Many a rock ‘n roll band owes a debt to U-Haul trailers

I haul, you haul, we all haul with U-Haul.

If that isn’t the official slogan of U-Haul, it probably should be.

Who among us hasn’t thrown various and sundry personal items into a brightly painted orange-striped trailer, truck or van rental and hit the road? I know I have.

And now I read in the paper that our fair city is ranked the 39th top destination in Canada by the U-Haul company, based on their truck arrival statistics. That either means a whole lot of people are moving here, or that a whole bunch of folks around here like renting trucks in an effort to be more “Albertan.”

Back in the day, however, it wasn’t the truck rentals that played a significant role in our vagabond lives, it was the classic 5X8 trailer.

Some bands could get away with the smaller 4X8 trailer, but any group of so-called musicians, with any respectable gear, needed to hook up to the 5X8 in order to drag all their worldly musical possessions to the next gig.

It used to be that the easiest and surest way to join a band was to either own a PA system, or a nice large van.

It didn’t matter if you could play worth a hoot. If you had the gear or the wheels, you were in. And failing those two Rules of Garage Band Joinery, I would add: if your mom and dad’s car had a trailer hitch – do you want to be our lead singer?

Honestly, I think all us rock ’n’ roll wannabes kept the U-Haul trailer rental business alive in those days. If you saw a 5×8 rattling by, hooked to the back of a 1966 Chevy Bel Air, or a ’64 Ford Fairlane, on a Friday or Saturday, chances were excellent that a band was heading for the local dance hall.

It was truly amazing how much rock ’n’ roll equipment you could get into one of those little boxes on wheels.

A typical group of, say, four reprobate rockers might typically require: two massive PA speaker cabinets, each the size (and weight) of a fully stocked Coke machine; enough refrigerator-size guitar cabinets to build a wall that would fill at least half of a community hall or school gymnasium stage; ditto for the bass guitar speakers; a drum set of a half dozen or more large round or rectangular fiberboard Ludwig or Rogers drum cases; several large, beat up cases for Fender or Gibson (or much cheaper) axes; a huge pile of microphone stands and mics; four tons of cables, costumes, cords and crap stuffed into homemade equipment boxes or second-hand vinyl suitcases; and, of course, enough electronic amplification, EQ, pedals, mixers, sound boards and power gizmos to facilitate the launch of a Saturn V rocket.

In fact, when a band would rock ’n’ roll up to, say, Varsity Hall at Sylvan Lake with a U-Haul, and a bunch of long-haired hippy galoots would pile out of the dusty, road-worn four-door sedan, throw open the door of the trailer and start schlepping gear, it was just like those magicians who start pulling stuff out of a small box on a thin black table – it just keeps on coming, and coming – a seemingly endless bounty from a bottomless pit.

The rockin’ U-Haul was like that. Somehow, that little rolling cubicle could hold about four times more band equipment than there was actual physical space in the trailer itself.

And it’s funny, even to this day, every time I see a little U-Haul trailer go by, I wonder: “Who in the hall is playing tonight?”

Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.

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