» » History of the Boler

History of the Boler

posted in: All Posts, History of the Boler | 6

The Amazing 13′ Boler

The original Canadian built Boler moulded fibreglass trailer was introduced in 1968.  The design offered a simple and lightweight family travel trailer.

Made by joining two moulded fibreglass halves (top and bottom) created a water tight and extremely durable shell.  Inside is cozy yet comfortable, it include a stove, fridge or ice box, sink with hand pump. 

Sleeping for 4 is available by lowering the rear dinette table between the seats to create a double bed ,and the front gaucho converts into bunk beds.

 

 

General specifications:

  • Interior length – 10’
  • Interior height – 6’ 1”
  • Interior width – 6’ 6”
  • Overall length – 13’
  • Overall height – 6’ 11”
  • Overall width – 6’ 8”
  • Weight approx dry – 1000 lbs (base model with no options or consumables)
    NOTE – average weight ready for camping – 1400- 1600 lbs

The following article is an excellent summary of the Boler’s creator and history of this unique trailer.
Reprinted with permission from the author, Tom McMahon

50 years of “boling”: boler fibreglass camping trailers

a Winnipeg and Canadian success story

 

by Thomas L McMahon, June 2018 (boler owner since 2012)

This paper is available at the Social Sciences Research Network at https://ssrn.com/abstract=3195997

Reprinted with permission from the author, Tom McMahon  Boler.ca 

 

A note on sources[1]             A note on spelling of fibreglass and moulds[2]


“We’re the only company in North America producing fibreglass trailers.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see our idea revolutionize the trailer industry.” – Ray Olecko[3]

 

The boler ultralight fibreglass trailer – the famous “egg on wheels” – was invented and manufactured in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The boler was manufactured and sold between 1968 and 1988, and approximately 10,000 units were sold. The boler is credited with inspiring numerous manufacturers to create nearly identical trailers. The bolers and their imitators are growing in popularity again, as the baby boomers get tired of camping in tents or are searching for a low-cost trailer for their retirement years; as hobbyists find a new muse from their childhood memories; or as the price of gas continues to increase (thus taking larger RV’s off the road). What may have once been viewed as a poor man’s RV, bolers are now cool. Retro “glamping” (glamorous camping) is in style and hobbyists are having a blast creating the most beautiful, personalized, lightweight trailers on the road. The Internet allows fibreglass RV owners to exchange restoration ideas and how-to information, buy and sell their trailers, show off their marvelous eggs and arrange for fibreglass meet-ups around North America. Check out www.fiberglassrv.com .

 

The inventor Ray Olecko

The boler trailer was invented by Ray Olecko and the master moulds created by Sandor Dusa.

Ray Olecko was born in Lamont, Alberta in 1930. He had two sisters, Anne Marie and Virgie, and two brothers, Horace and Toby; his mother was Mary and father was Mike. Ray started boxing in his teens and went on to win the Alberta Golden Gloves Amateur Championship in 1948. He did not finish grade 9. Aileen, one of Ray’s daughters, told me after grade 8 he ran away to join the circus. Erwin Krieg, one of the original three boler partners, told me that at least one of Olecko’s jobs there was as a carnival barker, for which he wore a bowler hat. (More on that below.)

Ray spent three years in the Canadian Air Force in Ontario, Quebec and Labrador between 1954 and 1957. He met Lorraine Joba in 1957. They had two daughters, Aileen (1957) and Tammy (1959). Ray’s family moved to Toronto in 1958, then Halifax in 1960 and then to Winnipeg in 1962, first on Styles Street and Kent Road before buying their first home, on Scotia Street along the Red River. Ray and Lorraine divorced in 1978, Ray married Joyce in 1989 and ran Ray’s Trading Co. for 20 years until his cancer diagnosis. Ray passed away in 2001 at age 71.

The love of Olecko’s life was always design. Olecko’s daughter Tammy wrote to me that: “Dad was also mechanically inclined, as we grew up with his many homemade tractors and such. And in his youth growing up poor, he made a working go cart that according to his family was a wonderful two seater, using scrap metal and scavenged parts that as a lot of fun until wash days, when his mother made him undo the motor and put it back into her washing machine!”

Olecko worked for free in the fibreglass industry learning how to work the material. Along the way, he used to make fibreglass moulded slingshots in his tiny basement office/workshop which he sold all over the world through advertising in hunting magazines. These slingshots were called boler slingshots, pre-dating the trailer. You can see the patent and the explanation for what was unique about Ray’s design here: http://www.google.com/patents/US3272193 .

Before long working with fibreglass became a paying job. Olecko’s interest in fibreglass led him to design a septic tank for Structural Glass and to help in the design of road-side round trash receptacles in Manitoba called “Orbit” (“put your trash into orbit”). I recall passing many of the Orbits on Manitoba roads in the 1970s.

 

Olecko, Dusa and Krieg working together

In 1962, Olecko, Dusa and Erwin Krieg worked together at Structural Glass in Winnipeg. Olecko was the sales manager, Dusa worked in the moulds and tooling department. Krieg started at the bottom of the company and became the production foreman in 1966.

Ray’s proudest moment was when he designed the boler trailer. While Olecko was camping with his family, he got the idea of a light-weight camper trailer made from fibreglass. The family used to go camping in an old canvas tent. Many nights were rained or snowed out.

Ray spent countless hours working out the design and measurements for the boler trailer. Planning the sizes for the table conversion to bed, bunk beds, countertop for icebox/fridge propane heater, storage under bunks and closet. He knew that being built out of fibreglass, the trailer would be lightweight and affordable on gas to haul behind a car. Plexiglass was used on the front and rear of the trailer to withstand gravel roads as well as being lighter than glass. He meticulously laboured over graph paper designs, and explained the graph paper were actually to help with the measurements for fitting everything into the design. The bed-and-two bunks configuration was specifically designed for Olecko’s family of four. With Dusa’s help, they made a wooden mock-up. Olecko said: “We had designed and built a unique unit which would appeal to the small family. It sleeps four, has a cooler, stove, sink, cupboard space and a few other comforts of home.”[4]

Fibreglass was key. Olecko stated the reason for the trailer’s success was its light weight. “Our trailer weighs only 800 pounds because it does not have the conventional wood frame. The fibreglass acts as its own frame and skin. Many people who would like to trailer, but don’t because they’re afraid of pulling a heavy weight behind their car. A four-cylinder car can pull one of our units.”[5] The Winnipeg Free Press added that the boler

“is practically unbreakable, leak-proof and, because it’s fabricated as a single unit, will not loosen up. … Layers of fibreglass are molded together with plastic resin in a large bathtub-shaped mold. During this process the trailer’s exterior paint job is built into the fibreglass. Fibreglass, says Olecko, has four times the strength of steel of the same weight. After about four hours the fibreglass is lifted from the mold to form the top half of the trailer. A similarly-shaped mold, with the addition of wheel wells, is made for the bottom half. The two halves are bonded together and the door and window areas cut out. With the cabin of the trailer completed it is placed on a steel chassis and the interior fitted out.”[6]

 

Sandor Dusa, master mould maker

Olecko asked Dusa to help him create the trailer. Sandor Dusa was born August 3, 1934 in Karcag, Hungary and immigrated to Canada in 1956. Dusa passed away on April 26, 2013. According to Dusa’s widow Corrine’s post on fiberglassrv.com, “Ray had an idea and picture that he sketched out with no specs just a picture. Sandor asked where is the specs, Ray mentioned that is why he was approaching Sandor. So Sandor being a master at what he did looked and calculated. Finally came up with specs and started making the molds for the Boler company he was the vice president and mold maker.” This is entirely consistent with Jamie McColl’s interview with Olecko.[7]

 

Boler production begins

Olecko told the Winnipeg Free Press, “When we’d completed the first trailer, I saw that we had a unique unit which would appeal to the small family. At this point we decided to go into production.”[8] The boler started at 466 Higgins Ave in 1968 and then moved to 770 Dufferin Ave.[9]

The original Boler facility was demolished to make way for the Salter Street Bridge built in 1984
In 1969 Boler moved their production facility to 770 Dufferin Ave.

Olecko and Dusa left Structural Glass to build the tooling for Ray’s brainchild in an oversized garage on the Red River in North Kildonan. Olecko and Dusa scraped together some startup capital and began producing the 13-foot four-berth trailer in an old Winnipeg warehouse.[10]

Dusa was the vice president and mould maker. As Corrine Dusa posted, Sandor used to call the boler his baby. Olecko and Dusa were presented with a Design Award in 1969 by the Manitoba Government Department of Industry and Commerce. In late 1968 or early 1969, Krieg joined Olecko and Dusa as a junior partner at Boler Manufacturing.

Olecko was the general manager of the company who focused on management and marketing; Dusa was in charge of moulds and tooling; Krieg was in charge of production. Krieg informed me that his recollection is that Olecko owned 51% of the company, Dusa 33%, Krieg 15% and the company lawyer held 1%.

Lorraine says that everything they needed to make the trailer fell into place as it was needed. From the insulation on the walls (which Lorraine heard the salesman say to them at the office that it was the wrong side of the fabric that is used to make neoprene for diving suits and therefore would be relatively cheap, so this was what they tried at first for the insulation) to someone to make the cushions and curtains. The Winnipeg Free Press reported that “one-inch think urethane foam” was used for insulation.[11] An early ad published by boler states: “The interior of all boler trailers are linked with “Ensolite” by Uniroyal, an exciting new product developed for the space age. It’s a soft PVC foam laminated to a tough vinyl film. The results? Excellent insulation and a beautifully finished wall surface.” Jamie McColl, who said that he interviewed Ray Olecko (date of interview not specified) wrote that forty flat-roofed un-insulated prototypes were produced in the first run. These were later recalled and insulated after they encountered condensation problems. Olecko recalled all 40 to retrofit them with Ensolite material. This product had been developed by Uniroyal and was being used in the cockpits of airplanes. It was available only in a 2-inch thick size, but he persuaded them to shave it down to 3/16 of an inch, and he cut it into sections to fit the curves of the boler. He said that the seam tape was a 3M 2-sided tape. When the inside paper backing was removed, of course the surface was sticky, and he solved this problem by simply rubbing talcum powder over it.[12]

Lorraine recalled that the boler company did extra fibreglass work in addition to making the trailers; one customer wanted a fibreglass top for a truck cab and through that customer they got to know the people who made cushions for the truck and recruited them to make cushions for the trailer. Lorraine also stated that when they were looking for curtains, they mentioned to the fabric salesman that because the trailer was fibreglass, the curtains should be too, and the salesman stated he knew someone would had fibreglass fabric and a nice floral design – which is how the boler trailer curtains were originally created.

 

Olecko’s daughter Tammy wrote to me that:

“The families would get together on the weekends with trailers in tow, pick a campground and we were the quality control testers checking for leaks, faulty heaters etc. Modifications were planned out based on how they were used camping or hunting, whether a remote spot would need an ice box more than a fridge, and how they operated with no services. My sister and I spent many enjoyable nights sleeping and camping in all weather, as Dad liked to take us out before hunting season to scout out the future hunting locations. It was not unusual to awake to snow on some of these trips. Dad being an avid fisherman and hunter we spent trips combining his love of outdoors and fresh air with family time. Picking berries, mushrooms, fishing and his hunting prowess helped keep their freezer and pantry full.”

Lorraine told me (via Aileen) that the plexiglass windows were inspired by the use of plexiglass in airplanes; that fibreglass covers were created the windows when friends took a boler on a trip to Alaska and wanted protection for the windows from any stones that might arise on rough Alaskan roads.

 

Jamie McColl reports on his interview with Olecko:

“The first 100 units were made with a flat roof, but Mr. Olecko realized that he could create more headroom by adding the arched extension to the roof. (This should make it easy to identify those first Bolers.)  Production increased steadily, and a new facility opened at 770 Dufferin in Winnipeg. About 150 units were produced in the second  year -1969- , and another 400-500 in 1970. In 1971, franchises were sold to companies in Earlton, Ontario and in Peace River, Alberta. By 1972, 4 trailers a day were being built, 220 days a year, with a staff of 23 , at the Winnipeg shop ( 880 per year), with similiar numbers at the other sites. Franchises were awarded in the U.S, but Mr. Olecko is uncertain of the numbers produced. He sold the company to Jim Pattison (Neonex) in 1973, and his involvement mostly came to an end. Production continued in Canada to at least 1978, so a very rough estimate for total Canadian output MIGHT be 7000-10,000 units.”[13]  (boler trailers continued to be manufactured in Canada up until 1988)

 

The boler name

According to Olecko’s daughter Aileen, who discussed the question with Olecko’s first wife, Lorraine (Aileen and Tammy’s mother), the boler slingshots were originally made from epoxy with rubber tubing and a leather cup. A marketing advisor told them that the name for the slingshot needed two syllables to make it more memorable. Because the slingshot also reminded Ray of the power of a bolas, which is a throwing weapon, he named the slingshot a boler.[14] According to Lorraine, when the slingshot was named there was never any mention of the bowler hat.

When it came time to name the trailer, the boler name was already registered and had already proven to be a successful name with the slingshot. Ray validated that the name boler could be successful for the trailer by finding a new way that the word boler could be interpreted that would make sense in the context of the trailer. Recall that Olecko once had a job as a carnival barker, and he wore a bowler hat as part of the job. Krieg believes this is what made Olecko think of the connection between the hat and the trailer, because the trailer visually resembled a bowler hat. Krieg told me emphatically that Olecko told both Krieg and Dusa, and many other people on many different occasions that the boler trailer name was chosen because the trailer resembled a bowler hat. Krieg told me that he never once heard anyone, including Ray, say that the trailer was named after the bolas weapon. Corrine Dusa’s post at fiberglassrv.com on May 3, 2013 stated “the Boler trailer was because of a thought of the Boler hat not an egg”. (Corrine was Dusa’s wife and companion for 37 years.) Jamie McColl, who interviewed Ray, wrote “He was looking for an unusual name for the trailer, and thinking that it looked a little like a bowler hat, he decided on Boler!”[15] Thus, Ray named the slingshot boler after the bolas weapon, and kept the name boler for the trailer because the name also suited the trailer, which visually reminded Ray of the bowler hat.

According to Olecko’s daughter Tammy, Olecko was very specific that the “b” would not be capitalized because he thought it could be considered pretentious and scare off potential buyers. Olecko wanted a low-cost trailer appropriate for anyone regardless of size of their tow vehicle, their mechanical knowledge or their physical strength. Lorraine (via Aileen) told me that the credit for the lettering style of the boler logo on the back of all the trailers needs to be given to Veronica Dusa (Dusa’s second wife). She was an artist and the perfect person to be asked to do the lettering. She is the one who originally suggested the lower case b typeset. Corrine Dusa (Dusa’s third wife) wrote to me that Veronica was a paste-up artist. A paste-up artist was a professional creating or laying out publication pages that predates the use of the now-standard computerized page design desktop publishing software.

A little-known and I assume purely unrelated piece of trivia is that the bowler hat was invented in England to allow grounds-keepers on horse-back to pass under branches without getting their hats knocked off and damaged (previously they wore high “top hats”). The bowler hat then gained popularity across all classes in England and became the most popular hat as Europeans expanded into the west of North America. Lucius Beebe (December 9, 1902 – February 4, 1966) was an American author, photographer, railroad historian, journalist, and syndicated columnist who called the bowler “the hat that won the west.” So there is some irony that Olecko, a westerner interested in convenient travel, chose the word boler for a name. Some might say that the boler trailer is a trailer that won the west.

 

Name registration and patents

Olecko registered the business name Boler Manufacturing Co. with the Manitoba government’s business names registration office in 1963. He dissolved it in 1965 and immediately registered Structural Glass Ltd. operating under the name of Boler Manufacturing Co. That was dissolved in 1967. The Manitoba Archives do not have records showing what happened after that with the business names registration office. (Erwin Krieg stated firmly that Ray only worked at Structural Glass in sales. Structural Glass was owned by five partners: Dick Noonan of Pioneer Electric, the Chairman of Manitoba Hydro, an engineer at Bristol Aero Space, Glen Partridge who was the managing partner and Joe Pitre who was the production manager; it was Glen and Joe who ran the company. I accept all of this, but it leaves a bit of a mystery about the reference to Structural Glass on the business registration document at the Manitoba Archives.) The boler trademark was not registered with the federal government until August 14, 1970. (In Canada, businesses register with provincial governments but trademarks and patents are federal jurisdiction.)

It was not until October 24, 1967 that Olecko was issued patent # 770200 for a lightweight, cylindrical, expandable fibreglass septic tank with tapered ends. It was designed so the parts were nested together for shipping and bolted together in the proper configuration on the site. According to the patent description, this design offered substantial benefits over the concrete or steel tanks common at the time.

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office lists three patents in Olecko’s name; the inventions are also patented in the U.S.A.

  • #770200 1967-10-24 Septic Tank (US #03426903)
  • #1263234 1989-11-28 Cable Trap (US #4920690)
  • #2297627 2000-02-03 Trap for Animals (US #3,272,193)

A search of both the Canadian and American patent databases did not turn up a patent for the boler trailer design. It appears that Olecko and Dusa may not have filed a patent for the boler.

 

First advertisements for the boler

The first ad for a boler appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, July 19, 1968, $1495 at 466 Higgins Ave. and another ad in the Free Press on November 9, 1968 advertising an 800 pound fully equipped boler for $1695. Initially, Olecko met with dealer resistance, as the boler price of $1400 was thought to be high at a time when you could still buy an aluminum trailer for $895 (1968). When he simply picked up the hitch and pulled the trailer across the parking lot by himself, dealers were quickly convinced that a lightweight trailer would be popular with the owners of the newer breed of smaller cars coming into vogue at the time.

A feature article about Olecko, Dusa and the boler appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on August 10, 1968, with the headline “A Fiberglass Trailer For Compact Travel.” The article said that it took three months to design and build the trailer and at that time the company had eight employees. Another article appeared in the Free Press on February 12, 1969 with the headline “International business established overnight.” That article quoted Olecko saying that they can barely keep up with demand, that they were setting up several franchises in both Canada and the U.S., and that the marketing for the bolers was recently taken over by Newline Industries owned by John Sarens. In 1969 the factory was moved to a larger facility on 770 Dufferin Street.

A boler ad appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on August 16, 1969 and described the boler as the “Manitoba 1969 Design Award Winner” fully insulated with New Space Age Ensolite and $1695. On September 9, 1969 another boler ad in the Free Press advertised the boler as a “hunting cabin on wheels.” Another article in the Free Press on April 28, 1971 had the headline “Manitoba Trailer Hot Export,” mentioned manufacturers in Los Angeles and Minneapolis with franchises to sell the trailer, another in the Central US would also soon be franchised to sell the trailers and that Olecko was negotiating with three other companies.

A report in the Manitoba Business Journal (December–January 1971/72 p. 14)[16] detailed some achievements of the company:

  • 1000 bolers produced in Winnipeg and Grand Prairie
  • 1971 Sales reached half a million dollars
  • Elenor International of Wichita KS signed on to produce bolers in three plants[17]

Production increased steadily. About 150 units were produced in the second year (1969), and another 400-500 in 1970.

In 1971, franchises were sold to companies in Peace River, Alberta (Glass-Fab Industries Ltd.) and in Earlton, Ontario (Earlton Manufacturing; which later moved to Midhurst under the name Advanced Fiberglass, where the last boler was produced in 1988).

By 1972, 4 trailers a day were being built, 250 days a year, with a staff of 23 at the Winnipeg shop (1000 per year), with similar numbers at the other sites.

The Manitoba Business Journal article described Olecko as an “old-style” businessman who did not seek and refused government assistance and loans to expand the operation. “We knew right from the beginning that we had a winner with the light-weight trailer. You accept government money, then you have accept their advisors, and things start to get badly cluttered up.” The article noted that Olecko, Dusa and Krieg are the three owners and each of them works at their manufacturing plant. Olecko said: “That’s the way it should be. A man should be prepared to have more than a financial stake in a company like ours; he’s got to be prepared to work at it.”

 

A boler becomes a Scamp (and an ECO and a Love Bug and a Pacer)

An article in the Oelwein Daily Register appeared November 27, 1971, reporting that Elenor International Inc. of Wichita Kansas was purchasing Iowa Portable Mill Mfg. Co. which was located in Oelwein, Iowa. “Boler American” was a subsidiary of Elenor International and placed an order with the newly acquired Iowa Portable Mill company for 5,000 trailer frames to be delivered over the next 12 months to production plants in Tripoli, Iowa, Aurora, Nebraska and Backus, Minnesota.

The Manitoba Business Journal published an article in January 1972 with the headline “boler trailers move into US market.” The article reported that boler had sold all US manufacturing rights to Elenor International. Elenor Intl. employees came to Winnipeg to train at the boler plant.

Eco and Love Bug both started in 1972 and made Boler Americans. When Boler American failed, they decided to use the moulds and came up with new names. ECO stands for Eugene-Cal-Owen, the first names of the owners of Century Mfg. Another boler-derived trailer was the Perris Pacer produced in San Jacito, California from 1974 to 1990.

Meanwhile, in July of 1971, Duane Eveland was involved in remodeling damaged mobile homes. A factory representative from the franchisee “Boler American” stopped by and watched. Eventually the boler salesman asked if he would like to manufacture trailers for boler. The boler trailer was designed in Canada and Boler American was a company attempting to develop the US market. Duane was interested and together with his brother Gerald Eveland and sister Gladys Coffland negotiated a contract with Boler American in which Eveland’s Inc. would manufacture trailers and Boler American would market them. Boler American had their own problems and went out of business late in 1972. This left Eveland’s Inc. with moulds but no marketing company. Duane, Gerald and Gladys discussed things, came up with the name Scamp (they used the name Acorn for one year in 1979), and began building and marketing their own trailer.

 

Boler is sold, Olecko, Dusa and Krieg move on

Olecko, Dusa and Krieg sold the company to Jim Pattison (Neonex) in 1973, and their involvement mostly came to an end.

After Jimmy Pattison bought boler in 1973, Olecko semi retired. For a time Ray sold franchises, and became a consultant to the new owners of boler mfg. However, he became disenchanted with the direction the company was taking with the introduction of the 17 foot boler Honey. He felt the original design was being compromised, and soon after parted ways with the company.[18]

Neonex had considerable experience, producing the Travelaire, Holidaire, Triple E, Rustler and Otto brand RVs. Neonex Leisure shifted production to Calgary and in 1977 introduced a 17’ version of the boler that was not as successful as the original 13’ model. On June 10, 1977, trademark ownership changed to Boler Manufacturing Western Ltd.; on Oct. 31, 1977, trademark ownership changed to Neonex Canada Ltd. Bolers were “Built with Pride by Neonex” in Calgary, Alberta by “Neonex Shelter Ltd., Boler Division”. Vanguard Trailers built bolers in Winfield, British Columbia in 1978. Jim Pattison Inc., the owner of Neonex, still holds the boler trademark and the registration is still “live,” registration number TMA170511.

This gave Olecko some free time to do what he loved, hunting and fishing. He now had time to visit his cottage in Ponte du Bois and time to enjoy his home on the Assiniboine River in Westwood (Winnipeg). The home was purchased in 1974, after 10 years of living on the Red River in Old Kildonan.

 

Olecko’s next venture was to get his Real Estate License so he could sell commercial real estate.

He later bought himself an Economy Rent-a-Car franchise on Portage Ave. He became good friends with Norm Glass, who was also an Economy franchise holder. Olecko later sold his franchise for a profit, then bought himself a new company supplying welding rods. When he wanted to get away, he would go to his boler trailer parked on a campsite on his beloved Winnipeg River in Pointe du Bois. He also moved into another smaller house still in North Kidonan to free up some money to buy the company. Owning the company also gave him the time to work on his inventions. His notable project was building a quick-kill trap that his daughter helped him with. The finalized trap, went for many years of testing to Alberta on the trap lines. After Ray’s Death in 2001, it was decided that it would be too costly and cumbersome to replace the trappers easy-snare traps so the family decided not to pursue further development and expense. In the early 80’s, Olecko sold the company and followed his friend Norm Glass into starting a new chapter and business by opening Ray’s Trading on Ellice Ave.  (at the corner of Maryland St.). It was his labour of love owning and operating his own Pawn Shop and store. He was perfect for the business, as it gave him the freedom to buy and sell stock, use his vast knowledge of firearms and hunting equipment, being and avid outdoorsman, and get back to making deals and being a salesman who was a fair business man. Olecko found his niche, and had no intention of retiring as he really enjoyed the business. Unfortunately, a cancer diagnosis forced him to close the business just a few months before he passed away at the age of 71 on June 3, 2001.

Dusa went to work for a fibreglass manufacturing company in Hargrave, MB. According to Corrine Dusa, Sandor worked for several different places in fibreglass including Arnold Manufacturing which made, among other things, Ronald McDonald statues and restaurant interiors and Marr Industry which made Edson boats. Dusa worked in many other fibreglass places as well.

 

Erwin Krieg, L’il Bigfoot and Armadillo trailers

In 1974, Erwin, with his family, moved to Vernon, BC.  That same year, he became a full partner in a fibreglass bathtub and shower manufacturing company called Valley Fibrebath Ltd. In 1978, Erwin and his Valley Fibrebath partner, Clyde Burgess, along with Terry Mayall, formed a new company called “Bigfoot Industries,” manufacturing recreational vehicles. Bigfoot never had anything to do with L’il Bigfoot while Erwin was involved. Bigfoot was all original tooling and did not use boler moulds. In 1990, Erwin sold his share in Bigfoot to Terry Mayall.

After Erwin Krieg sold his shares of Bigfoot to Terry Mayall, Terry modified the molds to make them a true two piece fibreglass shell.  These changes would develop into the L’il Bigfoot. The L’il Bigfoot took original boler moulds and modified them by making squared off wheel arches, incorporating a flat RV door rather than the curved aircraft door, and increased the height by 3” by adding an extension around the centre (note the belt line just above the belly band).

When Bigfoot discontinued the small 13’ in the 90’s, Larry Smith of True Form, a fibreglass mould maker from Vernon B.C, obtained the L’il Bigfoot moulds. Larry Smith had tooled many of the moulds for Bigfoot’s newer innovations over the years. In 2008 Bigfoot industries shut down operations temporarily. Jason Jong who was employed by Bigfoot for close to 20 years at the time knew of the L’il Bigfoot moulds and purchased them from Larry Smith. Jason Jong along with his brother Mike went on to produce the new Armadillo Trailers in Enderby, B.C. Armadillo Trailers, states on its web site https://www.armadillotrailers.net that it is a family run business, with Mike and Jason Jong and their father Allan having been in the RV repair and manufacturing business for over 45 years.

“We have always had a love for classic, rounded small trailers like early Airstream, Boler, L’il Bigfoot and Trillium models. We have been modifying, rebuilding and customizing these beautiful little units for years now, so to be able to incorporate our own ideas into building the new Armadillo is exciting. The Armadillo recreational trailer is made from the same moulds that produced the legendary Boler and L’il Bigfoot trailers. These moulds have been out of production in Canada for many years but have now been rescued, repaired, altered and improved.”

According to Kronbauer’s article, the first Armadillo prototype was sold to a Vancouverite who had actually come to Jong to get him to repair his old boler in 2014. He left with the new Armadillo.

Other direct descendants of the boler still operating are: Scamp (Backus, Minnesota) https://www.scamptrailers.com/about-us/the-scamp-story.html and Casita http://casitatraveltrailers.com/ (now its own company operating out of Rice, Texas operating since 1981) are still manufacturing light-weight fibreglass trailers that started with boler and Boler American.

Trillium Trailers were created shortly after the bolers. The original Trillium Trailers went bankrupt approximately 1980. Outback Custom Lightweight Trailers in Calgary registered the Internet domain name trilliumtrailers.com around the year 2000 and has on its web site the following: “Demand in the industry has moved us into manufacturing a trailer based on the popular boler trailer of the 1970s, except with the latest technology. The new trailer is called the Outback” and “Joe [Thoen] loved the Trillium way back when and when he found a mould for the popular trailer he began to reproduce it more modernly, and that’s why we have the Outback today!” http://trilliumtrailers.com/team-trillium/ (accessed November 18, 2015)

Another company with a connection to Trillium Trailers, and to Manitoba, was Great West Vans. Their web site says “The company has been in business for over 37 years, when the original plant started in rural Manitoba, Canada.” http://www.greatwestvans.com/history/ (accessed November 18, 2015) In 2014, Great West Vans moved to Winfield, Alabama operating under the name Sterling RV and the new name for their trailer is the Sidekick. Their web site used to say: “Sidekick is the direct descendent of the original Trillium trailer of Markham (Toronto) Ontario, Canada.” You can see the trillium flower logo on the Sidekick. http://www.greatwestvans.com/2016-sidekick/ (accessed November 18, 2015) However, according to various RV forums I have seen, it appears that Great West Vans and Sterling RV ceased business in the summer of 2015.

Other companies have started their own designs for light-weight travel trailers (examples: http://tab-rv.com/ and the Alto by Safari Condo, Quebec, Canada http://www.safaricondo.com/en/caravanes ). While these are not descended from the boler, surely they were inspired by them!

 

A boler movie!

In 2012, Jim Ingebrigtsen and Huw Eirug produced a 26 minute video called “Egg on Wheels – the boler story.” The video is available on the video-on-demand “local stories” collection on MTS television. The video features an interview with Aileen and Tammy Olecko as well as interviews and photos of numerous current boler owners and their bolers and photos from original brochures and of the Olecko family and Sandor Dusa.[19]

 

A boler song!

The video also includes an interview with Keri Latimer, a singer-songwriter in Winnipeg whose boler was stolen from her yard in the summer of 2011. Latimer wrote a song about the stolen boler, encouraging the thiefs to take pleasure from the boler and certainly do not take it to a chop shop to have trailer dis-assembled for its various parts.

‘check out those two hippies!’

oh the people they would shout

we don’t mind we don’t mind

we enjoyed

 

take the pleasure

send her not to a chop shop

 

a bird a hill a festival a celebration[20]

god damn snow is long gone

 

sunshine day, a nice old man

‘i lived my share now shake my hand

I’ll say a couple grand, and you can take her’

 

a shady nook, a roaring fire

a child conceived and growing wild

a home that you can bring where you wish her

 

we don’t mind, take the pleasure

send her not to a chop shop

Latimer later gave this update on her Facebook page:

Yippee! a man across the street saw 2 people physically pulling our boler down the alley in the middle of the night, and at some point must have realized the futility of it, and it got towed for blocking the alley. I guess it wasn’t reported to the police, which is strange, but we’re ecstatic. Enroute to the tartan towing yard, to assess any damage. fingers crossed! thanks to everyone who helped spread the word![21]

 

Bolers in a big-time music video!

As a final anecdote, Elle King had a major hit song in 2015 called Ex’s and Oh’s. Check out the fibreglass trailers in this video! Surely at least one of them is a boler! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uLI6BnVh6w

This ends the success story of the little trailer from Winnipeg that could! The egg rolls on and we’ll have to hold on to our hats to see what the future will bring.

 


[1] This article is a summary of information from various sources, including direct communications with Erwin Krieg, June 18 and June 6, 2018 (one of the original three partners in the boler company); emails from Aileen (Ray and Lorraine Olecko’s daughter) conveying information from Lorraine (Ray Olecko’s first wife) June 19, 18, 12 and 11, 2018; messages from Corrine Dusa June 14, 2018; a detailed memo from Tammy McNichol (Ray and Lorraine’s other daughter), May 24, 2016; obituaries for Ray Olecko https://passages.winnipegfreepress.com/passage-details/id-61457/OLECKO_RAYMOND and Sandor Dusa https://passages.winnipegfreepress.com/passage-details/id-202037/DUSA_SANDOR ; and Winnipeg Free Press and Manitoba Business Journal articles. I have spoken with the Evelands (Scamp trailers) (telephone calls and visits to the Scamp/Eveland company in Backus MN and final confirmation from Kent Eveland via email January 13, 2016) and Joe Thoen (trilliumtrailers.com), the Jim Pattison Group email from Maureen Chant, January 12, 2016 and received additional information from Ian Giles, May 5, 2018 and a phone call with Mike Jong of Armadillo Trailers on June 8, 2018. I have been informed by numerous contributions from various individuals posting to fiberglassrv.com, including a posting from Corrine Dusa, Sandor Dusa’s widow on May 3, 2013 at http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/f65/sandor-dusa-passed-58070.html . I have been informed by various articles about the boler that were listed by Roger C H dated June 25, 2011 and a fairly extensive thread called Egg History – Boler Descendants with numerous people posting, perhaps most notably Roy in TO; articles and summaries by Jamie McColl “The Boler Story: An interview with Ray Olecko” at http://www.oocities.org/yosemite/2880/bolerstory.html and at

http://www.doityourselfrv.com/ray-olecko-founder-boler-travel-trailer-interview/ ; Levonne Gaddy “The little trailer with the big history” April 2, 2014 https://www.rvt.com/blog/rv-lifestyle/the-little-trailer-with-the-big-history/ ; an article by Thomas Allan Gray and one by Bob Kronbauer “A B.C. company is using classic Boler moulds to make this new camping trailer,” May 3, 2018, https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/2018/05/03/armadillo-camping-trailer-boler/. My article is posted on Ian Giles’ web sites boler.ca and boler.camping.com. I invite any additional information or corrections at: [email protected] If anyone believes I have not given their contribution to this history an acknowledgement, I would be pleased to hear of my oversight and add an appropriate acknowledgement.

[2] Canadian spelling uses a curious mix of both American and British spellings. In most words were a noun ends with “er” in the United States, it ends in “re” in Canada. Thus, “fibre” and “fiberglass”. With many words, the original British spelling of inserting a “u” (example: colour, neighbour) is used, and thus “mould”. However, Canadians are not always consistent with the spelling and not terribly bothered when American variations are used, such as fiberglass and mold. The words sound and mean the same thing. An example of the inconsistency can be found right in the Winnipeg Free Press article “A Fiberglass Trailer For Compact Travel” August 10, 1968. The headline uses “Fiberglass” but the text of the article uses “fibreglass”. The article also uses “mold”.

[3] Winnipeg Free Press article “International Business Established ‘Overnight’” February 12, 1969

[4] Winnipeg Free Press article “International Business Established ‘Overnight’” February 12, 1969

[5] Winnipeg Free Press article “Manitoba Trailer Hot Export” April 28, 1971

[6] Winnipeg Free Press article “A Fiberglass Trailer For Compact Travel” August 10, 1968

[7] Jamie McColl, “The Boler story: an interview with Ray Olecko,” http://www.oocities.org/yosemite/2880/bolerstory.html “He says that he never made any drawings, but carried the design around in his head, and when it came time to get down to work with the mold maker-Sandor Dussa – he simply drew out the basic lines of the trailer on a large piece of cardboard mounted on
the wall, and said ‘Make it like this’ !!”

[8] Winnipeg Free Press article “A Fiberglass Trailer For Compact Travel” August 10, 1968

[9] The Winnipeg Free Press articles, “Manitoba Trailer Hot Export,” April 28, 1971 and “Local Firm Exports Expertise to U.S.,” December 22, 1971 report the location on Dufferin was 30,000 square feet in size. The Free Press article “International Business Established ‘Overnight’” February 12, 1969, reports the size on Dufferin as 8,000 square feet

[10] The Winnipeg Free Press article “Manitoba Trailer Hot Export” April 28, 1971 states two Winnipeg men “mortgaged their homes and made bank loans to raise $5,000” to start making the bolers. Lorraine Olecko told me (via Aileen) that Lorraine and Ray took out a mortgage on their house and borrowed money from Lorraine’s parents. Erwin Krieg told me that Dusa did not own a home at the time. I presume that means Dusa took out a bank loan for his share. Krieg also told me that when Erwin bought into the company after it had begun production, he did so with a $6000 loan from his father.

[11] Winnipeg Free Press article “International Business Established ‘Overnight’” February 12, 1969

[12] Jamie McColl, “The Boler story: an interview with Ray Olecko,”