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Tin Canners bring time machines to town

EAST MANATEE — After a long haul, Dawn M. Bastian of Goodrich, Michigan was relaxing at her campsite under a bright blue Lake Manatee State Park sky Thursday.

But next to her wasn’t a Winnebago or fifth wheel.

She was camping out in a 13-foot, turquoise, 1966 Serro Scotty Sportsman trailer coach. It’s shape — like a canned ham — is not conducive to a fancy dining room or entertainment center.

But that’s not what this little dude, which cost $695 new in 1966, is all about, Bastian said.

She says her antique Scotty, which she restored, inspires a bit of happy nostalgia in everyone who sees it since it was born when Route 66 was the main drag across America and there were no cell phones.

“It’s fun to sleep in,” Bastian said with the big smile of someone who doesn’t care about Corian counter tops or a hot tub in an RV.

“It’s classic,” said an admiring Tim Heintz of Panana City Beach, who was parked a few spaces down for the exact same thing, to let people experience history in his 30-foot, 1950 Spartanette made by Spartan Air Craft out of Tulsa, Okla., with its shape like a loaf of bread.

Bastian and Heintz are members of Tin Can Tourists, the vintage trailer coach, motor coach and travel trailer club, which continues its 90th Annual Winter Convention today through Sunday at Lake Manatee State Park.

Unlike at car shows where “don’t touch” signs abound, Tin Canners like Bastian and Heintz live for people touching, feeling, sitting in and experiencing their trailers.

And that is exactly what will happen during the Tourists’ Show and Open House 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Lake Manatee, which is located at 20007 State Road 64, eight miles east of Interstate-75.

Those who come will be able to walk from coach to coach to see 50 creations from decades past, said Bradenton’s Forrest Bone, who is the “Royal Exalted Tin Can Opener,” otherwise known as director of the club.

The event is free, but the public will have to pay the state park admission of $4 per car, Bone added.

Forrest and his wife, Jeri, resurrected the club in 1998 after the membership had dwindled to just about nothing. The last rally in Florida had been in 1983.

“We had been involved with the vintage Airstream club and we felt we wanted to see an all-make and model group,” Bone said.

Right now the group has 830 members nationwide. It hosts four major rallies in Florida and three in Michigan.

Tin Can Tourists got its name because the first Americans who decided to take their houses with them on the road had no refrigeration so they ate all their food from tin cans, said Tin Canner John Culp, who is 84.

Becoming a member back in 1919, when the club was first organized at Desoto Park in Tampa, was as easy as learning a secret handshake, sign and password, said Sidra Spies, who, with her husband, Herb, own a gleaming 1963 Airstream Globetrotter that causes a stir wherever it goes.

“The strangest thing is when one motorist passed us, turned around and followed us home so they could see inside,” Herb Spies said.

Culp, who says “right here” proudly when people ask him where he is from nowadays, wiggled his rear end on the sofa in his 1947 Westcraft to indicate that it rocks like a boat.

“We are a group that doesn’t like to be anchored,” he said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.

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