The Sisemore RV Museum displays history of RVs
By Beth Duke
Amarillo is a frequent stopover for travelers bound for Texas and beyond, so it’s fitting that the city is home to the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum and its celebration of the history, spirit, and quintessential vehicle of the family road-trip vacation.
Located on Interstate 27, a few miles south of its intersection with Interstate 40, the RV Museum opened in early 2012 at the seven-acre Sisemore RV dealership. The museum is an obvious attraction for RV enthusiasts (its guest book already has signatures representing 49 states and most continents), and it also provides an entertaining detour for travelers interested in road trips and Americana.
Jack Sisemore and his son, Trent, opened the museum to showcase their private collection of recreational vehicles, camping equipment, toy trailers, and rare motorcycles. But mostly, the museum is filled with love and enthusiasm for family travel.
Jack and Trent like to shake the hand of every visitor. Pretty soon, father or son will ask the tourists where they’re from. One thing leads to another, and soon complete strangers are sharing stories about camping and memories of family trips.
“They’ll say, ‘Remember when we were little kids, and we went in one like this?’” Trent says. “It’s not just an RV museum, it’s about great memories. That’s what we discovered. It’s all about the connection for families.”
The family connection for Trent and Jack is strong, too. Trent was only 14 when he began working for his dad. Then about 25 years ago, they started collecting RVs.
'It’s not just an RV museum, it’s about great memories. That’s what we discovered. It’s all about the connection for families.'
Their first vintage RV was a 1946 Tear Drop, an early travel trailer kit that used surplus aluminum available after World War II, such as airplane fenders. Trent and Jack found an original kit—the deluxe model with a “kitchen” that consisted of a tiny stove in the back. After they built the Tear Drop, they were hooked.
The father-son duo built their RV collection the old-fashioned way—traveling and horse-trading. “We happened to do this at just the right time,” Trent says. “Now everybody is doing it, and it is harder to find the unusual.”
One time, Jack and Trent were driving around town and saw a driver pulling a rare 1953 Fleetwood trailer. “She was stopped at a gas station,” Trent recalls. “We asked her if she was interested in selling it. She was living in it. She was 84 years old. She said, ‘I think it’s time to quit.’” They bought the trailer on the spot and spent thousands of hours restoring it, just as they have restored most of the museum pieces.
Trailer by trailer, the idea of opening the museum grew. With the acquisition of the 1948 Flxible Bus that Robin Williams drove in the 2006 movie RV, the time was right.
The Sisemores concentrate on making the museum easy to visit. They don’t charge admission, and visitors are free to wander in and around most of the trailers and RVs. You can take as many photographs as you like, especially sitting in the seat of the RV from Hollywood.
“We don’t just want you to see an RV, but to see the cookie jar and the fishin’ pole that went with it,” Trent says.
Only one vehicle has a “Do Not Touch” sign: a 1921 Ford Lamsteed Kampkar. The Kampkar was engineered to mount on a Model T chassis. Anheuser-Busch, the St. Louis-based brewing company, built the Kampkar, which looks like a boxy Model T van. Why did the beer company make an RV? Jack figures Anheuser-Busch was branching out during the years of Prohibition.
Each RV is its own self-contained time capsule. You’ll see turquoise appliances from the ’60s and gold shag carpet from the ’70s. A few RVs were barn finds that would make the cast of American Pickers proud. One 1972 Winnebago still boasts its original cushions and carpets.
Once you’re done looking at the RVs, take some time to look at the ceiling. That’s where Jack hangs his prized collection of motorcycles. Each bike has a story to tell, from Harley-Davidson and Yamaha to Triumph and Bultaco.
At the back of the museum, Jack and Trent re-created the Standard Oil Co. gas station that started the family business in 1963. The exhibit stands in honor of Jack Sisemore and the roots of the business empire he started when he first rented recreational vehicles at his gas station 39 years ago.
The Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, at 4341 Canyon Drive (Interstate 27) in Amarillo. For more information, call 806/358-4891.
From the September 2013 issue.