The Good Old Days in Tiny Housing

Dave who is a big follower of the tiny house movement and a historical buff, sent me some cool links and neat information about the old days of the tiny house movement.

Here is what Dave has to say:

Back before Jay Shafer got online you had Lester Walkers books and a couple guys who also had wheels under their homes…


There was Mr. Sharkey

be sure to browse the section entitled 1963 Crown housetruck, the rear door entryway pictures
and than there was Roger Beck…

That’s an article about him and here’s his website…

I’m sending this one cause his book is not in your book section and really does fit into the tiny house concept. Now if I could just find my old copy of water squatters…

Oh also… Lloyd Kahn of Shelter Publications is currently at work on a new book of tiny houses so keep an eye on the shelterpub site...


I’ve got half a mind that I want to write some sort of an an historical article/opinion/ I’m not sure what I’m after exactly… in the meantime I’m content to spend literally hours following the links off of your site and those like it.

I’ve been following this stuff since the mid seventies starting with of course The Whole Earth Catalog and stuff like the Boericke and Shapiro Books and even the old Rolling Homes book by Jane Lidz… which incidentally now goes for over a hundred bucks when you can find it! Roger Beck’s Some Turtles book has that old rag beat by a mile by the way. I’d love to hear Roger’s perspective on the way this small house on wheels thing has taken off.

An interesting point in the evolution of this whole thing is the way it started with the gypsies and the hippies and now it’s transformed itself with of course Jay’s “fresh” perspective and these get by with less times.

One of the pains for the housetruckers was they were never allowed in the RV parks cause they didn’t want any dang hippie buses of course. Pull into an RV park with a sustain mini-home though and you’d be the talk of the town. I know that’s a concept stretch by a bit but I think you can probly see where my half baked idea is trying to go with this. The other side of the no hippie trucks thing is that Roger’s last truck was used as an example in an alternative architectural studies course.

I’ll be especially interested to see where Kahn takes the concept with his next book just cause for me he’s the grandaddy of the whole shelter journalism thing in the first place…

Any how I’ll tune in again soon and I’ll let you know when I can dredge up more of the old stuff. The Water Squatters book I mentioned was I think a late sixties or early seventies perspective of the Sausalito houseboats, and as I recall there was some pretty good small house building ideas in the photos…

Thanks Dave for your perspective and I look forward to hearing more from you in the future about old time tiny houses and houseboats.

© 2009 written by Kent Griswold Tiny House Blog



Photo by Rober Elzey
From the book Some Turtles Have Nice Shells
From the book Some Turtles Have Nice Shells

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24 thoughts on “The Good Old Days in Tiny Housing”

    • It sure would, worth doing some digging to find out if anyone has done it. I know there are bus conversions out there and I plan on finding a good one to put on the blog. Anyone know of a double-decker bus conversion?

  1. I remember in November of 2002 driving south from St Louis seeing a truck like one of these pulling two trailers, the second one a small boat. There was so many trappings on the outside of the truck and in the trailers that I was amazed it was even rolling down the highway. Quite a memorable sight.

  2. Thanks Kent.

    I was just wondering a few days ago which Tiny House site I should send that link to and here you post all the cool housetrucks, answering the question for me.

    I have “Some Turtles Have Nice Shells” and a first (and only) edition of “Rolling Homes,” but my all time favorite book of classic RVs is “Mobile Mansions” by Douglas Keister. You can find it cheap on Amazon.

    If I find any other cool vehicles of the genre I’ll pass them along.

  3. Lloyd Alter is selling his Sustain MiniHome right now for 100k. It’s the original, the prototype. It’s being advertised in the below-fold ad space on (shares space with one other company, so reload page if you don’t see the ad right away).

    The house is in immaculate condition and has been upgraded.

  4. Thanks for letting me know about the link, it appears they have shut the site down and are just doing a blog now. I’ll change the link as soon as I can…Kent

  5. Housetrucking is still alive and well in NZ! I dont think we will ever stop as its a lovely way to live and cheap too. It is getting far too expensive to buy property here in NZ unless you take out a large mortgage. My partner Hannah and I are building our third housetruck now and will one day buy a plot of land to park it on.

    Anyway- here is a link to our housetruck build- we have just finished putting the ceiling up…

    BTW- we both think small housing is the way to go- not because we are hippys or anything like that- it just makes plain sense to us!


    • Love the pictures of the old truck home! A few questions, what were the dimensions of that house? What kind of heat shielding were you using around the stove and how did that work out for you? I’ve been told to keep the stove 12 inches from even the wall with heat shielding….in such a small space this poses some problems, like possibly running into the stove because it juts out into the walkway too far!
      Also how easy was it to heat the space, did you have insulation?
      Would like to hear some experiences from people using wood stoves as this seems less common in houses on wheels. As i grew up with a wood stove i have little desire to switch over to propane!

  6. I love the design in the second picture (stovepic4567). Could you share where you found it? I’d love to find out more about it, with the idea of building one.

  7. Hi Kent,
    I was wondering when someone would mention those “Rolling Homes”. We saw a lot of them in the 70’s. Plenty of people had made over school buses and lived and traveled in them too. I often wonder where they are now (homes and the people). Probably most settled in Northern Ca in the shelter of the Redwoods. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear from some owner who was featured in the RH book?
    I have one of those original books Yippee.

  8. I love the look and quality of House Trucks

    i never did care too much for Psychedelic painted drapery & beads covered hippie buses

    there really is a big difference in the quality the craftsmanship and look of the too styles of vehicles

    its a real shame, the campground operators could not distinguish the difference


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