Boles-Aero Travel Trailer
Boles Manufacturing Company / Boles-Aero Inc.
DON BOLES A dedication to quality
In 1939, Don Boles, an enthusiastic young southern Californian, was one of the first thirty seven candidates chosen for a new four year tool and die apprenticeship program being initiated by the US Department of Labor under President Roosevelt’s plan to assist in bringing the country out of the effects of the Great Depression. He was assigned to work and study at the Lockheed Aircraft Company plant in Burbank, California, where he learned all aspects of aircraft design and construction and how to build tools and component parts. During his time in the program he earned a number of awards for designing and building various tools to enhance the way in which aluminum parts were fabricated.
Following graduation from the apprenticeship program in 1943, and a brief assignment in Cleveland, Ohio, for General Electric Company, he enlisted in the US Navy for the duration of World War II. Following boot camp, he was stationed at a military base in Norman, Oklahoma, and, unable to find available housing for his wife and 3 children, he purchased a used 27-foot trailer to be their home while he served his stint in the Navy.
When he was released from the Navy following VJ Day, he hooked up his trailer and the family took a traveling vacation on their way back to California. When they arrived at their California home, he parked the trailer in his driveway with a “For Sale” sign on it. That very day, the first lookers bought it and actually at a profit for the Boles, but several other customers continued to stop by to attempt to purchase it. Boles quickly recognized the post-war pent-up demand for good trailers so, while reemployed at his civilian job, he began, with his aircraft training, to design an all-riveted, lightweight, all-aluminum top quality trailer. With financial help and moral support from his father, he began to build his first trailer in his single car garage while they searched for a factory site. The residential garage-manufacturing site limited the size of the first trailers to only nine and one half feet in length. They quickly found an available and affordable site and began construction of their trailer factory.
Shortly, a friend of Don’s became interested in the venture, and they formed a partnership as B and R Manufacturing, to build a trailer they dubbed the Roadrunner. Upon completion of the first, garage built, unit, the “For Sale” sign was again applied and this time, the trailer was parked on the street in front of their incomplete factory, next to the mason’s supply of sand and bricks. Once again, the first customer to look at it purchased the trailer for the asking price of $675.00. A neighbor’s father was also impressed with the design and quality of their new products and soon placed an order for 10 trailers to use in his business. He, however, required twelve-foot long units, which would have to wait for the completion of the factory, as they would be too long to build in the family garage where the first units were being built.
The strains of business start-up and factory construction and the related financial problems shortly caused his partner to pull out of their arrangement and Don Boles took full control of the company changing the name to Boles Manufacturing and then renaming the trailer the Boles Aero. As production accelerated, the trailers were so well received that the early problems soon began to fade, and at the end of 1946, the first year in business, over 300 trailers had passed out the doors of the new factory. By this time, the rapid success of the trailer business had eliminated any time or need for Don to maintain another source of employment and he left the outside job he was holding to make ends meet. Production of various models of the Boles Aero high-line travel trailers continued for over thirty years until the company closed its doors for good in 1980. By this time the original nine and twelve-foot models had grown and larger and much more comfortably appointed models from 27 to 35 feet in length were the standards.
In the 1950s, Boles, always active as a promoter of the industry as well as his own products, was instrumental in founding the consumer rally and show that by the mid 1960s became the giant Dodger Stadium trailer show and was for many years the largest RV related event in the World.
Among his contributions to RV design over the years are the flush vent covers for water heaters and furnaces and recessed fillers for water tanks and even door handles so that the exterior lines would be smooth without protruding vents and fillers. These he introduced in the early 1960s and his designs, while upgraded, are still in common use today. Boles also worked with a German manufacturer of small diesel chassis to produce a small front wheel drive diesel “type C” motorhome in the late 1960s when the truck chassis mounted units were just beginning to become popular.
During the Vietnam War, Boles Aero designed and built mobile photo labs that were shipped by giant cargo aircraft to the Far East for use by the US Air Force in developing aerial surveillance camera film, and also mobile medical and dental clinics for civilian use in developing areas.
Don Boles was an active member and multiple term board member of the Los Angeles based Trailer Coach Association, (TCA). He was instrumental in the creation of a separate division of TCA for travel trailer manufacturers. For most of his career he was active in the TCA and of the Chicago based Mobilehome Manufacturers Association as well as a charter member of the American Institute of Travel Trailers, the first association specifically for RV manufacturers and a predecessor to today’s RVIA. He served on the board of directors of the TCA for over 30 years. Boles proved through the years that a well designed, high quality travel trailer could be sold successfully even through the times when many manufacturers were trying to cut costs and prices to the bone in order to “be more competitive”.
From his earliest involvement, Don Boles was a strong proponent of strict industry standards for safety and quality and was instrumental in the lengthy and very political undertaking of getting one set of national standards approved and enforced by the various associations.
For his many contributions to the RV industry over his lengthy career, Don Boles was elected to the RV/MH Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2005.
copyright 2006 Al Hesselbart – printed with permission
Mary Jeanette and Don Boles Obituary
MARCH 10, 2011 10:13 AM PT
Mary Jeanette and Don Boles
Long time Burbank resident, Mary Jeanette Boles, died peacefully on March 3rd at age 90 in Burbank. She followed her husband, Don Boles, by under two years. He died at age 91 in 2009. Mary Jeanette (Goodwin) was known as “Merry Balls” by her late husband, but preferred to be called Jeanette.
Both Don and Jeanette came as youngsters to Burbank with their families and stayed to make their lives here. They met at Burbank High School and married a month after her graduation. She was 16 and he was 18. Don joined the original group in the Lockheed Apprenticeship Program under the Roosevelt Administration, graduating with a journeyman tool and die degree. His employment was interrupted by two years in the Navy.
In 1946, Don and Jeanette started a travel trailer manufacturing business, building the first unit their Burbank garage. From there, Boles-Aero Travel Trailer, Inc. was born and grew to three locations nationally. They operated jointly for 34 years before retiring in 1980. Don was inducted into the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhardt, Ind. and in 2005 he was mentioned as an industry pioneer for his innovations and creative designs of his products.
While serving as Vice President of their companies, Jeanette split her duties as a mother of four children, sons, Wayne and David Boles, both of San Diego, Paul Boles of Lake Arrowhead, and daughter Marilyn Metz of Durango, Colorado. During their family years, Don earned his private pilot license and joined the Skyroamer and the Icarian Flying Clubs operating out of Lockheed Airport. The family recalls many exciting weekend “get-aways” during those years.
Don’s passion for deep-sea fishing led him to design and build his own fishing boat, this time in the back lot of his manufacturing plant in Sun Valley. Don’s family, friends, and many clients were treated to Marlin and Albacore fishing trips as well as trips to Catalina.
This same driving passion for building and creating new things led Don and Jeanette to build their own compound in Baja, CA with a generator house and water storage system using fresh water from an exposed spring at low tides. Don loved showing off that ability of getting fresh water because it enabled the family to maintain their get-away place for 25 years before selling it.
Both Don and Jeanette were active in Burbank affairs over their almost 80 year residency. Don liked to remind everyone that it was he and his truck that served as a float for the young Debbie Reynolds during one of the early Burbank Parades. He served on various committees relating to Burbank commerce, and Jeanette joined the Burbank Art Assoc. and hand many of her paintings displayed around town over the years. Jeanette was also active in the La Providencia Guild, helping in their non-profit store, and behind the scenes as a committee member.
Don and Jeanette graciously and generously gave of themselves and opened their hearts and home to their friends and to the multitude of their four children’s friends. The younger set always referred their home as “Party Central.” Their home also served as a polling place for many years. This loving, fun couple will be missed by everyone who had the honor of knowing them.
Boles Aero trailers are overlooked by some of today’s collectors as their popularity with the general public never reached the level of Airstream or other highly promoted makes. Boles trailers, however, are amongst the best built and most beautifully finished trailers ever produced…due mainly to the continuity in the companies’ ownership and the unwavering commitment to quality.
Mr. and Mrs. Boles began building their high quality aluminum trailers in their Burbank, California “facility” in 1946 and continued for over 35 years under the same ownership. A feat unmatched in the industry.
Mr. and Mrs. Don Boles began producing trailers in 1946 inside their garage in Burbank, CA. From the beginning they were dedicated to producing a high quality aluminum bodied trailer using the best materials and outstanding craftsmanship.
Don learned his aluminum fabrication skills as an apprentice in the tool and die trade and later utilized those skills working for the Lockheed Aircraft Company on all aspects of aircraft manufacturing.
The Boles Manufacturing Company was in business building trailers up until 1980. Over the course of the companies’ 34 year history it manufactured over 18,000 trailers of various types and configurations. While we are most familiar with the trailers built for the civilian market, many Boles trailers were custom built for the military to haul materials and special equipment. Not surprising given Don’s affiliation with the military establishment through his duty in the US Navy during WWII.
Boles trailers have always been highly regarded for their rugged aircraft style riveted construction and utilitarian beauty.
Many believe the “Canned Ham” era (1946 to 1959) Boles Trailers are the most beautiful with the gleaming aluminum exterior and finely crafted birch wood interiors. The trailer pictured here is from a 1952 factory photo. Later trailers however, have their own unique beauty with gold anodized panels and chrome accessories.
Don and Jeanette Boles ared retired now and still live in Burbank, California. They are active with the members of the Boles Aero Trailer Club and consistently participate in the annual events. At over 80 years of age they are both still going strong!…..just like many of their beautiful trailers.
Like the Iconic Airstream they are all Aluminum with Aluminum frames and all riveted construction.
US President Roosevelt had a plan
During the great depression of the 1930’s he created the ‘New Deal’ a sequence of central economic programs with the aim of giving work to the unemployed, reform of business and financial practices, and recovery of the economy. The enacment of New Deal policies lasted from 1933 through 1939. Under one of these initatives, in 1939, Don Boles was chosen for a tool and die apprenticeship by the Department of Labor and assigned to work and study at the Lockheed Aircraft Company in Burbank, California.
Trained in all aspects of aircraft design and construction and tool making he earned a number of awards designing and building a number of tools to improve the ways in which aluminum components where fabricated and graduated from the apprentiship program in 1943 After a brief assignment in Cleveland, Ohio, for General Electric Company, he enlisted in the US Navy for the duration of World War II. Following boot camp, he was stationed at a military base in Norman, Oklahoma. Unable to find available housing for his wife, Jeanette, and 3 children, he purchased a used 27-foot trailer RV as their home while he served his time in the Navy.
After VJ Day Don was released from service and took his family and the RV on a road trip back to their home in Burbank California and his old civilian job. On arrival he parked the RV on his drive with a ‘For Sale’ sign on it. He sold it at a profit to the first interested party but was so inundated with enquiries to purchase the RV that he realized there was a healthy demand for good quality trailers Putting his aircraft training to good use, he began the design for a all aluminum riveted trailer aiming for high quality and lightweight.. With the help of his farther and some financial help he built the first trailer in his own single car garage while searching for a site to set up business. His residential garage limited the size of the first trailers to 9.5 feet Forming a partnership with a friend they planned to build under the trading name of R and B Manufacturing a trailer called the Roadrunner And having found a site in Burbank they started to build a factory. The trailer built in Don’s garage was parked outside their new factory on the street with a ‘for Sale’ sign and an asking price of $675. The first customer to look at the trailer bought it for the full asking price. The farther of a Neighbor of Don’s was so impressed with the trailer that he ordered four to be built but he needed them to be 12 foot long so had to wait until the completion of the new factory as it was impossible to build one that big in his garage Financial problems and the stress of a start up business caused Don’s friend to pull out of the partnership before the start of production so Don took full control of the new company and changed the name to Boles Manufacturing renaming the trailer the Boles Aero The rapid success of his business caused him to give up his day job and concentrate fully on his own business. The trailers where so popular that over 300 where built in 1946 the first year of production. They continued until the doors where finally closed in 1980. In the 30 plus years of production the models offered grew from the original 9 and 12 foot models to 35 footers and we believe that some specials where built that where even bigger. In total over 18,000 trailers of various types and configurations where built until Don and his wife finally retired. Boles trailers have always been highly regarded for their rugged aircraft style riveted construction and utilitarian beauty. Many believe the “Canned Ham” era (1946 to 1959) Boles Trailers are the most beautiful with the gleaming aluminum exterior and finely crafted birch wood interiors. Later trailers however, have their own unique beauty with gold anodized panels and chrome accessories. 30′, 33′, 34′, and custom 40′ Fifth Wheels were also built a prototype in the mid fifties, and many fine production models between 1974 and 1980
In the 50’s Don Boles, always an active promoter of the trailer industry as well as his own business, was instrumental in founding the Consumer Rally and Show and by the mid 60’s it became the Dodge Stadium Trailer Show which for many years was the largest show of its kind in the world Other contributions to the industry where :- flush vent covers for water heaters and furnaces; recessed fillers for water tanks; Flushed door handles Don Boles also worked with a German manufacturer of small diesel chassis to produce a small front wheel drive diesel “type C” motorhome in the late 1960s when ‘Motor Homes’ where just beginning to get popular. During the Vietnam War, Boles Aero designed and built mobile photo labs that were shipped by aircraft to the Far East for use by the US Air Force in developing aerial surveillance camera film, and mobile medical and dental clinics for civilian use in developing areas. Don Boles was an active member and multiple term board member of the Los Angeles based Trailer Coach Association, (TCA). He was instrumental in the creation of a separate division of TCA for travel trailer manufacturers. For most of his career he was active in the TCA and of the Chicago based Mobilehome Manufacturers Association as well as a charter member of the American Institute of Travel Trailers, the first association specifically for RV manufacturers and a predecessor to today’s RVIA. He served on the board of directors of the TCA for over 30 years. Boles proved through the years that a well designed, high quality travel trailer could be sold successfully even through the times when many manufacturers were trying to cut costs and prices to the bone in order to “be more competitive”. From his earliest involvement, Don Boles was an instigator for strict industry standards for safety and quality and was instrumental in the lengthy and very political undertaking of getting one set of national standards approved and enforced by the various associations. For his many contributions to the RV industry over his lengthy career, Don Boles was elected to the RV/MH Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2005.
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