This term was used in a discussion about a different topic, and I wanted to give it an airing of its own.  You see, my first online handle & screen name was "Trailer Trash".  I worked for a dozen years in the manufactured housing industry.  I started in the frame shop, worked through all of the departments in the plant, went out into the field as a service guy, came back to the office as service manager, and finally was the director of quality.  I've spent countless hours in courtrooms and at various civic meetings defending manufactured housing against exclusionary policies.

When I tired of the corporate scene I went back to my roots as a carpenter.  I was dismayed at how a typical traditional house was still assembled in such a slapdash manner.  Methods, materials and controls used wouldn't make it ten feet on a manufactured home assembly line, yet the homes cost much, much more, were less efficient and often less durable.  Yet the traditional house almost always gets preferential treatment in things like zoning.  A full set of code books for building a traditional house comprises 3 volumes -- two of them rather thin.  The code books for our manufactured housing plant filled an 8' long shelf.  If we changed brands of a fastener we had to get stamped engineering approval.  If we changed the color of drapes we had to have a flame spread analysis.  Inspectors from HUD would drop in unannounced a couple of times each year to evaluate our product and process.  My in-plant inspectors did full-coverage monitoring and had control over movement of the assembly line.  With a traditional house, a building inspector comes out about 4 times and usually does a cursory walk-around.  The most recent thing that a building inspector said to me, without really looking at anything much, was, "If you're happy I'm happy."  I'm glad that he had confidence in my work, but it shows where the burden of quality lies in traditional housing.  There's a huge space in which moral hazard can proliferate.

I eventually got too old to bang nails and didn't feel like supervising carpenters, and so went to architecture school.  I now sit on my butt and draw houses.  I can't remember when I last designed one that cost much less than a million bucks to build.  Dear Little Sister (who owns a successful engineering firm) lives in the mobile home that I had built for myself in our plant 29 years ago.  It's beautiful, and we're putting in new bamboo flooring next week.  I live next door in a 1971 8'x24' Airstream travel trailer.  It's my dream home -- just the right size.  I'm finishing up my copper clad kitchen while sitting and drawing ostentatious second McMansions.

Kris Kristofferson wrote:

Everybody's got to have somebody to look down on

Who they can feel better than at anytime they please.

Someone doin' somethin' dirty decent folk can frown on

If you can't find nobody else, then help yourself to me.

That's more or less what the term Trailer Trash implies -- simple classism.


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I understand your frustration, though I never took it literally. I've been among vintage RV  and homebrew vehicle enthusiasts who playfully referred to ourselves as 'trailer trash'

But the phrase has stuck around and expanded (Camaros are know as trailer park Ferraris).

[Looking to acquire a vintage Airstream Bambi, myself]

The term "trailer trash" used to be something smiled upon, but it went viral over the years, possibly with "trailer park" type movies and TV shows. Vehicles on jacks (or blocks) as a death trap in the all grown up yard, and more junk around than you could imagine. Images of ignorant people with one tooth come to mind and the "I'm better than you are" mentality runs rampant, hence the usage of the term.

I know people like this but I avoid them. Always have. I can talk your leg off but do not need or actively pursue your friendship. My neighbors have seen me doing yard work and drinking beer, but we are not pals. I keep to myself. The confusion sets in again when they see that for almost a years I'm leaving my home in what appears to be a cop uniform. Nobody is really sure what I do.

My street has mobile homes on one side and houses on the other. Last year the owner of multiple lots next to me on my side decided to build a 3 unit apartment building next to me. We became friends and he chose me to watch over his building as it was in progress. He even used some of my suggestions in the retaining wall area and cut some very big limbs for me.

As for my place itself, I live in a 16X66 1992 Clayton Homes Omega. It has metal skirting and when my parents had this place they put a $4000 professional metal roof over it. That means my roof is like the commercial buildings that you see. Inside the master bedroom is one of the biggest that I've ever had in any house or mobile. These days I just keep that room closed off and live in the rest of it. None of my computer toys were in that bedroom anyway and it saves on the heating bill.

I've had people tell me that I had better watch out or my pipes will freeze in the winter. I don't even let faucets drip. If it's all done properly my water pipes have no more chance of freezing than anyone else. It's as if some people think we are ready always to be pulling these things around to a new location. That idea in itself is laughable.

This is Dear Li'l Sis's place -- a 1986 14x70 single wide mobile home..  Its a bit junky in front because of ongoing construction.

I had that house built when I was quality manager in the plant, and thus the Enemy.  It was the first time that anyone working there built their own house.  Management wouldn't let me use our engineering & design resources, so I had to do all of that myself, including paying for outside engineering approval for several innovations that the plant later used.  They forbid the accounting department from providing cost estimates, so I dug through trash cans after hours and figured that out too.  They told all of the line foremen to take a break and not supervise their crews while my house was going through.  Some did, some didn't.  Most of the workers didn't want to work on my house because I was the son of a bitch that held them up and kept them from making more money by pushing through trash.  It was also very different and required them to think about things in a culture of "the way we've always done it".

I had a regular job as head of quality, and couldn't ethically pay more attention to my house than to the others.  Luckily, Dear Li'l Sis, who now owns the thing, was on break from engineering school and was able to shepherd the house through the line.  She pretty much supervised most of the departments as they built it.  At the end of the line I had to evaluate and sign off on it just as I did every other house.  It got gigged and delayed more than did most simply because the conditions of it's construction introduced more faults than usual.  Part of that was because of its unusual design, but a large part was due to the intransigence of management who saw me as their corporate bottleneck, which I was.

The typical single-wide trailer of the day had 2x6 spruce floor joist, 2x4 wall studs, 2x6 rafters or 2x2 trusses, all 24" on center.  This one had 2x8 #1 yellow pine floor joists (involving higher nail gun pressures, for which I had to get engineering approval), 2x6 wall studs, and 2x10 #2 yellow pine rafters, all 16" O.C. and all aligned in a modular grid.  I had to make all of the cutting lists, including length, angle of cut and placement of each member down to interior paneling, and fastening schedules for the new processes (which also required engineering approval).

It was an interesting experience that resulted in a good house that stands today as perhaps the pinnacle of mobile home quality, if I do say so myself.


That is a very nice looking place, Ted.

Thanks Michael, it is quite nice. You should see the inside with 10' vaulted knotty pine ceilings, big oak beams, granite countertops, bamboo floors going in now, etc.  I originally designed it to be added onto, and Dear Li'l Sis has done a nice job of that.  It's gone from the original 980 sq. ft. to over 1,700, not including the beautiful timber framed front porch and carport.  The carport floor itself is a work of art, with geometrically scribed concrete stained to look like leather.


Here's what Sis & I built around a 12'x20' prefab storage building (the part on the right, behind the stair).  When she moved here she needed quick storage space, and had the box built and dumped.  Added to it now is a 1,700 sq. ft. woodshop with some awesome tools and a very nice little apartment above.

Note the long cantilever on the left side of the loft porch.  That was needed for pickup truck clearance.  I'm an architect and Sis is an engineer, and so that's no oversight.  The floor joists go 14' back into the structure, and the roof beam on that side comprises double 9.5" LVLs running the whole length.  The porch corner is suspended from that beam on a cable inside a fake wood column.  The math works, and so far the porch works too.

    Here you see only the roof of my place and my carport as I put super antennas on my tower. I have much better pics of the mobile but cannot find them right now. Lots of trees around so my tower tops out at 35 feet for the top antenna. Later I can post the apartment building to the right of this picture. The opposite side of the street is all houses.

    Here is my place with pic taken from the neighbor's yard across the street. Just had my driveway graveled again and have since trimmed the tree in front of my mobile. It was way too bushy. Look closely and you can see the $4000 over roof which is attached to the main and about 6 inches high. This makes my inside temperatures very nice. It's a home and not a sweatbox.

This is my little place.  The only thing that could be finer is if it were not in Carolina, but back home in the Rockies where I belong.  Getting close to finishing a complete gut & re-do of the interior with pine, oak, birch and copper cabinetry, all new plumbing, some new electrical, lighting, drapes, paint, and flooring maybe next month -- all while living in it and working from a four figure income.  All of the materials except for a few pieces of plywood and some lights were gleaned for free from remodeling projects of others -- one of the benefits of working in the house building industry.

Since it's pretty hard to keep an old Airstream from leaking, I'd like to eventually build a pole barn style structure over it and maybe a room off the front where I'd have space for a rocking chair, a guitar and a woodstove.


    Here is the apartment unit next door to me. These 3 units rent for about $600 each. You can see my back porch and part of my yard to the retaining wall. My back yard (not visible) is big enough to put a small garden in. Such is life in a small town of 1,600 people. 10 miles from me is a town of 32,000 people and in the other direction 5 miles one of that much or more. St. Louis, Mo. is an hour away from me just up I-44 highway.




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