Dig The Pop-Up Camper!

If you’re a fan of Instagram or have a Facebook account, you’re probably familiar with Throwback Thursday. Or “Hashtag TBT” as the social media savvy like to refer to it. #TBT is a fun little activity in which you share a photo from your past. There are no strict guidelines or rules to what you can or cannot post, but a photo of the grilled cheese sandwich you had for lunch last week probably won’t go over as well as a picture of you taking your first steps or sporting a tacky polyester shirt with a butterfly collar. The photo should be at least 5 years old. If you’re going to throw back, then throw back. Dig it?

(See what I did there? I “threw back” my language. Far out, man).

I’ll admit, I am a fan of #TBT. Fortunately, my mom took a lot of pictures of my brother and I growing up, so I’ve got plenty of source material to work with. There’s even a photo or two featuring a tacky polyester shirt with a butterfly collar. Somewhere, I’m sure there’s a picture of me going through my Sonny Crockett phase, complete with white pants, though I haven’t yet dug that one up yet. I know where to look for it. It’s just that, I’m afraid to do so.

Seeing old photographs often opens up the floodgates of nostalgia. Like today’s, for instance. Here’s what I shared:

CampingThis photo was taken in Ohio, and I’m guessing I was around 10 here, which would make the year 1979. I have mentioned before how Ohio was my favorite place to live while growing up; longtime readers will recall how this fondness for the Buckeye State inspired a solo road trip that culminated in me standing on the front porch of my childhood home in Dayton 30+ years after moving away. It should be little wonder, then, that this photo unleashed a torrent of nostalgia on my part. Seriously, it was raining happy childhood memories like cats and dogs for awhile there, folks. Just the other day, while watching Welcome Back, Kotter – seriously – I told Tara, “I was 7 years old when this episode first aired. God, I miss the ’70s!” I had to then ignore her snickering, because she wasn’t even born when the episode first hit the airwaves, but whatever. The point is, I do miss these Kodachrome moments! The world was simpler then, in so many ways.

When we moved to Ohio in 1977, we took advantage of the many forested state parks by taking up camping. We started out with tents – I’m sure my parents were testing the waters, making sure we wouldn’t run screaming from chipmunks or complain about a little ash on our hamburgers, in other words, seeing if camping was something we’d actually like first – before investing in this groovy pop-up camper. Fortunately we loved camping. And why wouldn’t we? There were woods to hike in, lakes to swim in, and streams to fish in. Food tastes better when cooked (and eaten) outside, and the nightly campfire ritual was a great way to unwind after a long day filled with adventure. I was completely in awe of nature, even (especially) the raccoons that inevitably raided our campsite after dusk. Plus, S’mores. Hello!

This pop-up camper made the whole experience even better.

For starters, it felt like we were hardcore now. Tents? Puh-leeze. People who slept in those were amateurs! Our camper screamed “we’re serious about this, bitches!” It had dual sleeping areas – my parents on one side, my brother and I on the other – and included a stove, a sink, and a table. It kept us warmer and drier, protected us from mosquitoes, and was a hell of a lot more comfortable than the sometimes-rocky ground we’d been subjected to before buying the camper. I remember my mom seasoning chicken, wrapping it in aluminum foil, and cooking it over the propane stove. You know what? It was the best chicken I’ve ever had.

Sadly, because my dad was in the Air Force, life was fleeting back then. In 1980, he received new orders: we were going back to Hawaii. With thousands of miles and an ocean between Dayton and Honolulu, my parents decided our best bet was to sell the camper, a move that damn near broke my heart. Sadly, we never again went camping as a family. Occasionally we’d rent a cabin near the beach, but as idyllic as that sounds, those cockroach-infested retreats didn’t come close to matching the experience of camping in a bitchin’ pop-up trailer in the middle of the countryside.

And that, my friends, is a crying shame.

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19 thoughts on “Dig The Pop-Up Camper!

  1. Mark, I freakin’ LOVE nostalgic posts like these!

    “Just the other day, while watching Welcome Back, Kotter – seriously – I told Tara, “I was 7 years old when this episode first aired. God, I miss the ’70s!” ”

    HA! Yup, I sooooooo remember that show!!!! And you’re right about the ’70’s…they were GREAT!

    LOVE the photo of you and your brother in front of the pop-up camper. I’ve never been camping in one of those, however, I’ve been inside one and I liked how the dual-sleeping areas were on either side. They almost seemed like two tents within the camper.

    Oh and btw, one of my longtime blogging friends Chrissy lives in (and is from) Ohio (Cleveland) and loves it!


    1. Um, and ME? LOL, Ron!

      Mark, I did read your Dayton trip post. That’s fabulous that you got to go back to your house. I’m a fan of TBT, but am too lazy to post photos myself. My family was not into camping, but I did lots of Girl Scout and church camps. And I was a troop leader for my middle child and had some fabulous times with that……also had the best corn on cob roasted on a campfire and homemade ice cream in a coffee can at camp.


    2. Looking at the camper now it seems small, but at the time there was plenty of room for a family of four. I wish I had one of these now! Or, better yet, one of those teardrop trailers from the ’50s and ’60s.


  2. Those raccoons were actually skunks wandering around our campsite (how easily we forget) and we cooked the chicken over our campfire. (Charcoal).


  3. I gotta admit I have not yet participated in TBT. Mostly because I have NO pictures at my disposal. I suppose I could go ransack my parents house and dig out some of the old adorable little me photos. But I would upstage all the others and would that be fair? ;). Love hearing about your past lots of fun to learn more about the man behind the blog 🙂


    1. You’re right: it would not be fair at all. Please keep avoiding #TBT at all costs! Our own vanity depends on this!! 😉

      I have to admit, it’s fun to share nostalgic stories about the past. I just always feel like that is “cheating” somehow, as though I am only supposed to write about present day stuff. Kind of ridiculous, really. Especially with such positive feedback on a post like this. I’ll have to see what else I can dredge up!


  4. “about a little ash on our hamburgers,”

    and bird poop in the potato salad with ant and mosquito bites and Smokey the Bear pissing on every campfire you try to start – ah the wonders of camping.


  5. I would be up for camper camping now. Not so much when I was younger. I went camping once with my dad and all his cousins. We almost died like 3 times.

    Glad you and Tara made it home safe!


  6. My parents couldn’t afford much but we had a tent trailer for vacations for many years. Ours was not the delightful hard top you show here, but a soft top that my father had to crank up while my mother inserted poles inside to keep the roof from being on the floor. My sister & I slept on one side while my mother & father slept on the other. A few feet of floor with a cooler, a portable propane stove & groceries separated us. It was hot as all get out in there in the summer & damp, damp, damp when it was raining (although not wet because we got a huge smack if we even looked like we were going to touch the tenting). We towed that trailer to B.C., Alberta, North Dakota, Minnesota, NW Ontario. If we were visiting someone we always had our own beds. We graduated to a 16 ft. trailer & towed it to Los Angeles. My parents had a 5th wheel trailer even after they retired & they towed it to Texas for a few winters before it became too expensive for them. We did a lot of travelling with the tent trailer hitched behind us.


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