Thursday, May 19, 2011

BHG Family Camping (1961)

And to kick off this post with a little paraphrased assist from Martha and her Vandellas:

Summer's here, and the tiiiiiime is riiiiight.... for. Sleeeeep. In. in. the. Wilderness, sleepin' in the WILLLLLLDERNESS....

Your humble blogger may not be the Jeremiah Johnson type by nature, but I assure you, flipping through this 1961 guide to family camping made even this city slicker heart pine a little for the great outdoors. Or at least a serviceable pair of checked slacks and a curled bob for the occasion. And there'd better be some photo opportunities on this proposed outings. For inspiration, look at the style going on in the lower right hand photo-- hair? Perfect. Outdoorsy, casual-yet-put-together ensemble? So it is! See BHG's helpful hints for the ladies below--how I love to be referred to as a "modern Diana". Ahhhh.

Lookin' good, camp family! I'm always afraid to buy a vintage portable butane stove (a must have 60's camping accessories, I see them just about everywhere) for the threat of explosion and am presently too cheap to buy a new Coleman type. The resemblance to suitcase sized rocket packs, let me tell you, does not detract from their "buy appeal". Note the photographed family's matching-ish equipment, from the yellow paper towels and red tent, to the red cooler and red and yellow flashlight. Now THIS is how it is done!

A close up of my rocket-propelled cooking the moon.

I've always admired the ambitious, game attitude most mid century people tended to take towards leisure time. Many of the hobbies undertaken in those golden years involved LOTS OF EQUIPMENT... if you want to make home movies, you're going to need a camera, a light gun, a light meter, editing equipment, a projector, and a screen...which, when you think of it in terms of the time and financial investments going into said items, is quite the undertaking. Presently, I can't decide if I would use a new digital camera enough to warrant the purchasing of one to replace my old, flash-impaired model... and yet here are people probably sinking a thousand or more into equipment they will use for three weeks, once a year. The idea, I guess, is to use it once a year, for three weeks, for a NUMBER of years, until one gets the purchase value's amount of "use" out of it, but almost all the camping experience I've had in my life has been in terms of one outs. "Ok, we now know we don't like sleeping in tents. So mark tents off of next vacation. Aaaannnd we don't like KOA Kampin Kabins. Well, we do, but next time, let's pack the mosquito net no matter what. Agreed?"

Case in point, above, you see a lucky, poodle-owning family uncranking their very own pop-out camper. I really like the idea of the pop-out camper, but it definitely falls under the large-purchase, low-return category if you're not the right kind of dedicated to your new endeavor. My grandparents had one in the late sixties, which, in accordance with my earlier dismissal of multiple-use camping equipment, was taken out two or three times before being left to moulder in the patch of grass behind the garage. I would sit on top of the hardshell as a kid and read my pick of my uncle's garage-banished copies of Weird Mystery Tales, dodging hornets who had made the garage eave above the spot their home. Still! What a wonder it must have been in its limited outings!

If you go on vacation in the 60's, you might get a tour of Mount Rushmore by a full-costumed Native American re-enactor! Offensive as this might potentially be, it's also a slight rush to my everlovin kitsched out heart. Am also partial to the one grandmother at stage right, sitting on the bench and staring off gloomily into the distance. Very much my experience with camping... "What is he even saying about this stupid landmark? What is he even saying? Are we stopping at the in-camp McDonalds after we climb this flipping mountain trail? Because I've got like six more figurines I have to collect before I have a serviceable 'Bat Team'. Looking at rocks is not eating nuggets and building my Bat Team." I'm telling what God loves, and that's the truth.

Let's bunk in a tent! Bedded down in dad's old army surplus sleeping bags with a steady supply of Archie comics to read by flashlight, Chip, Kip, and Flip Camper look like they're in seventh heaven...of camping. I kept thinking about how hot it would be inside the bags. My family wouldn't dream of going camping in the winter, which is ace-primo time to stay in, watch TNT Jaws/Indiana Jones marathons, and eat brownies out of the pan before celebrating various holiday like events.

Know your hatchet. And your pertly constructed tent like building on your own little islet. Both are important. I like that the drawings throughout are done in a medium green that reminds me so much of those old Bobbsey Twin type book illustrations.

I'm being juvenile, but please. Please look at the figure of the baby being held upside down and smacked. Any kind of instructional first aid is, in book form, really hilarious.

See how the Adam-12 extra in the lower right hand corner's figure is placidly listening for signs of life. "Is Bert breathing?" "I don't know, allow me time to calmly check."

Tents I'd like to live in, solely based on looks and vibrant color selection, articles 1:



and 4:

Buzz and Cousin really like grilled food. Almost too much. Does Buzz choose poorly in his hamburger, and look longingly on Cousin's hot dog? Indeed. These tips for campfire foods include "dehydrated, freeze dried, or whole can meals". Me, I would pack straight astronaut ice cream and Vienna sausage. And beef jerky. Which is why no one would travel with me, probably.

Gals preparing meals at the campsite. Look at that cutie little girl's swimsuit at the right!

These two black and white shots make me long for bottle blonde hair, regardless of the provenance of these gals' light locks.

"There's no way we're eating on a picnic blanket. Somebody bring a completely collapsible table and camp chairs or I AM NOT GOING." Well played, beach brunch goers. Well played.

I was fascinated by the number or pop out, blow up, inflatable, collapsible, and generally spur of the moment camp dwellings on the market in the early sixties. I think a lot of these might have been inovations of WWII for the soldiers (lots of modern advancements in the mid century were), but maybe the mad scientists in their mad inflatable labs were just working overtime during the late 50's.

It's like a station wagon fort!


As well spoken as the text was on the subject of women's stylings, I feel for shame that they did not mention the men's clothes. Such as this. I agree that television stars such as Dick York could pull off the geeky MCM man look without much trouble, but let us admit that most men, even MCM men, didn't have the first Darren's considerable cuteness.

The briefest of briefs!

Hope you enjoyed our foray into the forest for one post... next time, I'm right back where I belong in the fifties' kitchen! I'm throwing a blow out weekend after this and I will need you guys's opinions on canapes (yes, you have them, you just don't know you have them yet). Til then!


  1. Gotta love those old school family trips!

  2. Oh man oh man what a treasure trove of vintage camping awesomeness! Thank you so much for being the curator of this trip through time & space! I'm imagining one of those whacked out station wagons as a space/time travel mobile right now :-) As for your personal choice in food -- "I would pack straight astronaut ice cream and Vienna sausage" --I don't think anyone would complain until they were zipped up in a tent with you at night. The farts may keep the bears away though! GREAT POST!!!

  3. Excellent post! I really, really hate camping but it IS cute to look at! And that Buzz kid is Creepy McCreepster. I'd hate to choke on a toasted marshmallow and have HIM give me mouth-to-mouth.

  4. This post is hilarious! It has not, however, convinced me to hate camping any less. Although I am fascinated by the double-decker station wagon camper. I wonder how many people actually had those.

  5. isn't it strange how we long/nostalgia for things we've never really experienced but have been programmed/conditioned to love via pop culture?

    I've only been to the woods a few times in my life and my family was hardly the summer BBQ type but damn if I don't have dozens of false memories I've lifted from movies and episodes of the wonder years. crazy stuff.

  6. Could of been ME in the 60s and our family's blue & orange striped tent. Once it fell down in a storm in the night and we did not wake up until a fellow camper was trying to lift it off of us! We always put the coleman stove at the end of the picnic table. I still own the tiny zenith radio we took to listen for weather forecasts. The knob is slightly bent from being jam packed into the truck with all the sleeping bags, air mattresses, pans for the trip.

  7. does anyone have any information on the red & white tent pictured in pic 2 & 4?
    Our family had one exactly like it and I'm trying to find another one somewhere.
    My dad called it a wing tent but I can't seem to find anything like it on the web except for these pics!

  8. I was born in 1970. I found this book in the family bookcase when I was around four years old, I was very intrigued and fascinated by the whole layout of information given. When I was old enough to try some of the things that I read in the book they were really handy. This book went with me everywhere! As I got older, the book had gotten lost I presume during moving. Now I'm in my late forties and missing this book as part of my childhood. I recently found a vintage copy of this book and purchased it. Many years later, this book still makes me feel like a kid again. It feels so great to have this book to be part of my life again.



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