Vance Warner was 11 years old when he bought his 1966 Pathfinder trailer from his grandmother, Suzy Halbach. Warner’s family members were experienced with recreational camping long before they started collecting and fixing up vintage trailers. However, Warner enjoys having a trailer that was made 37 years before he was born.
The family comes from an area north of Fond du Lace, Wis., on the edge of Lake Winnebago, a 131,939-acre lake located in Fond du Lac, Calumet, and Winnebago Counties. The structure of Lake Winnebago is quite unusual. Although it covers 220 square miles, it is quite shallow, making for excellent fishing.
Lake Winnebago is also a haven for boating, jet skiing, waterskiing, stand-up paddle boarding and windsurfing. In the winter, the ice atop Lake Winnebago turns into a mini city during the sturgeon spearing season and also becomes a great place for ice fishing, snowmobiling and ice kiting. Fond du Lac translates into “Foot of the Lake,” and the Lake Winnebago/Fond du Lac area is a playground for lovers of the outdoors.
As might be expected, such an area attracts many campers in the spring, summer and early fall. So, it is a good place to hunt for vintage trailers that may have been parked years ago. Warner’s 54-year-old Pathfinder had been sitting outside, but up on blocks, on a beach at the lake shore. He thinks it was kept there for at least 20 years. The trailer was in basically good condition, but as might be expected, the exterior was weathered.
Warner, who is now 17, works for his uncle as an auto mechanic and knows how to turn a wrench or paint a red stripe on his trailer. In fact, he also painted parts of the outside, fixed the seat cushions inside and spent many hours detailing the trailer.
Today, the vintage trailer is sometimes used for family camping trips and sometimes goes to vintage camper shows or traditional hot rod shows with vintage camping areas.
“When the old Pathfinder shows up at a regular campgrounds, everyone there comes out to look at it and remember the good old days,” Warner said. In addition to bringing it to the Vintage Trailer Fest — held at Bear Lake Campgrounds in Manawa, Wis. — Warner has pulled it to La Crosse and Antigo.
Warner dreams of buying a 1966 Chevrolet El Camino that he could use the pull the same-year Pathfinder trailer.
“I’d love to have a pull-truck like that, but the prices of 1966 El Caminos are really high,” he said. “I would even be happy to find one that needs a lot of work, if it’s one I can afford, because I know how to fix cars.”
As for grandma Suzy Halbach, she found her own vintage trailer about three or four years ago. It’s a 1968 Forester that was made by Forest City, Inc., of Forest City, Iowa. The Forester was another old RV that didn’t really need much work, but a red stripe was also added to it to emphasize the “family tradition” of collecting old trailers.
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