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Frank 'from away' writes: “John, I'm new to Maine and I'm slowly getting used to different things in Maine. We moved here from a southern state where lots of people live in mobile homes or 'trailers.' When grouped together - as they often are - the resulting community is called a 'trailer park.' You've probably read stories about southern trailers - the things that get banged around a bit every time there's a hurricane or a tornado. Some say it's Mother Nature's way of saying just what she thinks of these particular housing units.
Anyway, since moving to Maine I've noticed that you have your share of trailers here, too, but I've never heard about them getting blown around during bad weather. Why is that?”
Thanks for the e-mail, Frank.
I don't know where in the south you're from but someone once asked me: What do Florida hurricanes and Maine divorces have in common? The answer: In both cases some poor fella's going to lose his trailer.
All seriousness aside, ships have been a big part of Maine's history and although they're not 'trailers' ships are certainly examples of 'mobile homes.' Over the centuries hurricanes and other storms have taken many fine Maine ships do the bottom or slammed them to pieces on ledges. I guess that's the closest we come to feeling Mother Nature's wrath against our homes that move. Our 'trailers' on the other hand don't get treated too bad at all by Mother Nature.
My grandfather lived on board ships for long stretches of time during his life at sea and he used to say they moved constantly - even while in port tied to a dock.
When speaking of houses on land grandfather used to say all houses built in Maine liked to move around, too. Some move more than others, depending on who built them and where they were built.
He once said, You can put a house anywhere you want and over the years the rocks and ledges under that house will move and that means that the house on top of the ledges moves right along with them. They'll all keep moving around until rocks and ledges and house settle on where they want to be.
But I digress.
The idea of living in a real mobile home or trailer has never enjoyed wide acceptance among the majority, who prefer to live in what might be called stationary or 'immobile' homes. Maybe it goes back to the world's first mobile home dwellers - roaming bands of gypsies who traveled across Europe in horse-drawn 'mobile homes' as far back as the 1400s.
But before we go any further I have to straighten something out, Frank.
Makers of 'trailers' never liked the name so they began insisting that their creations be called 'mobile homes.' No matter what they were called everyone knew they were still trailers. Then, in 1980 Congress officially changed the 'trailer's' name from 'mobile home' to 'manufactured home.' But, like I said, no matter what any group tries to call them, they'll always be 'trailers' to the rest of us.
Historians tell us that America's first examples of domiciles that move were built in the 1870s and used as beachfront 'homes' on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Knowing what would happen to a house left on the banks all winter the owners of these early mobile homes would hitch then up to a team of horses and move them inland.
As early as 1926 someone got the idea of hitching a 'trailer coach' behind an automobile and making a fast exit out of town. These first trailer coaches were used by families on camping trips. They were seen as a home away from home.
A strong demand for mobile homes began at the end of World War II when returning veterans needed housing that could be built quickly and cheaply. Mobile homes were not only cheap - in every sense of the word - but they could be hitched behind the family car and towed to where the jobs were - like someplace out of Maine.
That's all for now. Mother's waiting for me in the Winnebago. We're moving on.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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