Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tin can tourists

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Loretta reports:

Years ago I worked on some material for a museum in Central Florida.  One of our topics was the Tin Can Tourists.  Automobiles were barely on the road before people started driving them hundreds of miles to warmer climes.  Never mind the constant breakdowns.  Never mind having to drive through rivers and swamps because there weren't any bridges.  Never mind the lack of filling stations.  These people  wanted sun and did what they had to in order to get it.  As a recent convert to snowbirdism (and yes, we drove, and the car was packed to the roof), I decided it was time to renew my acquaintance with these intrepid travelers.
~~~
The northern states, in the past few years, have developed a new type of migrant… He is a sun-hunter. He is sick of four months of snow and ice. He is heartily tired of cold feet, numb ears, red flannel underwear, rheumatism, stiff necks, coal bills, coughs, colds, influenza, draughts, mittens, ear-tabs, snow shovels, shaking down the furnace, carrying out ashes, and falling down on an icy sidewalk and spraining his back. … The bane of his existence is sitting around the house for four months waiting for April to come along and unstiffen his joints. He wants sun and lots of it. If he must spend four months doing nothing, he prefers to spend it amid the Spanish moss and the palm trees, harkening dreamily to the cheerful twittering of the dicky-birds and to the stirring thuds of coconuts, oranges and grapefruit as they fall heavily to the ground...

Such is the modern American migrant, and Florida is the goal of his migration. As soon as the first snow begins to fall in the North, or when the earth has tightened up under a black frost, the sun-hunters prepare for their flight to the South. Great numbers of them travel by automobile; and their automobiles are completely stocked with folding chairs, collapsible beds, accordion mattresses, knock-down tents, come-apart stoves, telescopic dishwashers and a score of dishpans, tables, dinner-sets, tin cups, water-buckets and toilet articles that fold up into one another and look like a bushel of scrap-tin. In addition to this, each automobile carries a large assortment of canned goods. There are canned goods under the seats, slung against the top, packed along the sides, tucked behind cushions and stacked along the floor. Some of the automobiles are so well stocked with canned things that they could make a dash for the Pole. And as one passes some of them on the road, they sound as though their owners were carrying a reserve supply of canned goods under the hood—loose.

~~~
—Kenneth L. Roberts, Sun Hunting: Adventures and Observations Among the Native and Migratory Tribes of Florida, Including the Stoical Time-Killers of Palm Beach, the Gentle and Gregarious Tin-Canners of the Remote Interior, and the Vivacious and Semi-Violent Peoples of Miami and Its Purlieus, 1922

I cut radically to keep the post at reasonable length, but the chapter and the one following are entertaining to read.  Illustrations from the book.

3 comments:

Hels said...

Love it :) "Their automobiles are completely stocked with folding chairs, collapsible beds, accordion mattresses, knock-down tents, come-apart stoves, telescopic dishwashers and a score of dishpans, tables, dinner-sets, tin cups, water-buckets and toilet articles...".

I cannot see much difference between this 1922 description and caravan holidays in the post-WW2 decades. Cheap, convenient and all the children would fit in. If parents couldn't afford hotels, caravans were an ideal way to go to the beach or the mountains.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Kenneth Roberts is also one of my absolute fav historical novelists, and his books set in 18th c. America are still among the best ever written. He writes so lovingly of New England - perhaps, like Loretta, he could do so because he fled to Florida in the winter? :)

KWillow said...

Yes, I was going to post a link to 'K Roberts' Wiki article. What a wonderful writer! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Roberts_%28author%29

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