The Puget Sound See Gulls Trailer Club once did lots of seeing. Once or twice a month the families boarded their motor homes and travel trailers and set off for the ocean, Skagit County, Death Valley, Mount Vernon and even Tahiti. Once there they had cook-outs, played games and held dress-up contests.
The once 75-family-strong club was also active outside their trailers. The club took a train to a Wenatchee candy factory, a boat to the Skagit River’s Diablo Dam and fishing boats to the coastal town of Westport. Members also often attended plays at Carco Theater.
“We had a good time, didn’t we?” LoRayne Kerr asks her fellow club members while looking at old photos at a recent See Gulls meeting.
“Made a lot of lasting friendships,” adds Lorenne Davis.
This Saturday, the club will gather for its 50th anniversary and remember all the sights the members have seen.
The club is marking the anniversary a year early, because of the advancing age of the members.
Kerr and her late husband Tom were early See Gulls members. A group at Pacific Car and Foundry Co. started the traveling club in 1959. Seven couples attended that first meeting. Membership soon grew to 39 families. Shortly after the 1962 incorporation, the Gulls limited membership to 75 families, still making it one of the largest trailer clubs in Washington. The Gulls were affiliated with Travel Trailer Clubs of America, and then Good Sam Club.
Although the See Gulls was once a group of all ages, most members are getting up there in years, and few travel anymore. The club took a a couple trips a month last year, but has yet to go anywhere this year. Of the 18 or so active members, about five still have RVs.
But the See Gulls are still active. They gather three times a month, once for “Dine and Deal” — lunch and card games, once for “Sew and Crow” — sewing for the gals, lunch for the guys — and once for the business meeting.
“We still have a lot of fun,” says Shirley Groom.
Sixteen or so See Gulls were gathered at a members’ house for a recent “Dine and Deal.” A group of white and gray haired people played Mexican Train Dominoes in the living room and another group cards in a back room.
“You can see by their ages why a lot of them don’t travel anymore,” says Groom, 73, of Renton. A former wagon master (trip organizer) for the club, Groom joined See Gulls in the early ‘90s.
Groom’s husband James is also a member. The two still take out their 34-foot-long motor home — a Bounder — at least once a month, to the ocean or La Conner.
Kerr is another active See Gull. The 88-year-old and her two daughters and grandson live in a Lacey mobile-home park open only to owners of the round, aluminum Airstream RVs.
“We still travel,” the former Renton resident says.
The family takes off this month for an Airstream rally in Bozeman, Mont.
But Groom and Kerr are in the minority. Most Gulls no longer do much RVing.
Lorenne Davis has quit traveling in her Silver Streak motor home. She became a See Gull in the late ‘60s.
“My husband died about 18 years ago — that finished that,” says Davis, 87, of South Park. “I drive, but not with a trailer.”
Groom’s father, Charles Allen Ptolemy Sr., is also through with RVing. He sold his Bull’s Arrow RV three years ago. He and his wife Doris joined the See Gulls in 1960.
“I figured I was too old for driving,” the 95-year-old Kent resident says. Doris is 96.
The Ptolemys cycled through several RVs during their traveling years.
“I started with a smaller one, then in the next two years got a bigger one, and the next year a bigger one,” Ptolemy says.
Ptolemy has five notebooks detailing See Gulls journeys.
The club traveled to the first destination in a group, from Renton Memorial Stadium to Tokeland, near Ocean Shores. But the 20-odd trailers got to be too much, and the group required a police escort just to get out of town. Families traveled separately after that.
Most arrived Friday night and left Sunday afternoon. Weekends included horseshoes, card games, potluck dinners, Come As You Are breakfasts and tolilet-paper-rolling and make-a-hat contests. Sunday morning was church.
Each weekend had a theme. Like European Holiday, featuring French pastries, or Alaskan Holiday, when members learned how to make mittens from Husky fur.
The See Gulls spent many Thanksgivings in Death Valley, and some even cooked turkeys in their trailers.
Each weekend included costumes. And if members weren’t wearing costumes, they were wearing their See Gulls uniforms: light blue denim pants and jackets and a knit hat.
Kerr came up with the See Gulls name.
“See because we went to see things, instead of sea,” she explains. “We’re from Puget Sound, so we’re gulls.”
The Gulls helped start several area trailer clubs. From the up-north Everettes Trailer Club, to the Tour-O-Crats of Seattle and the down-south Kent Teepees.
These clubs would gather once a year.
Davis doubts many of these clubs are still around.
“They got old like we did,” Ptolemy says. “They had to get out of the trailer business.”
The See Gulls once taught classes on how to get into the trailer business — at Renton High School and Green River Community College.
The Gulls hope to attract enough new members to renew their activity in the trailer business.
“I love it,” Groom says of her See Gull status. “They’re really a fun group once you get to know them. They’re like family forever.”