I grew up in a trailer park in Clear Lake, Iowa. Where I come from, they were not called “mobile homes,” they are called trailers. Deal. This is not to say that they were trashy. The park where I lived was nice, mostly families with kids and older people. I don’t recall a ton of trouble or issues that people generally associate with such places. It was just a low cost way of living in rural Iowa. We did not have an address, it was “Rural Route 1.” That was it.
The trailer itself was a mustard yellow color, with brownish red shutters and trim, with white skirting material underneath. You see, trailers do not sit on foundations. They sit something like 6 feet off the ground, and there are utility hookups underneath. Whenever we would get a bad storm, the skirting came loose and blew around the neighborhood. We would have to go hunt for it and put it back.Luckily, it never blew too far. We had a wooden set of stairs and a little deck in front of the front door that provided the main access. There was a back door with cheap cement steps behind it. however, for some reason, we rarely used it, and my dad got mad when I opened it. To this day I have no idea why.
There were roads all through the park, and I remember riding around with them on my bike many an’ hour, feeling the wind whipping through my hair, carefree. In those days, there wasn’t a ton of supervision once you got to the age where you could ride around and not need helpl with every little thing. As long as Dad knew where I was, or that we were biking in the park, that was fine. My friends and I would play at each other’s homes, or in one of the few open lots in the park, where there were trees and open space. I remember once, in about third grade, I got “married” to my boyfriend at the time, who was named Nick I believe. Ah, youth.
At the end of the trailer park was a kinda crappy goofy golf (mini-golf for you not acquainted with the term) course. The kind where its mostly just ramps and little curves built by some dude in his garage. It wasn’t the fancy type where there were windmills and lions’ mouths and shit. I remember wanting to play and my dad and I went a time or two, but I remember him saying that it was expensive, and so we didn’t go that much. I think it must have been part of or near a resort on the lake, because I recall there being a little lodge/snackbar thing there too.
Our park was directly across the highway from Clear Lake. A fairly nice and sizeable lake, it was clean and we would wander over and spend time on the beach and swimming in the water. I remember once stepping on a dead fish and having to limp back home to clean the nasties out of the cut and OMG did that hurt.
Up the road from our park was a hobby farm owned by my dad’s friend Gene. They raised miniature horses, and I would go and watch them. I think when I was little I even got to ride them.
Living in a rural area, we always had AMAZING sweet corn in the late summer, and pork, being that Iowa is a huge pork producing state. My dad wasn’t much of a cook, but we got by on a lot of canned foods and basic midwestern fare of meat and fried potatoes.
Downtown Clear Lake wasn’t all that exciting back then, but I remember in the center of town was the local bakery, and whenever it was open, the whole downtown area smelled like donuts or cake. We would go downtown to go to the bank or to the little town grocery store, and I have never forgotten that particular scent memory. The bank is still there, but the town has become a little more touristy with cutesey little shops and restaurants and the like.
There was also an old movie theatre in town with only one screen. It was called the “Lake” theatre (points for originality, NOT). I remember it being cheap, and once you paid, they didn’t pay much attention to how many showings you went to. The theatre had a main floor of old seats,and a small balcony for seating as well. When I was in about third grade, my best friend Janice and I would buy a ticket and hide up in the balcony and watch a movie several times. We were usually alone, and the theatre usually wan’t too full during the day when we would go. It felt like we had this special place to ourselves. The place smelled like popcorn, fake butter, dust and age, and I loved it. It is still open to this day.
Down the street was a drugstore with an old style soda fountain/lunch counter and ice cream shop. I didn’t go there much, and the place was still open until about a year ago when it finally closed. It reminds me now of the old soda fountain in the Andy Griffith Show. Clear Lake was a lot like Mayberry in some ways.
After my parents split up, she moved to an apartment above a bar where she worked in downtown Clear Lake. Across the street was a city park on the lake with a playground with all the old dangerous equipment. You know, the shit made out of splintery wood or old railroad ties, and stainless steel slides that burned yours ass in the summer? Like an old-style merry-go-round that could work up serious g-forces, and another sort of merry go round that looked like the cap of a mushroom, and each person had their own little indented area to ride on.
I remember at the time my mom had a man in her life, not sure if it was a boyfriend or just a male friend, and he was french. I cannot remember his face, but I remember his accent to this day. You don’t see too much of that in rural Iowa. I remember he used to bring me those weird 80’s pop beads that you could connect together to make wonky bracelets, and we would all hang out. He was probably her boyfriend, but I have no idea.
I lived in this place until I was 11, when we had to move because of my dad’s work. I still go back and visit sometimes. I am thankful for this wonderful place, and the salt of the earth nature I gained from it. Thanks for taking this little trip down memory lane with me.