The Amazing 13′ Boler

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

Made by joining two molded fiberglass 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 lb

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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

Boler Camping Trailers – Winnipeg and Canadian success story

by Tom McMahon, February 2016 (boler owner since 2012)

Note: this is a summary of information from various sources, including Winnipeg Free Press and Manitoba Business Journal article, obituaries for Ray Olecko and Sandor Dusa, and articles and summaries by Thomas Alan Gray, Jamie McColl, Levonne Gaddy and numerous contributions from various individuals posting to fiberglassrv.com, including a posting from Corrine Dusa, Sandor Dusa’ s widow. I have also spoken with the Evelands (Scamp trailers) and Joe Thoen (trilliumtrailers.com). I invite any additional information or corrections at: tom.mc [at] shaw.ca.

The year 2018 will be the 50th anniversary of the creation of the famous boler ultralight fiberglass trailer – the “egg on wheels” – which was invented and manufactured in Winnipeg, Manitoba. A cross-country boler caravan is being proposed, to converge on Winnipeg, in 2018 to celebrate the 50th anniversary. See myboler.com for details.

The boler was manufactured and sold between 1968 and 1988, and approximately 10,000 units were sold. Although there were earlier fiberglass trailers in North America, it is the boler that is credited with inspiring numerous manufacturers to create nearly identical trailers. As the baby boomers get tired of camping in tents, or are searching for a low-cost trailer for their retirement years, or hobbyists find a new muse from their childhood memories, or as the price of gas continues to increase, taking larger RV’s off the road, the boler and its imitators are increasing in popularity again. 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 fiberglass RV owners to exchange restoration ideas and how-to information, buy and sell their trailers, show off their marvelous eggs and arrange for fiberglass meet-ups around North America. Check out fiberglassrv.com .

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

Ray Olecko was born in Lamont, Alberta in 1930. He started boxing in his teens and went on to box in the Golden Gloves Amateur Championship. He did not finish grade 9. He spent three years in the Canadian Air Force in Ontario, Quebec and Labrador, but the love of his life was always design. He had many designs patented and the first was a fiberglass sling shot that he sold worldwide.

Olecko became interested in fiberglass and designed a septic tank for Structural Glass.

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 fiberglass. He never made any drawings, but carried the design around in his head.

Olecko asked Sandor Dusa to help him create the trailer. Sandor Dusa was born August 3, 1934 in Karcag, Hungary and immigrated to Canada in 1956.

Olecko simply drew out the basic lines of the trailer on a large piece of cardboard mounted on the wall and said to Sandor, “make it like this.” The bed-and-two bunks configuration was specifically designed for Olecko’s family of four (two daughters, Tammy and Aileen).

Sandor asked where are the specifications and Ray replied that was why he was approaching Sandor. So Sandor, being a master at what he did, looked and calculated. Finally he came up with specifications and started making the mold.

Seeing possibilities in the new trailer, Olecko and Dusa mortgaged their homes for $5,000 start-up capital and began producing the 13-foot four-berth trailer in an old Winnipeg warehouse. Dusa was the vice president and mold maker. He 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. Dusa passed away on April 26, 2013.

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 the 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 says 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.

The first 100 units were made with a flat roof, but Olecko realized that he could create more headroom by adding the arched extension to the roof. Subsequent models also had the arched roof which, together with rounded ends, gave the boler its “egg” shape.

Olecko was looking for an unusual name for the trailer, and thinking that the trailer looked a little like a bowler hat, he decided on boler. He 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.

A little-known and I assume merely coincidental 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 bowler hat for a name. Some would say that the boler trailer is a trailer that won the west.

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. 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 fiberglass 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 design. It appears that Olecko and Dusa may not have filed a patent 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., that there is a third shareholder, Irwin Krieg, 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 30,000 sq. ft. facility on Dufferin Street.

A boler ad appeared in the Free Press on August 16, 1969 and said that 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,” stating that the company started with the mortgages of their homes to raise $5,000 and today the company has annual sales exceeding $500,000. The article 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) detailed some achievements of the company:

1000 bolers produced in Winnipeg and Grand Prairie
1971 Sales reached half a million dollars
Eleanor International of Wichita KS signed on to produce bolers in three plants
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).

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 molds 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. In 1981, Don Eveland, having left the family business, began the Casita line and built the first Casita trailer, based on the boler mold.[1]

An article in the Oelwein Daily Register appeared November 27, 1971, reporting that Eleanor International Inc. of Wichita Kansas was purchasing Iowa Portable Mill Mfg. Co. which was located in Oelwein, Iowa. “Boler American” was a subsidiary of Eleanor 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 Eleanor International. Eleanor Intl. employees came to Winnipeg to train at the boler plant.

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 similar numbers at the other sites. Eco and Love Bug both started in 1972 and made Boler Americans. When Boler American failed, they decided to use the molds 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 Jacinto, California from 1974 to 1990.

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

Neonex had considerable experience, producing the Travelaire, Holidaire, Triple E, Rustler and Otto brand RVs. Neonex Leisure shifted production to Calgary and in 1979 introduced a 17’ version of the boler that was not as successful as the original 13’ model. Olecko felt that his design was severely compromised. 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 1979. Jim Pattison Inc., the owner of Neonex, still holds the boler trademark and the registration is still “live,” registration number TMA170511.[2]

Boler trailers live on today, under different names and companies. Their direct descendants still operating are: Scamp (Backus, Minnesota) and Casita (now its own company operating out of Rice, Texas) are still manufacturing light-weight fiberglass 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 mold for the popular trailer he began to reproduce it more modernly, and that’s why we have the Outback today!” trilliumtrailers.com/team-trillium/ (accessed November 18, 2015)

Another company with a connection to Trillium Trailers, and to Manitoba, is 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.”  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. 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!

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.

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 thieves 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. You can listen to this lovely tune here: https://soundcloud.com/kerilatimer/chop-shop

Here are the lyrics:

‘check out those two hippies!’

oh the people they would shout

we don’t mind, we don’t mind

we enjoyed

 

take the pleasure take the pleasure

send her not to a chop shop

 

a bird a hill a festival a celebration

god damn snow is long gone long gone 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, 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![3]

 

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 information is based on telephone calls and visits to the Scamp/Eveland company in Backus MN and final confirmation from Kent Eveland via email January 13, 2016.

[2] The Jim Pattison Group reviewed and approved this text via email from Maureen Chant, January 12, 2016.

[3] http://www.kerilatimer.com and http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/entertainment/arts/Winnipeg-musician-records-ode-to-stolen-trailer-128597968.html and http://www.cbc.ca/manitoba/scene/music/2011/08/29/a-bolers-lament/ (all accessed January 12, 2016); see also the “Egg on Wheels” video

 

7 Responses

  1. Brian
    | Reply

    Although listed in the FiberglassRV.com thread about Bolers as “San Jacito”, I think you’ll find that the city which was the home of Perris Pacers is called San Jacinto”.

    • Ian
      | Reply

      Thank you Brian
      I will update my site and pass the correction onto Tom the author of the history article

  2. Paul Williams
    | Reply

    Fascinating. Great work, Tom! And thanks for posting it, Ian.

  3. Barbara Simmons
    | Reply

    Very informative, thanks Ian for the valuable history lesson! 🙂 My 1972 Boler has an oval label on the front and the back under the large windows that says ‘boler American Wichita”, does that indicate it was one of the last Bolers made in America? I assumed it was made in Wichita, Kansas… since that’s what it says on the labels, where do you suppose my little glass egg was hatched?

  4. Jack Hagen
    | Reply

    I have one and am using it,, i believe that the date shown on the cubbart door say’s 1957,
    i am planning on painting the outside this summer,the interior upholsterie is redone i need info to reglue the ceiling lining

    • Ian
      | Reply

      It would be impossible for it to be a Boler, they were not produced until 1968.
      Could it be that the print on the information sheet on the cupboard door is faded or smudged?
      I’d love to see a picture of the spec sheet and the outside of your trailer, send it to 1974Boler [at] gmail [dot] com

      Ian

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