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calendar   Friday - July 24, 2015

The Big Green Beast

I founded it. Finally! Everything is on the internet, but some stuff is just harder to find.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you ... the summers of my childhood:

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We were campers, when camping wasn’t cool. Giant recreational vehicles? Phah, they didn’t even exist! Massive trailers with color TV, running water, and satellite hookups? Posh weekender crap for those spoiled city brats. We went camping. Intense. In tents! Ok, some softies did have those Coleman pop up trailers, the Apaches IIRC, and you did see the families out in the pickup truck camper insert. And they always seemed a bit cramped. Not us.

We had what was nearly a circus tent for the era. It certainly was the circus when we showed up: 2 adults and two kids, a dog, a fire engine red Coleman cooler, and a raffia picnic basket emerge from inside a 2 door 1967 VW Fastback. From high above the car’s roof, from a massive home made car top carrier comes down a heavy duty 18’ Grumman canoe, longer than the car itself, followed by this massive slab of folded canvas, followed by stoves, poles, paddles, sleeping bags, air mattresses, and whatnot. Food and cooking equipment came out of the front trunk onto the camp site’s picnic table, and in minutes was a functioning kitchen making a pot of coffee. Once the plastic ground cloth was out and the tent was loosely staked down, boxes, packs, and duffel bags of clothes came out of the back trunk and went into the rising tent. Main pole up and then the whole family goes fore and aft and raises the end poles at the same time. Hammer in the minor stakes, get the front tarp up. Set the tension in the back window. And we’re done. 15 minutes, tops. We were organized thank you. We could fully set up camp before people had figured out how our car worked. (tiny car, spacious interior, front trunk, rear trunk, no grill ... where’s the engine?? )

And our tent was huge, unlike anything anyone had ever seen. We had the best Hillary money could buy.

No, not her. Him. The real Hillary, Sir Edmund. By the time I was in 3rd grade or so, his name had become a brand name for the value line of outdoor products at Sears. In the same way, baseball great Ted Williams lent his name to the top of the line stuff there, because Sears wasn’t willing to slap a “Craftsman” label on everything.

So we had the big green beast. 8 feet wide, 15 feet long. But better than that, It was almost 6 feet tall at the end opening zipper door, and the roof pole sheath was over 8 feet off the ground. In other words, it was a tent adults could walk in to, and move around in, not squat and crawl.  The nearly vertical canvas walls maximized useful floorspace. It also had tons of room with that 8x15 footprint, giving plenty of room for 4 sleeping bags, packs, duffel bags, a laundry line, towels, and a place for the dog to sleep. Most of the time I think we also had a heavy plastic tarp, bright yellow, tied over the top. That helped when the rain came down in torrents ( to this day my ultimate degree of crazy downpour description is “it’s raining like we’re camping” ), but better than that it kept the acorns, leaves, and other grubby forest bits from making too big a mess.

The thing was awesome. And nearly unique. For whatever reason, I don’t think we ever saw anyone else in the same model tent. And this was at the height of the tent camping family vacation era. Maybe they didn’t advertise. Maybe Sears only pushed the little models. Hey, for all I know, the one pictured here is our tent. Keep it dry, give it a couple days of sunny airing every year, wax the zipper, and it ought to last nearly forever.




In the photo stream where I located this tent, the guy has his just standing in his yard. He hasn’t twigged that the flow thru ventilation window in the back is sleeved, which means you can adjust the poles to add some extra tension to the roof. You can see in the pictures that the happily striped window awnings are massively oversize and built to be reefed; you could tie them open, tie them closed, or tie them partly or even mostly open. Or attach light lines to pull them out to the side, thus ballooning out the side of the tent another foot and some, giving you even more interior volume. That way you got ventilation, protection from the elements, and privacy all at the same time. FTW !!  And the same thing goes for the front flap, a massive piece of canvas as big as the whole front panel of the tent. It was big enough to carefully cook under with the Coleman gas stove when it rained, and when we went out hiking or canoeing we could tie it down, which was kind of like locking your front door ... not that we ever needed to; in all the years of camping, from the blueberry barrens of northern Maine down the entire Atlantic seaboard, up and around into the Florida panhandle, we never once had any of our gear messed with. Well, not by people. Squirrels and raccoons, every night. Poisonous snakes, alligators, giant bears, and once wolves ... ah, I need a good scotch or three to tell those stories. Camping; it’s a adventure. Hey, have I mentioned the freakish rains?


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The one and only online source, with more pictures. He has a replacement bag for the poles. The original one folded over on the end like a duffel bag, and had a carry strap. As if you’d take this thing deep in the woods on a 3 day hike. Riiiiight.


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A Ted Williams tent from the same mid-60s era. It’s the same fabric, the same colors, and uses some of the same musically tuned aluminum poles*. But the cross poles aren’t sleeved so it isn’t as storm proof. And it’s a middle side entrance model with a lower ceiling, just like every other tent out there. Nice, but the only difference between this one and the Coleman was that the Coleman was blue.




* it’s true. The sound of a bag of aluminum poles being dumped on the ground carries for miles. Like the nearly explosive fwoooosh of the Coleman white gas stove lighting off, or the shrieking ghoulish double squeal, slam, Bumpbumpbum of an outhouse door slamming shut against rusty spring hinges, it is one of the sounds of camping etched into my soul.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 07/24/2015 at 01:35 AM   
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