Publisher’s Note: Having owned three Spartan travel trailers I have become very fond of the quality of the classic Spartan Trailers and it’s interesting heritage.
I had purchased one that was a 1957 Spartan 10×42 feet and one owner in Rock Springs, Wyoming. It was a surreal moment when the older man who I purchased it from asked to borrow a screwdriver top remove a small metal badge near the door. He said, “I made this for my dad in shop class as a kid. Do you mind if I have it?”
|The Spartan Aircraft Company was founded in 1928 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The history of Spartan has its roots in oil. Two years before Oklahoma gained statehood in 1905, an oil gusher named the No.1 Ida Glenn sprung up southeast of Tulsa. This gusher turned out to be a giant oil reserve big enough to establish future companies such as Getty, Gulf, Standard Oil, (now Exxon), Sinclair and Skelly.
The teens and twenties were a time of great opportunities. America was moving into the “modern” era. There were many new technologies being introduced and perfected: the automobile, electricity, and airplane flight were among a few.
William G Skelly, founder of the Skelly Oil Company came to be known as “Mr. Tulsa”. In the 1920’s he turned his business into one of the world’s largest independent oil companies. Skelly was one of the wealthiest men in the country and was very aware of the “modern” America and emerging technologies. Skelly had a great interest in aeronautics and because of this the Skelly Oil Company sponsored “The Air Adventures of Jimmie Allen” and “Captain Midnight”, both series were based around aviation. Skelly’s wealth also allowed him to further pursue this interest by founding the Spartan Aircraft Company in 1928. The company was started as an aeronautical college and airplane manufacturer whose early production consisted of open cockpit, canvas bodied biplanes, used for flight training schools, sportsmen fliers, and fixed base operators.
In the late 1930’s Spartan was acquired by the Getty Corporation owned by the billionaire and oil tycoon J. Paul Getty.
Mr. Getty first visited the plant in 1939. He was very impressed with the quality of inventory, and the management of the company. This combination of good management and quality product allowed the company to prosper. Spartan reinvested its profits in its research and development department allowing them to come up with many technical improvements. One of the most lucrative models to come out of the plant was the “Spartan Executive,” an aviation legend and one of the most highly regarded planes of its era. Built to the luxurious tastes of the rich oil “Executives”, it rivaled in comfort the most opulent limousines of the day. In performance, it was second to none, cruising at a remarkable 200 miles an hour and with a range of over one thousand miles. The Spartan Company also made a military version of this plane called the “Zeus” both models can be seen in this period factory photo.
These planes were built employing principals of a newly developed technique known as monocoque fuselage design. This means of construction does away with the need for a center framing structure to support the skin. Monocoque construction uses lightweight aluminum ribbing bound with a stressed skin aluminum shell. This form of design gives a great amount of strength to the fuselage with very little weight. The Spartan Executive however did not fully employ this technique opting to use a steel spar sub frame joined with aluminum bulkheads and a stressed aluminum skin. The fuselage did however benefit from this design with a rather spacious cockpit and an overall lighter weight. The sub frame can be seen below.
Although it’s been eight years since I met Shirley Wallace, I’ll never forgot my visit with her and her one-of-a-kind two-story Spartan trailer.
On a visit to my aunt’s home in Lindsay, California, she told me about a friend who owned the unusual trailer. Shirley Wallace’s father added the second story when she was a child — bedrooms for Shirley and her sister. Shirley lived there until she went off to college.
“Would you like to see the trailer?” my aunt asked. A couple of hours later, we were on our way.
Shirley gave me a tour, which I recorded with my iPhone. That video has now been viewed by more than 1.5 million people on our YouTube Channel! It is, in fact, the most popular video on the channel (by far). What’s interesting is that I shot the entire thing with my iPhone and edited it with my Mac’s free, easy to use video editing software, iMovie. Never could I have imagined the response it would get: Try to imagine 1.5 million people — that’s 15 Rose Bowl crowds!
Now, years after filming and posting Shirley’s story, she has become a celebrity. People recognize her from the video. “Oh, you’re the one with the two-story trailer,” they say. Some want to see it. Some want to buy it. How could Shirley or I have imagined when I stopped by that day years ago that a simple video recording on a phone could gain such widespread popularity?
EIGHT YEARS AGO, I was playing around with YouTube to see if I could earn any money there. RVtravel.com was earning me a living, but as a self-employed business person I was always looking for other sources of income to help pay the bills.
Which brings me to an idea for you: If you can figure out how to make a simple video (your smartphone is all you need) and would like to earn a few dollars to pay your gas bills or campground fees, set up your own free YouTube channel. Once it gets some traffic, YouTube will permit you to monetize it. You may only make $25 a month. Or you could make thousands (we make hundreds because producing videos isn’t a priority). You’ve likely seen monetized videos. In most cases, a commercial runs at the beginning (which you can usually skip after a few seconds if you choose).
IF ENOUGH PEOPLE WATCH the commercials, over time you can make good money. Some of the most popular videos on YouTube can earn the channel’s owner thousands of dollars a month, a few even six figures a year!