By Kelly Vaughn | Photograph by Jacques Barbey
The Twilight Zone premiered in 1959. So did Bonanza and Rawhide. Marilyn Monroe starred in Some Like It Hot that year, too. Alaska was admitted to the union. Fidel Castro rose to power in Cuba. In short, 1959 was kind of a big deal.
Years before that, though — shortly after World War II — a man named Don Boles started building riveted-aluminum, lightweight travel trailers in his garage in California and named his fledgling company Boles-Aero. Today, a 1959 edition of his brainchild is one of the nine trailers available for overnight stays at Bisbee’s Shady Dell vintage trailer court.
When it opened in 1927, the Shady Dell was a destination for adventurers along U.S. Route 80, which ran in a snaking line from the Georgia coast to San Diego. The tree-lined property was a campground, really — a wide spot on the road where people could pull in, spend the night and move on.
Over the years, though, the park has evolved into a major draw, both for trailer enthusiasts and for tourists looking for a hot take on travel lodging. Although the trailers are vintage, they’re full of unexpected amenities.
When I visited over the New Year’s holiday, I was surprised to find coffee makers (in the form of percolators), cookies and bottled water. That sweet little Boles-Aero had a kitchen and fridge, an old television and a VCR stocked with old movies. There were even a few issues of Arizona Highways from the 1950s and ’60s. It was — as the saying goes — boss.
“Staying at the Shady Dell is like sleeping in a living museum,” owner Justin Luria says. “That’s the appeal. You can touch and feel all of the antiques. You can really experience them. It’s like spending the night in a vintage store.”
Luria, who purchased the property 10 years ago this fall, has made minor changes over the years, including renovations to the men’s and women’s restrooms — not all of the trailers have private baths — and a few paint touch-ups.
Sadly, Dot’s Diner, the beloved trailer that dished up breakfast, lunch and dinner, closed three years ago. But it will soon become a concession stand for the outdoor movie viewings the Shady Dell hosts.
“We have so many visitors, young and old,” Luria says. “There’s something about each of the trailers, about the experience, that everyone falls in love with.”
The Shady Dell is located at 1 Douglas Road in Bisbee. For more information, call 520-432-3567 or visit www.theshadydell.com.