There are several great vintage “glass eggs,” and all have their unique strengths and weaknesses, style and personality. My favorite vintage make is the Canadian Boler, the originator of the Ultra-lights. The Boler is nearly perfect in style and function, with a timeless, bold shape.

Here is a great history of the Boler:

History of the Boler Travel Trailer – Updated 2018 Version
Compiled by Rob Sheele – Planet Bolerama RV Trailer Group

Ray Olecko was born in Lamont, AB. He started boxing in his teens and went on to box in the Golden Gloves Amateur Championship. He spent three years in the Air Force in Ontario, Quebec and Labrador. He was an avid sportsman. Hunting and fishing was a passion and he spent his happiest times in Manitoba’s forests and lakes. At around 30 years old Olecko worked at Motor Sales Used Car Centre at 951 Portage Avenue Winnipeg as a car salesman.

Two years later at 32 he would design a slingshot for hunting enthusiasts of which he was one. The slingshot was his very first design and marketable invention. Slingshots were still very popular in the 1960s with companies like Wammo selling them and distributing them worldwide. But Olecko’s slingshot design was a brand new introduction to the market. Rather than making it from a standard wood material, Olecko decided to make his slingshot out of a fibreglass resin epoxy material instead. He would also give it an ergonomic design and shape to comfortably fit the hands of the user. One could order a left -hand model, or a right-hand model. This was quite exciting and revolutionary to the sportsman marketplace and it made Olecko’s slingshot wildly popular. The very earliest known advertisement that Olecko publically placed for his Boler Slingshot appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper on July 20th, 1963 on page 49. The ad hailed, “Most fantastic slingshot ever designed, powerful rubber bands shoot half ounce slug through quarter inch plywood.” It sold for $3.95. Following a year of filling orders worldwide, Olecko then filed a patent for his Boler slingshot in July of 1964 to protect his winning design.

In 1963 he formed and registered a small company to start mass producing his slingshots. The name he chose for his new slingshot company was *Boler Manufacturing Company.

*Note: The Olecko family revealed in 2018 that Ray Olecko came up with the unique name ‘Boler’ after thinking about what to name his slingshot and his manufacturing company. To Olecko, his slingshot invention reminded him of a ‘Bolas’ which is a type of throwing sling used for hunting and is common to South America. A marketing person at the time advised Olecko that the Bolas name should have two-syllables to make it more attractive and marketable sounding. So, Olecko decided to drop the ‘a’ and ‘s’ from Bolas and replace these letters with ‘e’ and ‘r’. Thus the name ‘Boler’ was born and would be the product brand name for both the slingshot company and later on, the trailer company. 

In 1966 he found himself working for a company called Structural Glass Ltd., a Winnipeg company which started operations in 1961 and manufactured septic tanks. While employed there, Olecko came up with the idea for a unique fibreglass septic tank design which was patented in 1966 and it was assigned exclusively to Structural Glass Ltd. It was there at Structural Glass in early 1968 while making septic tanks that Olecko first got the idea for a travel trailer. While working there he met a fibreglass mold maker named Sandor Dusa. Olecko asked Dusa to help him build a four-berth travel trailer for his own family to use. “I wanted a small trailer that had some of the comforts of home; a fridge, stove and sink, plus some cupboard space he said. So with Dusa’s help and with precise calculations and measurements, they first built a wooden mock- up of the trailer and later a fibreglass prototype. “When we had completed it after three months”, said Olecko, “I saw that we had a unique unit which would appeal to the small family and small car owner. At this point we decided to go into production.” Seeing what they believed to be a good investment, the two Winnipeggers then mortgaged their homes and made bank loans to raise $5, 000 in order to start their new and unique travel trailer manufacturing business.

In June of 1968 Olecko and Dusa set up a small 4,000 sq. ft. plant on Higgins Avenue in Winnipeg and went into production. Olecko headed the company as its President with Dusa as Vice President, both were working partners. With a total of eight employees they eventually began to turn out about three units per week in the first year. Olecko explained that part of the process of making the Boler trailer involved layers of fibreglass material being 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, said Olecko, has four times the strength of steel of the same weight. It also makes the unit light 800 pounds or about half the weight of a comparably-sized trailer. It’s practically unbreakable, leak- proof, and, because it’s fabricated as a single unit, will not loosen up, he explained. He added that 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 is fitted out. Olecko believed the trailer would not only appeal to the small average-income family or small car owner, but will become popular as well with, hunters and fishermen, he an avid hunter. Most trailers he said are punched full of holes from tree branches when taken into the woodlands.

The demand for the trailers caused the company to quickly outgrow its premises on Higgins Avenue, so it took on another partner; a man named Irwin Krieg, and in November, 1969 moved its operations to larger premises of 8,000 square-feet (source: Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper archive) at 770 Dufferin Avenue (popular history stories on-line suggest the square footage was 30,000 square-feet which is debatable). From the new plant, with now 25 employees, Boler tripled production and produced more than 300 units a year, plus fibreglass truck camper roofs which were used by local companies building truck campers. “We’re the only company in North America producing fibreglass trailers said Olecko.”There’s been such a demand for the trailer that we can’t hope to manufacture many more than those needed in our immediate market area. We’re now setting up several franchise manufacturers who will produce the trailers in both the United States and other parts of Canada”, he said. Production increased steadily. Approximately 200 units or more were produced from when the company started operations in June 1968 up until the year end 1969. It’s reported in previous on-line history stories that another 400-500 were produced in 1970, however these numbers haven’t been verified.. Boler manufacturing produced 1000 bolers in the year 1971. By the end of 1971 the company had annual sales exceeding $500,000 with franchises sold to companies in Peace River, Alberta and in Earlton, Ontario, where the last Boler was produced in 1988. Approximately 1000 Bolers where produced in Winnipeg and Grand Prairie and in total, approximately 10,000 Boler branded trailers were manufactured and sold in North America. Boler trailers live on today, under different names and companies. Their direct descendants are Scamp, Trillium and Casita all still manufacturing light-weight fiberglass trailers that started with Boler and Boler American.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see our idea revolutionize the trailer industry” – Ray Olecko Feb. 12th 1969 Winnipeg Free Press.

Did the visionary inventor from Winnipeg see what the future would have in store for small fibreglass trailer designs in the 21st century? When asked in a 1969 interview what the company’s future plans are, Olecko said, “We’re now working on a design which will use the present shape of the trailer but will hold a snowmobile and still have sleeping space. The trailer will have a ramp leading into a door in the rear of the unit. The bunks would fold down from the side walls to conceal the snowmobile. There’d still be a dining and kitchen area.” The trailer would be for snowmobile enthusiasts and hunters he imagined.

(Editor’s note: In previous accounts of history it has been reported that the Boler name was uniquely given to the trailer around 1968 because it resembled a bowler hat. However, it should be considered that the Boler name goes back as early as 1963 with the company’s first registration date and the launch of its very first product, the Boler Slingshot. The first use of the Boler name was used by Ray Olecko five years before his trailer idea was conceived. However it should be noted that the trailer once designed and built, did remind the inventor of a bowler hat because of its shape.The reader should decide.)

Here are some images of the original Boler marketing brochures:

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About the Happier Camper HC1

I first fell in love with classic trailers early on, watching my father carefully restore these campers in our own backyard. A few years ago I borrowed a fiberglass trailer from him and I fell in love all over again. I started taking the trailer out on weekends and visiting parts of California that I never knew existed. I was amazed at how comfortable, easy and efficient the trailer was, and that there were so many places where I could just pull it in, set up camp, and wake up to a beautiful sunrise. As my bond with the little trailer grew, I started restoring other vintage trailers and soon found myself with a driveway full of these egg-shaped campers. Happier Camper Rentals is the result of this; renting new and restored vintage ultra-light trailers with an emphasis on camper-friendly design, utility, flexibility and above all, fun!

It’s been a few years since we began working on the HC1, our first production trailer. This unique trailer is inspired by classic design but packed with modern functionality. Through our rental business we spent years reconditioning vintage trailers and taking note of the features that made them great. By adopting the best parts and adding a few new ideas of our own, we’ve designed and built what we think is a distinct and remarkably useful travel trailer. We’ve come a long way and are thrilled to share the results with you.

This is just the introduction to the HC1. There is much more on the way to share and build with you.

Summer 2015

 

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Fiberglass RV Forum

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There are lots of great stories about these little trailers on the Fiberglass RV Forum.