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Trailer Tribe - The Road Less Traveled

A Family Embraced the Outdoors and Took the Road Less Traveled

Phil Noyes
Jul 1, 2011
We live in a disposable world. Most people want a new car every three years, and if you’re hauling around a 20-year-old trailer, you may not be greeted with much enthusiasm at some parks. Most of us want the newest, fastest, biggest, and best new vehicle we can get our hands on.
Photo 2/8   |   Harry, Larry, and Harriette just home from a trip in 1958. The inflatable raft is on the rack on the Teardrop with the paddles.
And then there’s Larry Shank.
It all started in 1949 after Larry’s dad, Harry, read an article in National Geographic about the roadless Southwest. Being a man with wanderlust to spare, Harry and his wife, Harriette, loaded up their Buick convertible, drove to the Arizona desert, and promptly spent a week getting stuck in every manner of sand pit and dry river bed they came across.
Undaunted, Harry bought a used 1946 Willys CJ-2A Jeep in 1950, and, after a few trips, decided they needed more space, so they picked up a used 1947 Kenskill Teardrop Model 10 trailer in 1952. On the maiden voyage, the little red Jeep and the Teardrop got stuck in some quicksand in the Paria River in Utah. Harry could never quite get the little red Willys right again, so he traded up to a brand new green Willys CJ-3B, and that Jeep and the Kenskill have been together ever since.
Photo 3/8   |   Larry Shank and his family’s original Teardrop trailer and Willys Jeep. Photo by Erik Petersen.
Larry showed up in 1954, and in the summer of ’56, at the ripe old age of 18 months, he began a lifetime of adventures with his parents that took them all over the Southwest. Before they left on their first trip, Harry bought a surplus Army raft and a Johnson outboard motor that are still a part of Larry’s outfit.
Over the years the Willys and Teardrop have had many “upgrades.” Harry was an engineer at Lockheed and loved to tinker. He soon tired of crawling along in the Jeep, and it just so happened that Chevrolet had introduced their small-block 265ci V-8 in ’55. So, in late ’56 Harry bought one brand new in a crate and, with the help of some friends, dropped it in. During the early ’60s, Harry even extended the bed of the Jeep, as he wanted a longer body and added a hardtop.
Photo 4/8   |   At a favorite campsite in 1955 near Mexican Hat, Utah, along the San Juan River.
The Teardrop was getting a little beat up on those rough Southwestern back roads, so Harry added steel runners to the undercarriage, a new axle, larger wheels and tires, trailer brakes, and a reinforced tongue to mount the outboard engine to. For comfort and convenience, he added a roof rack, independent 12-volt battery and electric lights, and a tent from Sears, which was modified to attach to the back galley area.
The last trip with the Jeep and Teardrop was in the ’80s. But, Harry continued to drive the Jeep around town, and they pulled the Teardrop behind their station wagon into the early ’90s. The last family trip was in 1992, and both Harry and Harriett have since passed away. Unlike most stories in which we find out the kids sold off Mom and Dad’s “junk,” Larry not only kept the Jeep and trailer, but every last scrap of camping gear his father ever bought.
Photo 5/8   |   The original red Jeep and Teardrop going through a gully in 1952. When asked why his father, Harry, made the long trailer hitch tongue, Larry just shows them this picture.
Larry has restored the Jeep and Teardrop back to showroom condition and continues to explore the Southwest. He is always the center of attention whenever he rolls into a campground and is proud to share the Jeep and Teardrop and all the wonderful stories that have been such an important part of his family for more than 50 years.

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