Monday, December 22, 2014


Well, this will be an interesting adventure that chronicles the tale of a 1958 Rainbow Trailer, manufactured by Edwards Mfg., Sun Valley, CA in 1958.

The tale begins in 1958 - when my grandfather, Chester Bridges, purchased this trailer new, best I can tell. 

Chester Bridges with his 1958 Ford, 1958 Rainbow,
and a nice salmon on the Klamath River in Northern California

I'm piecing the story together, but I think he started out with a camper somewhere about 1951 with a new Ford Custom.

I have no idea what kind of teardrop/canned ham they are pulling, but my grandmother (LaVerna Bridges) is at the car and my aunt (Bertha Easdale)

Brand new 1958 Ford Custom 300 and 1958 Rainbow
Then I found these pics of my grandparents on a road trip. He's driving a 1958 Ford, pulling the Rainbow, which I am assuming they bought new. The Ford is white over red; the Rainbow is white over salmon.

At first I thought this was my dad's '54 Ford, but I don't think it is.  I don't know who they would have been travelling with, but the '54 is pulling an older Rainbow.

Notice through the window: the trunk of Grandpa's '58 Ford is open.
Don't know who the gentleman on the right is.

One of my favorites. Wonder if Grandpa ever thought he would be on display to the world in his skivvy's?
I think this is camping at the Salton Sea. Back of the picture says "Wagner's March 1961"

Somewhere about 1962 my dad, Wilson Bridges, bought the Rainbow and Grandpa bought a Zenith along with a '62 Ford pickup.  As I recall, the Zenith was larger and had a bathroom. 

Dad pulled the Rainbow with a 1959 Ford Country Sedan.  He worked at Douglas Aircraft, and the company had a trailer club called the Douglas Jetliners.  I remember with fond memories many of the trailer club outings, monthly square dancing, and many of the good friends that Mom and Dad had. Here is a typical campout that I remember as a child.

Dad's 1959 Ford Country Sedan
I think this is at Success Lake in Central California.

Don't know whose '56 Ford this is, but notice the hand-made Jetliners sign, and the sheet in the background.

Notice the Douglas Jetliners placard on the lower-right corner of the first trailer's front window.
Dad had these same placards on the front and rear of the Rainbow. They are visible in some pictures.
And here's an enlargement of the picture above.

 Dad replaced the '59 Ford with a new 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 Country Sedan.  I remember the night he came home with it and took us all by surprise. It didn't take him long before he had it rigged up and was pulling the Rainbow.  The color picture is Dean's Landing at the mouth of the Klamath River near Crescent City, CA, and I believe the other two pics are at the Salton Sea.  The one with us boys sitting on the guard rail was the summer of '64 on vacation to Dinosaur National Monument, Utah; the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs; and Carlsbad Caverns, NM.

Left to Right - Chester Bridges, Paul Bridges, Carol Bridges, LaVerna Bridges, Elsie Morris (Carol's mom)

Left to Right - Elsie Morris (bending), Wilson Bridges, Carol Bridges, LaVerna Bridges, Chester Bridges
Kids at the right are Paul Bridges, David Bridges, Andy Bridges. It may be cousin Billy Bell behind Dave.
Vehicles are the '58 Rainbow, '64 Ford, '62 Ford truck, and the Bell's '64 Chevy van

From left to right - Paul Bridges, David Bridges, and Andy Bridges.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention our next tow vehicle - I don't have a picture with the '71 Ford Country Sedan pulling the Rainbow, but Dad bought the '71 new and we hauled the Rainbow many times on vacation to the property he had bought in Southwest Utah about 30 miles east of Cedar City. The '71 was our first car with air conditioning - a huge relief when crossing the California/Nevada desert.  But most of the time Dad wouldn't run the air because it hurt the gas mileage.  So we continued to suffer in the heat and make the trip at night.  That's my Dad!

At left, the tail of the '64 Ford Country Sedan. My new 1978 Ford F-100, and
the 1971 Ford Country Sedan
About 1976 or 1977, Dad hauled the Rainbow one last time with the '71 Ford to its final resting place on 10 acres of land in Stout Canyon, Utah. He built a shed over it to keep the snow and elements off it, and we used the Rainbow regularly when we made trips to the property.

Thanksgiving, 1978 with my '69 Bronco.
My brother Andy is on the left and I don't remember who is standing in front of the Bronco.

Dad borrowed the homemade hauler to get supplies to Utah for the cabin while he was
building and furnishing it from about 1984-1986 when he retired from McDonnell Douglas in 1983.
The Rainbow continued to be our only shelter (other than the back of a station wagon or truck).
And there the Rainbow sat...for almost 40 years.  Dad built the cabin in the mid 1980's just a hundred yards downhill from the Rainbow.  He last registered the trailer in 1986 but I have every annual renewal from about 1978.  That's why I'm thinking that 1977 was probably the year he planted the Rainbow on the Utah property.

Here's my dad in typical fashion for how he spent his vacation in Utah. 
He always had projects to work on, but they could always wait until a better time..

My mom, Carol Morris Bridges, loved the Utah property. She never minded the small quarters or
slight inconveniences of the Rainbow. I never heard her complain about anything (except us kids misbehavin').
But the Utah property provided a place of solace for her and a place for us kids to be kids - hiking, fishing, climbing, shooting, catching snakes and chipmunks, watching hummingbirds, and swatting deer flies.
And Mom relaxed slept, read, and did crosswords most of the time without worrying about us.
Along about 1980 it was time for my future bride (Tracy Turner) to come and catch the Utah fever. 
I love this picture, and it reminds me of why I married her!  She's a beauty, and the beauty is that we've
been able to enjoy it with our kids and continue to try to get there about twice a year.
When the cabin was finished, the Rainbow became overflow for any guests to the Utah property.  All the dishes and silverware went to the cabin, and it slowly became used less and less so Dad disconnected the water and butane, locked it up and there it sat.

Mom died in 1992 and Dad died in 2008.  Both Mom and Dad have their ashes spread at the Canyon Overlook of Zion National Park, Utah, because the Utah property meant so much to both of them.

Us four siblings now co-own the property, and each summer when we all got together I had been looking at the Rainbow wondering if we would ever do anything with it.  We had a few choices: 1) leave it there - it wasn't hurting anything; 2) Cut it up with a chain saw - how else would we get it out of there; or 3) Make the attempt to get it out.  Finally, in the summer of 2014, I got up one day and decided to take on the challenge.  The brush and manzanita had grown so much around the trailer that there wasn't a real easy way to get to it.  Plus, 35 years of mountain rains and snows on the hillside had buried the wheels.

It was time to see if the '96 F-250 would do the job.  I bought this truck a few years ago from the D&P Performance in Cedar City. We keep it in Las Vegas, fly from Northwest Arkansas, pick up the truck and head to the cabin.

 My brother Dave and I worked for probably 3 hours to get the Rainbow unstuck. We hacked away at the manzanita and inched the trailer out. In the process I punctured the sidewall of a brand new rear tire on the truck.

It was very difficult to move with flat tires, and did a little damage to the awning channel on the starboard side of the Rainbow. But once we got it out, I was able to jack up the trailer and get both wheels off. A quick trip to Kanab on the 4th of July for a pair of new trailer tires and she rolled right out.  The wheel bearing grease was still moist and packed full. Amazing.

We parked it on the road and kept it there for safe keeping until I could fly back out and haul the Rainbow back to Arkansas.  August 2014 my oldest son Matthew and I flew out, hooked up the trailer, checked the lights (which all still worked), and hauled it back home.

Page, Arizona, overlooking Lake Powell. Glen Canyon Dam is just to the left of the back of the trailer.
After checking the electrical, gas, and water, the Rainbow is in remarkably good condition.  The interior cleaned up very well and remains original.  So far I haven't been able to get the Norcold refrigerator working, and there are a few cracks in the interior plastic of the fridge. Haven't figured out what we're going to do with that yet.

Inside we found the plastic Solo cup holders that use the plastic inserts, and an unopened box of Solo cups. Also, Dad's instructions for lighting the stove, refrigerator, furnace, hooking up water in his own handwriting. But the best part was the Douglas Jetliner name badge, made before Cathy was born in 1966.

When we got it home, I installed a power center for 110v and 12 volt protection, a new shore power cord, and an outside 110v outlet. I also rewired the main trailer lighting harness as that was pulled loose when we pulled it out of the Utah location. I then installed an Advent roof air conditioner to make summers more bearable in Arkansas.

I patched three spots by riveting aluminum where the original had split. Both low front corners and
one place in the back where it dragged through the brush pulling it out of its Utah resting place.

Dad had previously repaired the lower right front section and door that was damaged somehow in the mid-1970's.
I don't even remember the story of how that happened, but I remember him repairing it.
The hubcaps are two of the original hubcaps from the '64 Ford.
(The '64 was my first car.  I made a deal with my dad that if he paid for the parts, I would rebuild the engine.
I rebuilt the 352 V8, the transmission, put mag wheels on it and that's what got me through most of high school).

I installed this power box in the lower cabinet on the right side next to the bed. It was almost a perfect fit.
This allowed me to have 110v and 12v protected circuits all the way around, and add a 30 amp circuit for the roof air.
I also installed a marine battery under the refrigerator to make sure there is plenty of ventilation.

The roof air was a real point of dilemna for me. It's a pretty heavy unit at about 80 lbs., and the roof wasn't built to handle it.  The original crank vent was broken and unrepairable.  At first I built an aluminum frame out of 1" square tubing for the air unit to sit on. I sealed it to the trailer with 100% silicone.  It would be leak-free when installed, but after towing it around for a few miles, the next rain it began leaking significantly.  This happened twice before I finally removed all the aluminum channel, cleaned the roof of the excess silicone and residue, and put it right on top of the roof with the foam gasket and silicone.  It hasn't leaked yet, even after towing the trailer around.  I think in my previous design the roof was flexing but the aluminum channel was not.  I'll keep you posted on how this setup seals, but I'm hopeful, having had several heavy rains with no water inside.

The last California plate is in the back window - CS 7660 in black with gold letters.
While in Utah, the trailer had one break-in attempt.  They pried the back window at the lower left corner,
which broke the glass, and they pried at the refrigerator panel on the right side.
Both attempts were unsuccessful but I've got a little damage to repair, including the cracked glass.

I've seen a few Rainbow Trailer decals on the net, but not any that have "Edwards Mfg. Co." or "Sun Valley, Calif"

The front decal was "sand-blasted" by heavy rain and a little hail coming through New Mexico
and Texas on the way home.  There's a guy in town who says he can duplicate the decal for front and back.
Finally, it was time for its maiden voyage.  Just before Thanksgiving, Tracy and I took a couple of days and hauled it to Devil's Den State Park in Winslow, Arkansas.  It's only about 1 1/2 hours from home, so it was close enough to fix if we had any problems but far enough to be out of cell phone service and no internet connection.  WE HAD A BLAST!  It was so enjoyable we came back on Thanksgiving morning and kept asking each other when was the next time we could do this again!  Planning on a couple of days over the Christmas break, a trip to Yellowstone in June 2015, and now we're talking about a 48-state trip in the little Rainbow at retirement.  Hope the F-250 lasts that long (smile).

This Ford F-250 is a great tow vehicle. The 460 V8 has 163,000 miles on it and uses no oil.
It's been well maintained and handles just like a new truck. It seems to be just right for us.
Incidently, I installed grab bars on the door posts of the truck to make it easier for Tracy to get in and out.
The bars came off a mid '90's model Ford Ranger and worked great.
I found the original awning and poles in the storage area under the bed.
I didn't even know what it was.
I never remember Dad ever using it and never remember seeing it.
I used a little tool I bought on line to open up the "C" channel and was so pleased when I got it up.
I've read that dish soap lubricates the channel to make it easier to install,
but for now it's a 2-person job.

So there's the adventures of the '58 Rainbow so far.  We'll keep you posted as we Ramble along.
More to come....


  1. Paul,
    I have enjoyed your adventures and reminiscin'. I look forward to more journeys.
    Safe travels and fair winds,
    Your friend,
    Dark Squirrel that Lopes

    1. You just wait, my DIL. Before you know it you and your hubby will be making more Rainbow memories and your stories will be on here! Can't wait for Yellowstone!! (Anxious to see you guys at Christmas too!)

  2. Great post, Paul! btw, that's Dave Prechtl with me in front of the Bronco - I remember that Thanksgiving trip well - wiping out on cross-country skis, and raw turkey :)
    Pretty funny about the awning - I don't recall it ever being used either, and it sure would've been nice!

  3. Paul, this blog is wonderful! Not only is it so cool that you are once again enjoying a family heirloom (!), but that you have chronicled it so well! You also should make a storybook of this, like on Shutterfly or Heritage Makers or one of those on-line sites. I really enjoyed reading this, seeing all the photos, and knowing how special those family memories are to you (I can relate, as in our Bearce family, I have been the one to make scrapbooks of our 20+ years of family reunions, which began with our parents' 40th anniversary.)
    I hope you, Tracy, and your family enjoy many more wonderful adventures in 'the ole' Rainbow'. I hope some of those adventures happen along with us in our 'Moklahoma' - named by Timmy, nextdoor neighbor. We, however, like to call it the 'Rollin' Ford', after the RV movie, in which Bob Monroe's kids named their's the 'Rollin' T...!' ROLL ON!!!
    Connie Bailey

  4. What a great story! And photos! I want that '69 Bronco!