My dad was raised on a farm near Davenport, Iowa. And they never went camping… except for the time the wood stove in the summer kitchen caught the porch on fire and burned down the house. So, any kind of camping was not a tradition in his family. Nevertheless, when he moved to Illinois, married and started a family, he was determined to spend his brief vacations from the National Lock Co. roaming about the country sleeping in the only accommodations that they could afford — a tent.
He started building things to make these trips easier: a top carrier for the car, then a small trailer for our gear, and finally a larger trailer that included a fold-out canvas tent. This last item he made with three friends from the factory. In fact, they all made one and we went on vacations together.
In 1955, he also made a chuck box. It was essentially a kitchen cabinet with handles. I used it for decades. That chuck box was stolen out of my truck 15 years ago. I was devastated, but determined to not get bitter. So, I made a new one. In fact, I made three: the two extra ones for my kids. It’s that useful — packed with everything needed to fix a meal except the stove itself. Mine is always ready to go.
There are other reasons I like a chuck box. All the cooking gear is right at the table. Everything is easy to get at. The doors, when opened, make a good windbreak for your stove. When traveling, the top makes a fine table to make sandwiches. And, of course, it becomes part of your family’s history and heritage.
Then a funny thing happened. My father’s old chuck box was found in an abandoned apartment some time later and returned to me (I had put my name on the bottom of it). So now I had four! I liked my new box the best, and that’s the one I use today.
Anyway, you might feel like making one yourself. Don’t be dismayed by any obstacles. They can be overcome. One way is work with a friend or relative. Make two.
I can help. I can email you detailed pictures, dimensions, instructions and some tips for the one I built. Just email me at email@example.com. Put “Chuck Box” in the subject line.
Jon Knudsen is a freelance writer and retired educator. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.