Ways to support us
Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/8/2018 (806 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Did you know the Boler turns 50 this summer?
Yes indeed, the quirky little camper that could has been turning heads worldwide for half a century. Did you also know it was the brainchild of a Winnipegger? Indeed it was.
In the 1960s, Ray Olecko earned a reputation developing lightweight fiberglass septic tanks as an alternative to bulky concrete and steel. Also an avid camper and outdoorsman, he came up with the idea of taking the same molded fibreglass technology created for septic tanks and building a lightweight compact trailer big enough to fit two adults and two children.
Olecko sketched out the shape on a piece of cardboard and handed the drawing to his fibreglass mould-maker, Sandor Dusa. "Make it like this," he told him.
The two of them mortgaged their homes, pooled together $5000 for start-up, and in 1968 created a tiny trailer that measured 13 feet long and weighed less than 1,000 pounds. It also bore a resemblance to a bowler hat, so they changed the spelling in order to give it a unique name for trademark purposes. And that’s how the Boler was born.
I’ve long been fascinated by the Boler, and often thought it would be the perfect lodging for an easy getaway. With my family’s latest reunion taking place this summer over the August long weekend, and more than 150 relatives from across Canada (and as far away as Australia!) coming to set up camp in La Broquerie, Man., I set out to find myself a Boler.
Online research quickly led to Winnipeg-based company Bee-2-Gether Excursions, run by Chad and Kim Celaire. They’ve been renting out 1970s-era Bolers for seven years, and also make and sell custom Boler covers. Their Boler rentals range in price from $60 to $70 per day depending on time of year, and come equipped with the basics needed for comfortable and convenient camping.
On one end of the 13-foot 1972 camper that became my home for four days is a sitting area with table that converts into a double bed. On the other end is a couch that doubles as a second small bed. Spanning the space between is a counter, sink that pumps water from a holding tank, two propane burners for cooking, mini ice-box, narrow closet, and some cupboards.
While relatives rolled in with their massive RVs, spacious mobile homes, and impressive pop-up campers, my 1972 Boler definitely garnered the most curiosity. Just about everyone wanted to "take a peek" inside, while the children wanted to gather up their games and toys and come to hang out. It was the first time I’ve ever camped in anything other than a tent, and it was quite enjoyable to have what felt like a real home-base.
Most of all, I was most grateful to have four solid walls and a roof over my head when torrential prairie storms came crashing down on our family reunion — not once, not twice, but three times during the weekend. My camping shelter never felt so safe, cozy and dry.
Best of all, though, I’m glad to have made many awesome memories for the kids in my family, about that time Aunty Rosey rented the Boler, and how fun it was to just come and hang out.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Boler, enthusiasts from across North America are congregating in the city where it all started. Red River Exhibition Park on the edge of Winnipeg will host the largest gathering of Bolers in history, from Aug. 15 to 19. While camping sites are sold out, everyone is invited to drop by the open house on Sat., Aug. 18. Gates open at 10 a.m. and admission is $10.
RoseAnna Schick is an avid traveller who seeks inspiration wherever she goes. Email her at email@example.com
RoseAnna Schick is an avid traveller and music lover who seeks inspiration wherever she goes. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 at 9:56 AM CDT: Corrects spelling of Sandor Dusa's name.
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.