Here at bolertrailerhistory.ca we highly recommend that every individual interested in Boler history conduct their own research, gather their own information, and come to their own conclusions regarding Boler history facts vs Boler folklore.
On this site we have endeavored to represent Boler history as it relates directly to documented and corroborated sources from the pre-internet era such as archived newspaper clippings, publications, and publicly available government documents.
Before we begin
As a note to researchers, it is wise to be wary of old internet forum postings that claim to be personal interviews with Ray Olecko. Old outdated social media postings of this description can unfortunately contain uncorroborated claims as well as misinformation about boler history. It's always best to refer to credible archived newspaper articles and its reputable journalists for boler history and interview quotes from the past.
The reader should ultimately decide.
A critique of the internet's 'My interview with Ray Olecko"
The article below comes from an old Oocities.org social media posting. Oocities was the internet's very first social media platform in 1999. It is no longer active on the web however some content can still be viewed via search engines.
Upon scrutiny, the following article titled - "My Interview With Ray Olecko", unfortunately contains several flaws which we have identified and have commented upon in italics. The many flaws found in this old internet article have also been a subject of discussion in popular forums such as fibreglass RV where the story's accuracy has been questioned. We feel it is somewhat important to make readers aware of these flaws and of our documented fact checks. However, the reader should ultimately decide.
The article begins:
I met this week with Ray Olecko, the designer and original manufacturer of the Boler Trailer. He seems to have been an inventor of several products, and proud, but modest about his many accomplishments.
He was selling cars, when he became fascinated with the potential of fiberglass, and his first invention was a fiberglass septic tank. (Fact check: Ray Olecko’s first marketed invention was the fibreglass Boler Slingshot in 1963 and not the septic tank patent).
His design was light weight and easy to ship by comparison with the steel and concrete tanks of the day - a quality later to be evident in the Boler development (Fact check: Fibreglass septic tanks were already being manufactured and sold as early as 1961 by a number of companies including Owens Corning and Structural Glass Ltd.)
His patented design quickly became an industry standard. It was while camping with his family, that he started to envision a lightweight trailer, and his design was based on his own family's need -2 adults and 2 children -hence the small bunks. He says that he never made any drawings, but carried the design around in his head, and when it came time to get down to work with the mold maker- Sandor Dussa (Comment: Correct spelling is Dusa.)
He simply drew out the basic lines of the trailer on a large piece of cardboard mounted on the wall, and said ' Make it like this' !! . (Comment: There is another internet story that writes, " Ray spent countless hours working out the design and measurements for the boler trailer. He meticulously labored over graph paper designs, and explained the graph paper were actually to help with the measurements for fitting everything into the design." While these two descriptions are quite contrary to one another, it does seems likely that a well thought out detailed plan would be required to present to the bank for financing approval. The bank would also likely require a detailed financial forecast and marketing plan along with the partner's past experience in building trailers. The subject of how the Boler's design came into existence remains a mystery. Blueprints for similar and earlier European trailers were likely obtainable and certainly adds to the mystery.
He was looking for an unusual name for the trailer, and thinking that it looked a little like a bowler hat, he decided on Boler! (Fact check: Boler was the name Olecko gave to his fiberglass slingshot which ultimately became the name of his company in 1963 long before the idea of a trailer came to his mind. The trailer was named after the company and not a bowler hat).
Initially, he met with dealer resistance, as the Boler price of $1400 was thought to be high at a time when you could still buy an aluminum trailer for $895 (1968). When he simply picked up the hitch and pulled the trailer across the parking lot by himself, dealers were quickly convinced that a lightweight trailer would be popular with the owners of the newer breed of smaller cars that were coming in to vogue at the time, and from that time on, the trailers sold easily.
The initial run of 40 units had no insulation, but as condensation was a problem, he recalled all 40 to retrofit them with the Ensolite material.(Fact check: There are past postings on Fiberglass RV forum where owners have reported boler numbers as high as #81 that have bare walls having never had insulation installed. Ensolite made its debut in boler advertisements in September 1969 nearly 15 months after production started.)
This product had been developed by Uniroyal and was being used in the cockpits of airplanes. It was available only in a 2-inch thick size, but he persuaded them to shave it down to 3/16 of an inch, and he cut it into sections to fit the curves of the Boler.(Fact check: Much earlier than 1968, ensolite was readily available in many sizes and thicknesses including 3/16 inch. It was commonly used in the 50s and 60s to line the back interior floors of station wagon cars for camping comfort).
He says that the seam tape was a 3M 2-sided tape. When the inside paper backing was removed, of course the surface was sticky, and he solved this problem by simply rubbing talcum powder over it!!. This tape should still be available.
The first 100 units were made with a flat roof, but Mr. Olecko realized that he could create more headroom by adding the arched extension to the roof. This should make it easy to identify those first Bolers. (Fact check:The extended head room roof was introduced in 1970 meaning that all 1968 and most 1969 models were flat roofed models approx. 200 units.)
Production increased steadily, and a new facility opened at 770 Dufferin in Winnipeg. About 150 units were produced in the second year -1969- , and another 400-500 in 1970. In 1971, franchises were sold to companies in Earlton, Ontario and in Peace River, Alberta. (Fact check: Peace River was actually franchised in 1970 and not 1971)
By 1972, 4 trailers a day were being built, 220 days a year, with a staff of 23 , at the Winnipeg shop ( 880 per year), with similar numbers at the other sites. (Fact check: Peace River and Earlton franchises did not have similar numbers produced in 1972. Peace River produced only about 220 units in 1972 and Earlton produced only about 200 units in 1972. The 880 per year reference to the Winnipeg shop is highly exaggerated. After building 1000+ bolers in Winnipeg over the course of 5 years, Ray Olecko was on record of saying in 1972, ”There's been such a demand for the trailer that we can't hope to manufacture many more than those needed in our immediate market area. "We're now setting up several franchise manufacturers who will produce the trailers in both the United States and other parts of Canada”, he said.
Franchises were awarded in the U.S, but Mr. Olecko is uncertain of the numbers produced. He sold the company to Jim Pattison (Neonex) in 1973, and his involvement mostly came to an end. Production continued in Canada to at least 1978, so a very rough estimate for total Canadian output MIGHT be 7000-10,000 units. (Comment: New evidence suggests that a range of between 7,000 – 8,500 bolers were produced overall.)
A 17' Boler was built in Calgary, but Mr. Olecko was not involved, and feels that his design was severely compromised. Some trailers were also produced by someone in Kelowna. Mr.Olecko and Sandor Dussa were presented with a Design Award in the 1970's , (Fact check: The design award date was actually June 13th, 1969. Boler began adding this news to their mid-1969 advertisements.)
by the Manitoba Government Department of Industry and Commerce.
(Added Comment: Eleven firms won awards on this date. The top award – ‘Award of Excellence’ – went to Canadian Aviation Electronics Limited. Awards of design merit went to Boler Manufacturing Ltd. along with 9 other companies).
The actual 'plaque' went with the company when it was sold. (Fact check: There were no plaques offered by the Department of Industry of Commerce for this award at the time. The awards were referred to as ‘certificates’ on the official Ministry press release.)
Later, he invented a slim-line ceramic element heater with a fiberglass shell that saw very limited production. He did seem surprised at the current values for Bolers, as he sold them for $1695 in the 70's, and current prices are often more than that.
( The article concludes): I suggested to Mr.Olecko that perhaps he would like to become involved with this forum , as the resident 'guru' for 'Boler Preservationists' , but he is busy working on his new invention and does not have time. Perhaps we should respect his wishes and not start calling him with Boler problems. He is going to try to track down an early brochure and newspaper article for me to copy, and I will post these when I can.
(Our final comment: Due to the numerous flaws found in the above article, bolertrailerhistory.ca recommends to readers and researchers that they disregard it when they happen upon it.)
Ensolite insulation wasn't a new product at the time of the Boler
U.S. Rubber Co. (Uniroyal) invented Ensolite in the 1950s
Ensolite was a popular product readily available in many sizes and thicknesses as far back as 1959.
There have been many folklore stories on the internet that have suggested that Ensolite insulation was a revolutionary new product that happened to arrive on the scene around the time of the boler in 1968.
Some folklore stories go as far as to suggest that Ensolite insulation only came in 2-inch thick sheets, and that Ray Olecko had to convince Uniroyal to "shave down" the sheets to 3/16 inch to be used for boler trailer insulation. Truth be told, Ensolite was a readily available consumer product that could be ordered in several thicknesses and sizes. It was commonly used in 1950's airplanes, automobiles and even used to line the boots of Korean War soldiers. By the early 1960s Uniroyal's Ensolite vinyl coated foam was being used in many popular ways including athletic mats for school gymnasiums, boat cushions and several other consumer products. It also was used in the aerospace industry primarily as cushioned mats to protect U.S. Astronauts while practicing maneuvers they would later make in weightless space.
Photo right is from a 1959 camping magazine showing the convenience of Ensolite as a comfortable floor padding for use in the rear of station wagons for family camping excusions.
The description of the bottom photo of the article explains, "Ensolite safety pad, tailored to fit floor of wagon. Less bulky than most wagon mats, yet with excellent cushioning qualities. Protects small fry from bumps. Rolls into small package".
One of the first boler advertisements to ever mention Ensolite insulation as a feature, was an ad placed in the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper on September 11th, 1969. This suggests that bolers built before the fall of 1969 were not likely insulated.
At the time of boler, Ensolite was used in 100s of products
Boler Production Numbers Revisited
Thousands of bolers were made, however 10,000 was a bit exaggerated.
It would be an erroneous statement of past history to claim that, "in 1972, 4 trailers a day were being built, 220 days a year, with a staff of 23 , at the Winnipeg shop ( 880 per year), with similar numbers at the *other sites". (*other sites meaning Grand Prairie and Earlton).
New information gleaned from a newly found archived newspaper article indicates that Glass-Fab Industries Ltd. of Grand Prairie actually produced only 70 boler units from 1970-1971 and only about 150 more in 1972 for a total of about 220 units. This makes the reference to ‘similar numbers’ produced by Winnipeg of 880 to be grossly incorrect.
Also relatively small in number was Earlton Manufacturing’s 1972 production count which was only about 200 units and nowhere near to 880 as previously reported.
Upon further study:
From 1971 – 1974 Glass-Fab would produce just over 500 bolers. Earlton would produce just over 1,030.
In the 1974 production year, Glass-Fab would produce an additional 655 more units. Earlton would produce about 500 more to their running total.
In the 1975 production year, Glass-Fab would produce another 850 units bringing their total units to approximately 2,000 bolers made by the franchise.
By 1977 Earton produced about 2,050 bolers in total and only 250 more by 1982 bringing their total franchise production in at 2,300 units.
Additionally, Midhurst Fibreglass Ltd. in Ontario produced only about 200 units from 1983 – 1988.
This puts the approximate Canadian boler franchised manufacturer’s production count in at approximately 4,500 units in total.
Adding to this will be the U.S. Boler American franchised units which were short lived with production presumably small in numbers due to the company closing in 1972.
In all, this would place the total boler franchised units (Canadian and U.S.) built from 1970 -1988 to be in the estimated order of about 5,000 – 6,500 units.
Adding in Winnipeg’s production numbers which are largely unknown, but thought to be around 2,000, this would place the estimated bolers built 1968-1988 to be in the order of 7,000 – 8,500 units. This would be a generous estimate.
Why did the partners sell in 1973?
In past accounts of history, and as told on several boler history websites, Ray Olecko and partners eventually became “disinterested” in the Boler Manufacturing company and together they made the decision to sell the business in 1973. It is quite possible that the notion of losing enthusiasm and interest, particularly in that year, could have been due largely to slumping RV sales as a result of the 70’s decade long recession, rising interest rates, and gasoline shortages brought upon by the oil embargo crisis.
According to the estimated boler production numbers by 1973, and at the time of the company’s sale, only approximately 2,000 bolers had been produced over the span of the first five years in business.
It was reported in 1971 that sales for that year reached $500,000 however this would loosely translate to approximately 400-500 bolers sold by Winnipeg and Grand Prairie combined. The forecast of a struggling nation-wide economy, rising interest rates and on-going gasoline shortages likely could have been the real impetus for the partners to sell the business in 1973.
In hindsight, and with Ray Olecko often referred to as an astute businessman, this was likely a good decision. After 1975 boler sales and production numbers across the country started to plummet with only handfuls of units being produced near the end of the decade. By 1982 it was all but over.
The boler designed to resemble a septic tank is folklore
The Boler was of Canadian origin and European heritage having little to do with septic tank design.
Example photo above: 1961 Karosa W4 Dingo - Built in Czechoslovakia.
It's easy to assume that because the Boler's creator Ray Olecko and his business partner Sandor Dusa both worked for a fibreglass septic tank manufacturer, that they designed the Boler to resemble a "septic tank on wheels". Or, that the Boler was somehow derived from Olecko's patented fibreglass septic tank improvements.
It is interesting to note that in all of history's numerous newspaper interviews with Ray Olecko including old-time written articles about the boler, no where has any reference been made to connect the boler's design to that of a septic tank. One could argue that the suggested connection between the two started to become popular folklore in the post internet world. This possibly resulted from an old vintage boler brochure that mentioned the trailer's "Patented aerodynamic styling". Truth be told, no patents were ever filed for the boler trailer's aerodynamic design. Perhaps this was simply a bold marketing claim that attempted to marry together the septic tank patent to the boler's shape. This of course is quite a marketing stretch as the septic tank needs no aerodynamics being itself buried in the ground.
Both Olecko and Dusa once worked for a company called Structural Glass Ltd. in Winnipeg. Structural Glass was established in 1961 and began its business manufacturing fibreglass septic tanks.
Research has uncovered that the concept of fibreglass resin septic tanks and patents for such has evolved since 1954. Owens Corning, one of the first commercial fiberglass manufactures in the U.S., patented and sold moulded fibreglass underground liquid holding tanks in the very early 1960s, years before Ray Olecko's septic tank patent was submitted to the patent office. While Olecko didn't come up with the original idea of fibreglass moulded septic tanks, he did make design improvements to previous patents. Olecko patented the idea of creating a fibreglass septic tank that could be transported and installed in sections and that could be bolted together on the job site. The sections were designed to nest together for easier transport and storage.
Over the years internet folklore has unfortunately connected in the minds of the reader a correlation between Olecko's septic tank drawings and the Boler travel trailer which he introduced to the north american market in 1968. When one truly examines Olecko's septic tank patent drawings it is easy to see that they are far removed from that of the Boler. Besides which, the boler highly resembles earlier European designed fiberglass moulded trailers in terms of its construction and shape both exterior and interior.
It seems more palatable to assume that both Olecko and Dusa at some point became familiar with earlier European trailer designs and manufacturing processes which led to the Boler's ultimate design rather than making it simply in the image of a septic tank.
Proof that over 100 boler flat top trailers were made.
In the summer of 2018 we polled several boler Facebook groups to survey the question, "Does anyone have a flat top with a stamped build number higher than 100?". We received several replies from owners citing numbers as high as 195. Of note is the photograph (below) received from an owner of a flat top showing his stamp of 171.
Contrary to popular folklore -over 100 flat top bolers made.
This photo is a Flat Top #171. There are other reports of Flat Top numbers approaching 200
The boler raised roof was introduced in the 1970 model year.
Close to 200 flat top bolers were likely made from 1968 to end of 1969.
It's reasonable to assume from this newspaper ad that an announcement was made that the boler roof will be raised up in the 1970 model year to create more headroom. It would then be logical to assume that all '68 and all '69 bolers were flat tops. We know from archived news ads of the day that approx. 40 units were built in 1968 with production tripling in 1969.
The highest flat top boler unit number reported from an owner is 195.
More boler folklore stories that don't hold up to scrutiny.
Stories of the first 40 Boler units being recalled to fit them with ensolite insulation is folklore.
This story has circulated the internet for well over a decade now and appears to have come from a single post from an old Oo.cities.org website. Oo.cities was the internet's very first social media blog that started in 1999. The site was dismantled quite a few years ago. The story that appeared in the blog said that the initial 40 Boler units made were later recalled to be fitted with ensolite insulation due to condensation.
Recent research has found an owner of #65 unit build who reports via a Boler Group that ensolite insulation was still not installed on his #65 unit Boler. Further research on Fiberglass RV forum displays a member post that reads, quote - " I'm new to the boards so thought I would say a quick hello. Along the right side of the frame (along the tongue) shows a metal plate displaying 081. There are no other no.'s anywhere else on the frame or inside the Boler. Would this be the vin number? What I do know is, my grandparents were the 2nd owners, it has a flat roof and was built with no insulation. It has always been registered/insured as a '69.
Maybe someone else out there has a similar style of number and if so, is it registered as a '68 or '69?"
Any feedback helps
The very same Oo.cities article went on to say that Ray Olecko convinced Uniroyal (the ensolite manufacturer) to "shave" down their 2 inch thick ensolite to 3/16" so that it could be installed in the Boler. Our research of ensolite shows that it has been around since the 1950's and used in Korean war U.S. military boots. In addition, ensolite was easily made available to owners of late 1950's station wagon cars in order to line the bed of their wagons for camping purposes. It came in various thicknesses including 3/16".
This highly suggests that the recall story and the ensolite 'shave down' story are likely to be folklore.
Reports that Boler moved from a 4,000 sq. ft. facility to a 30,000 sq. ft. facility is a mystery.
Some internet sites you might visit will say that Boler Manufacturing moved from a 4,000 sq. ft. facility on Higgins Avenue to 30,000 sq. ft. at 770 Dufferin Avenue. The more accurate account is that Boler moved from 4,000 sq. ft. into a 30,000 sq. ft. building at 770 Dufferin but occupied 8,000 sq. ft. of it. The move from 4,000 sq. ft. to 8,000 sq. ft. is referenced in a Winnipeg Free Press news article of the day.
This makes logical sense as Boler Manufacturing would not require 30,000 sq. ft. to triple production at the time. They would need about 8,000 sq. ft. We put this story in the folklore/mystery category.
Ray Olecko and the famous Manitoba Orbit Trash Receptacle. Connection? Or simply folklore.
It's been asserted in some history circles that Winnipeg inventor Ray Olecko helped to design the famous fibreglass Orbit trash receptacles that once appeared along Manitoba highways in the 1960s. However to date, there appears to be no supporting documentation that can be found to help corroborate this particular assertion.
The Orbit trash receptacle, in fact, was originally designed solely by a man named Peter Boychuk, a provincial traffic sign technician who worked for the Manitoba Highways Department. The 1.3 meter diameter orbs were manufactured by Duraplex Products Ltd. of Winnipeg which went out of business in 1968 and the original Orbit moulds went up for public auction along with other equipment. It appears that for a period of time after 1968, Structural Glass Ltd. (a former employer of Ray Olecko) continued manufacturing the Orbit, however this would be around the time Olecko and partners started their Boler trailer company. It could be possible that Olecko helped to re-design the Orbit in some shape or fashion but there seems to be no found documentation connecting Ray Olecko with the Orbit Trash Receptacle in any way other than interesting folklore. Here is a link to a YouTube video about the Orbit's true designer Peter Boychuk
The claim that the last Boler was built by Advanced Fibreglass Ltd. is folklore.
In regard to any internet claims that Advanced Fibreglass Ltd. was a manufacturer of bolers in Ontario, it appears to be a highly questionable account of history and cannot yet be verified as a fact. This is why it appears here in the folklore section.
The source of this internet claim appears to have originated from a Fiberglass RV forum comment that was connected to this unofficial looking registration plate. The plate appears to be a generic blank that has the information entered in by hand using a pen marker rather than a stamp.
The correct name for the company that built the last Ontario bolers in 1988 was Midhurst Fiberglass Ltd.
Other boler folklore on the web
This is a photo from Fiberglass RV forum from a member post. It describes what the owner believes to be a bogus 1991 stamped plate that someone had previously attached to his 1988 boler Voyageur.
Midhurst Fiberglass Ltd. closed it's doors in 1988 when the last boler Voyageur was built, making this plate highly suspicious, but fun folklore none the less.
Folklore Or Fact - The reader should ultimatley decide.
Discovering new Boler history, finding out new facts, and challenging current facts can be a fun hobby for people of all ages. We encourage you to become a Boler history buff and help bring new info to the forefront of boler history research. There is still much to explore and to uncover.