Road to Enlightenment – Tin Can Tourists History

People in Trailers Dec. 13, 1948 LIFE Magazine

Traveling to Paradise: Tin Can Tourists on Parade

How Sarasota Lured the Tin Can Tourists

The Tale of the Tin Can Tourists 

Tin Can Tourists In Florida

Travel Trailer Life in 1937 Florida Snowbird Park

Blue Sky Barber Shop














No tags for this post.