A Child’s Tiny Home in a Gypsy Wagon

I was going over some old files in preparation for working on our new book on 21st century nomadics, and ran across this letter from Serena in Home Work (p.176). It refers to the 37 Chevy flatbed truck converted to a rolling home by Joaquin de la Luz and his wife Gypsy, and featured in Shelter (pp. 90-91), and in later years used as a bedroom by 4-year-old Serena. It was such a nice example of happy childhood memories, I thought I’d reprint it here.

“My earliest memories of the Gypsy Wagon begin when I was three or four years old. At that point, our family had settled down in a little house on the Klamath River, in Northern California. We had all moved out of the Gypsy Wagon but I really missed it. I remember begging my mom and dad to let me use it as my bedroom. Luckily for me, my parents were such free spirits that they could really relate to my independence. The wagon became my room. I have memories of kissing my parents goodnight, leaving the house, and walking to my own little Gypsy Wagon. I had a huge doll that my mom had made for me, named “Howdy Doody.” She made it out of vintage dress fabric, with old mother-of-pearl buttons for the eyes and mouth.  Each night, I’d hoist Howdy Doody over my shoulder (he was bigger than me) and off we’d go. I loved the coziness I felt each night as I climbed into my bed. I remember the beautiful hand construction of the wagon, the texture of the wood, the hinges, and the little window above my bed. Everything about it was so warm. I think what made it so special was that is was filled with good intentions. My parents set out in the Gypsy Wagon because they were peaceful people. Their travels always had the purpose of happiness. The wagon was constructed almost entirely of other people’s discarded junk. My father’s creativity soared as he built it, and my mother made it a home.To this day, I really appreciate the warmth of simple things like old fabric and rusty metal. This is my history, as a child of  free spirits with peace as their purpose. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.


About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

8 Responses to A Child’s Tiny Home in a Gypsy Wagon

  1. when I saw that truck it totally inspired me ,they were selling plans for their tuck so I sent away for them ,definately gave me some ideas where to start ,I made my own gypsy wagon on a three ton 1956 fargo truck that I got for 300.00 dollars from a sign company,it is now a guest house for visitors

  2. Hi lloyd, I am currently renovating a 37 chev truck of my own …I saw the article about Joaquin de la luz and his wife gypsy in a copy of your book in 1973 and again in 2004 … I am really interested in contacting them in some way, I have an address but no phone number … Could you by any chance help me out? Much appreciated, thanks in advance… P.s your books are amazing- congratulations
    Bob ramage – australia

  3. Hi, Serena!

    I don't know if you remember me, but my husband, Joe, me and my daughter Nadine – younger than you by maybe 5 years – used to visit your little home on the Klamath often and knew you even before then when you were just a baby. And you visited us when we had our own gypsy wagon alongside a creek with a couple small sheds as well, and when we camped along the Salmon Hole. You and your family swam in our creek with us one day and I took pictures. We later got a cabin of our own on the Klamath at Long Gulch where Joe planted us a garden, and I canned all our food. I remember the antique dentist chair in your house that had been your grandfather's, I believe. Wood, calico, flowers,little gardens surrounded by stones, the black antique sewing machine your mother used, your mother's graciousness, you – a smily child and your brother, Bear, and wasn't there a sister? Not sure. I taught your mother to can food. She taught me much, too.

    I happened to find this site when I was looking for a picture of the truck as I was talking about hippie trucks with someone. I had never seen one as magical as this one, so I went looking for it. Couldn't find it, so I finally googled your parents' name, and here it is.

    I will have to write them a note as I now have a newer address. So good to see you here!

    Linda K. Langlois

  4. I knew Gypsy and Juaquin. Back in 1971 or so. Had 2 young kids, boy name of "Bear Cat." They were some good people. They visited our small commune along the Klamath river a couple of times. Have never forgot. They have me a wooden set of carved Elephants "they are good luck for traveling" they said

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