Tourism, A Double-Edged Sword
The early Florida tourists and the business they brought proved to be a double-edged sword, since the pleasant weather also attracted those who had fallen on hard times up north. During the Great Depression, the State Legislators, concerned that such people would burden already-strained coffers, decided that the solution was to screen tourists trying to enter the state: visitors without adequate funds or steady jobs were turned away at the border by the state police.
How Tourism Begat Tourist Camps
Those travelers who did have money to spend were very welcome, and tourist camps expanded to accommodate the visitors. Some travelers tugged Airstream trailers behind them, but most tourists camped in tents that were either free standing or attached to the side of their cars. The fully equipped camps provided toilets and showers with hot and cold running water for the weary travelers. Besides being a safe place to take up residence for a few months, the parks offered entertainment in the recreation hall; tennis and other campground activities kept the tourists entertained outdoors.
Castles on Wheels, Tourism’s Early “House Cars”
In March, 1936, the newly married Mrs. Clarence Prentice (nee Etta Mae Daniels), a former resident of Arcadia, wrote to her sister, Emily Russ in Myakka City about the couples’ newly acquired “house car”. She describes the trailer as being a “little rig”, about 12 feet long and 8 feet wide, with linoleum on the floor inside.
On one side of the interior, a grocery and dish cupboard was nearest to the door; the pots and pans hung on the wall underneath. Next to it was a folding shelf that held a two-burner stove. Chairs sat on either side of a folding table in the back corner. A folding day bed was on the other wall, an upper cabinet with shelves for clothes in the back corner hung over the foot of the bed; a clothes closet (a curtain served as the door) was on the other end of the bed. Windows on three sides and a door at one end provided daylight and ventilation.
Yesterday’s Tin Can Tourist Park is Today’s City Mobile Home Park in Arcadia, FL
The portable homes were fully equipped, right down to the metal dinner dishes. In Arcadia, the City Mobile Home Park (then called the “Tin Can Tourist Park”) regularly held community picnics, called “tin pan” lunches because each attendee was expected to provide his or her own plate: the tin pan or plate from the kitchenette of their trailer.
Below is a picture of one such gathering, participants proudly holding their “tin pans” up for all to see.
Ben Snow (identified by the “x”), older brother of Etta Mae and Emily, and a resident of Arcadia at the time, in the food line of a tin pan lunch, hands in his pockets.