Pup Tents

My father served in the US Army during the Korean War. He wasn’t allowed out of the US, however, because he was a code breaker and it was too big a risk to have him fall into enemy hands. Dad spent time in the south while in the Army, and told amazing and hilarious stories of the bartering that took place during a stint as a supply Sargent. Imagine what you can barter an unbarcoded Jeep for back in the day!

My childhood tent was my dad’s US Army pup tent. I took it to summer camp for 10-years. He taught me to put it up in our backyard when I was about 6-years old. Being, amongst other things, a metal fabricator, dad replaced the three-part poles the Army issued with each half of a pup tent, with beautiful solid stainless steel poles. The tent fell over less after that!

Dad gave me and my first husband the pup tents (there were actually two ~ maybe a supply deal?!) when we started camping with our children. When my then mother-in-law, Jane, passed a big canvas tent to us, we retired the pup tents. I’ve been carrying them around ever since… Maybe 25-30 years.

Some years ago I came across a lovely display of large tote-style bags made from re-purposed pup tents. They were lined with white and blue striped cotton duck. Today I excavated dad’s pup tents from a bin in our wood tent, unsnapped their two halves, bravely trimmed the corroded snaps off of one half of one of the tents, and washed it. I have the stripped cotton duck, a stunning botanical print, and a mid-century modern print that, of course, includes pink flamingos to use as lining. I’ve figured out the pattern, which doesn’t call for a lining, but this I can deal with. Dad gave me 3/4″ US Army olive drab strapping years ago, lots of it, that I’ll use as handles for the totes.

While it’s hard to repurpose, recycle, pass on, or let go of things that were important to my parents, this is somehow easier than many choices I’ve made. I get my sewing machine addiction from my father. I like to think he’s looking down from his comfy cloud, perhaps taking a break from discussing the finer points of what makes a perfect tent with my former husband, and giving me a nod of approval on this project, that surely if he’d thought of himself, he’d have asked me to pass the pup tents back to him!

US stamp on freshly washed pup tent half.

Our cat wondering why 70-year old canvas is covering his banister.

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