Manitoba History: 50 Years of bolers

by Thomas L. McMahon
Pinawa, Manitoba

Number 89, Spring 2019

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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“We’re the only company in North America producing fibreglass trailers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see our idea revolutionize the trailer industry.” Ray Olecko [1]

The boler ultralight fibreglass trailer—the famous “egg on wheels” invented in Winnipeg—was manufactured and sold between 1968 and 1988, during which time some people estimate that 10,000 units were sold. The boler is credited with inspiring numerous manufacturers to create nearly identical trailers. The bolers and their imitators are growing in popularity again, as the baby boomers get tired of camping in tents or are searching for a low-cost trailer for their retirement years; as hobbyists find a new muse from their childhood memories; or as the price of gas continues to increase (thus taking larger recreational vehicles off the road). What may have once been viewed as a poor man’s RV, bolers are now cool. Retro “glamping” (glamorous camping) is in style and hobbyists are having a blast creating the most beautiful, personalized, lightweight trailers on the road. The Internet allows fibreglass RV owners to exchange restoration ideas and how-to information, buy and sell their trailers, show off their marvelous eggs and arrange for fibreglass meet-ups around North America.

The Inventors

The boler trailer was invented by Ray Olecko. Born in Lamont, Alberta in 1930, he boxed in his teens and won the Alberta Golden Gloves Amateur Championship in 1948. He quit school after completing grade 8 to run away to join the circus. Erwin Krieg, one of the original three boler partners, told me that at least one of Olecko’s jobs was as a carnival barker, for which he wore a bowler hat. (More on that below.) Between 1954 and 1957, Olecko served in the Canadian Air Force in Ontario, Quebec and Labrador. He met and married Lorraine Joba and they had two daughters, Aileen (1957) and Tammy (1959). The family moved to Toronto in 1958, then Halifax in 1960, and then to Winnipeg in 1962. Ray and Lorraine divorced in 1978 and he married Joyce Gaudry in 1989, running Ray’s Trading Company for 20 years until his cancer diagnosis. He passed away in 2001 at age 71.

The love of Olecko’s life was always design. His daughter Tammy observed that:

Dad was also mechanically inclined, as we grew up with his many homemade tractors and such. And in his youth growing up poor, he made a working go cart that according to his family was a wonderful two seater, using scrap metal and scavenged parts that was a lot of fun until wash days, when his mother made him undo the motor and put it back into her washing machine!

Olecko worked in the fibreglass industry and, along the way, made fibreglass moulded slingshots in his tiny basement office/workshop which he sold all over the world through advertising in hunting magazines. These slingshots were called boler slingshots, pre-dating the trailer. Eventually, he designed a septic tank made from fibreglass and he helped to design a fibreglass receptacle for road-side trash called “Orbit.” By 1962, Olecko was the Sales Manager at Structural Glass in Winnipeg. Two coworkers who would eventually figure in the boler story also worked at the company. Sandor Dusa worked in the moulds and tooling department and Erwin Krieg had an entry-level position, becoming the production foreman in 1966.

Ray Olecko poses with his fibreglass creation in this undated clipping from the Winnipeg Tribune.
Source: University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections, Winnipeg Tribune Collection

Olecko got the idea of a light-weight camper trailer made from fibreglass while camping with his family in an old canvas tent. Being built out of fibreglass, the trailer would be lightweight to tow behind a car and therefore fuel-efficient. As Olecko would later note: “Our trailer weighs only 800 pounds because it does not have the conventional wood frame. The fibreglass acts as its own frame and skin.” [2] The Winnipeg Free Press added that the boler

... is practically unbreakable, leak-proof and, because it’s fabricated as a single unit, will not loosen up. ... Layers of fibreglass are molded together with plastic resin in a large bathtub-shaped mold. During this process the trailer’s exterior paint job is built into the fibreglass. Fibreglass, says Olecko, has four times the strength of steel of the same weight. After about four hours the fibreglass is lifted from the mold to form the top half of the trailer. A similarly-shaped mold, with the addition of wheel wells, is made for the bottom half. The two halves are bonded together and the door and window areas cut out. With the cabin of the trailer completed it is placed on a steel chassis and the interior fitted out. [3]

Olecko spent countless hours working out its design and measurements, meticulously working out the best way to squeeze everything into a small space while providing all the comforts of home: a table that converted to a bed, bunk beds, a countertop for appliances (cooler, stove, sink), and storage space. [4] Its bed-and-two bunks configuration was specifically designed for his family of four. With the help of Hungarian immigrant Sandor Dusa, they made a wooden mock-up. According to Dusa’s widow Corrine, “Ray had an idea and picture that he sketched out with no specs just a picture. Sandor asked where is the specs, Ray mentioned that is why he was approaching Sandor. So Sandor being a master at what he did looked and calculated. Finally came up with specs and started making the molds ... .”

Olecko told the Winnipeg Free Press, “When we’d completed the first trailer, I saw that we had a unique unit which would appeal to the small family. After satisfying themselves that the design was sound, the boler went into production in 1968. Eventually, Olecko and Dusa left Structural Glass to concentrate on building bolers. As President and General Manager of the Boler Manufacturing Company, Olecko was responsible for management and marketing. Dusa was the Vice President and chief mould maker. Inlate 1968 or early 1969,Krieg became a junior partner in the firm, in charge of production. Krieg later recalled that Olecko owned 51% of the company, Dusa 33%, Krieg 15% and the company lawyer held 1%. Public recognition came quickly and, in 1969, they received a design award from the Manitoba Government Department of Industry and Commerce.

Forty flat-roofed un-insulated prototypes were produced in the first run. When they encountered condensation problems, they were recalled and the fibreglass was insulated on the inside with “one-inch thin urethane foam.” [5] An early boler advertisement noted that: “The interior of all boler trailers are lined with “Ensolite” by Uniroyal, an exciting new product developed for the space age. It’s a soft PVC foam laminated to a tough vinyl film. The results? Excellent insulation and a beautifully finished wall surface.” Ensolite had been developed for use in the cockpits of aircraft. [6]

According to legend, Ray Alecko used his experience with fibreglass to help in designing Orbit, a fibreglass trash receptacle for Manitoba highways, that was introduced by the government in the mid-1960s. Orbits proved so popular that some weary roadside travellers took to spending the night in them, as this whimsical photo from the Winnipeg Tribune sought to re-create.
Source: University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections, Winnipeg Tribune Collection, 18-4890-20

From a customer who wanted a fibreglass top for his truck cab, the entrepreneurs were introduced to firm that made truck seat cushions and hired them to make cushions for the trailer. A fabric salesman advised them that he knew someone would had fibreglass fabric with a nice floral design, which is how window curtains in the boler were originally created. Plexiglass windows were inspired by the use of plexiglass in airplanes. Fibreglass covers on the windows were added when friends took a boler to Alaska and wanted protection from any flying stones that arose from the roads. Family members were recruited for product testing, as Tammy Olecko would later say:

The families would get together on the weekends with trailers in tow, pick a campground and we were the quality control testers checking for leaks, faulty heaters, etc. Modifications were planned out based on how they were used camping or hunting, whether a remote spot would need an ice box more than a fridge, and how they operated with no services.

The design was modified on the basis of their experiences with the prototypes, as a boler owner would later learn from speaking with Olecko:

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.)Production increased steadily, and a new facility opened at 770 Dufferin in Winnipeg. [7]

The Name

According to Aileen Olecko, who discussed the question with her mother Lorraine, boler slingshots were originally made from epoxy with rubber tubing and a leather cup. A marketing advisor told them that the name for the slingshot needed two syllables to make it more memorable. Because the slingshot also reminded Ray of the power of a bolas, a throwing weapon, he named the slingshot a boler. [8] According to Lorraine, there was never any mention of a bowler hat when the slingshot was named.

When it came time to name the trailer, the boler name was already registered and had already proven to be a successful product name. Erwin Krieg believes that Olecko’s experiences as a carnival barker made him reuse the name for the trailer, because the trailer visually resembled a bowler hat, and not because of any connection to the bolas weapon. Tammy Olecko observed that her father wanted a low-cost trailer appropriate for anyone regardless of the size of their tow vehicle, their mechanical knowledge, and their physical strength. He was very specific that the “b” would not be capitalized because he thought it was pretentious and could scare off potential buyers. Credit for the lettering style of the boler logo on the back of the trailers belongs to Veronica Dusa, Sandor Dusa’s second wife, who was a layout artist.

In 1963, Olecko registered the business name Boler Manufacturing Company with the Manitoba government. Then, two years later, he dissolved the company and registered it, for reasons unknown, as Structural Glass Limited operating under the name of Boler Manufacturing Company. The name is curious because Olecko was only ever an employee of Structural Glass Limited, not one of its owners. This firm, in turn, was dissolved in 1967. On 24 October 1967, Olecko was issued patent 770200 for a lightweight, cylindrical, expandable fibreglass septic tank with tapered ends, designed so its parts were nested together for shipping and bolted together in the proper configuration on the site. According to the patent description, this design offered substantial benefits over the concrete or steel tanks common at the time. The boler trademark was registered with the federal government on 14 August 1970 but a search of Canadian and American patent databases did not turn up a patent for the boler trailer design. It appears that Olecko and Dusa did not file a patent on the boler.

This excerpt from a boler advertisement touted its many innovative features.

The first newspaper advertisement for a boler appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press in July 1968, offering trailers at the Higgins Avenue factory at a price of $1495. A subsequent ad in November 1968 offered an 800-pound, fully equipped boler for $1695. Initially, the boler met with dealer resistance, as its price was thought to be too high at a time when you could buy an aluminum trailer for $895. Olecko convinced the naysayers when he picked up the boler’s hitch in his hands and pulled it across the parking lot, suggesting that a lightweight trailer would be popular with the owners of smaller cars that were coming into vogue at the time.


In August 1968, the Boler Manufacturing Company had eight employees, according to a feature article in the Winnipeg Free Press. [9] By February 1969, another article said the company could barely keep up with demand and that they were setting up franchises in Canada and the US, with marketing taken over by another company. [10] Later that year, the factory was moved to a larger facility on Dufferin Street. About 150 units were produced in 1969 and another 400-500 in 1970. In 1971, franchises were sold to companies at Peace River, Alberta and at Earlton, Ontario. A profile in the Manitoba Business Journal [11] noted that, by 1971, 1000 bolers had been produced at factories in Winnipeg and Grand Prairie, with sales reaching half a million dollars, and a firm based at Wichita, Kansas signed on to produce bolers in three plants. [12] By 1972, four trailers a day were being built, 250 days a year, with a staff of 23 at the Winnipeg shop, with similar numbers at the other sites.

The interior of a boler featured a stainless steel sink, two-burner propane cooktop, two-cubic-foot refrigerator, a dining table that folded down to make a double bed, and bunk beds that converted into daytime lounging space.

In January 1972, Boler Manufacturing Company sold all American manufacturing rights to Elenor International of Wichita, Kansas and employees of the firm came to Winnipeg to train at the main boler plant. [13] A “Boler American” subsidiary of Elenor International, developed to grow the American market for bolers, placed an order with a newly acquired Iowa Portable Mill Company for 5,000 trailer frames to be delivered over the next year to production plants in Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota. Boler American produced trailers under the names ECO and Love Bug. In July 1971, a representative from Boler American invited Duane Eveland, whose business remodelled damaged mobile homes, to manufacture trailers. Eveland negotiated a contract in which his firm would manufacture trailers and Boler American would market them. The relationship was short-lived. Boler American went out of business late in 1972, leaving Eveland and his partners with moulds but no marketing company. So they began selling trailers under the name Scamp and, for a brief time in 1979, also as Acorn. Another boler-derived trailer was the Perris Pacer produced in San Jacinto, California from 1974 to 1990.

The End

In 1973, Olecko, Dusa and Krieg sold the Boler Manufacturing Company to Jim Pattison of Neonex, and their involvement with bolers mostly ended, although Olecko continued to sell franchises and was a consultant to the new owners. Neonex had considerable experience in the trailer manufacturing business, producing the Travelaire, Holidaire, Triple E, Rustler and Otto brand of RVs. Neonex Leisure moved boler production to Calgary and, in 1977, introduced a 17-foot version that was not as successful as the original 13-foot model. Through 1977, trademark ownership changed to Boler Manufacturing Western Limited and then to Neonex Canada Limited. Vanguard Trailers built bolers at Winfield, British Columbia in 1978. Jim Pattison Inc., the owner of Neonex, still holds the boler trademark and its registration is still valid today.

Gradually, Olecko became disenchanted with the direction the company was taking and, in particular, with its introduction of a 17-foot boler. He felt the original design had been compromised so he parted ways with the company. [14] This gave him free time to hunt and fish, spend time at his cottage at Pointe du Bois, and enjoy his home on the Assiniboine River in Winnipeg. He acquired a real estate licence so he could sell commercial real estate. He later bought himself an Economy Rent-a-Car franchise on Portage Avenue, then a company that supplied welding rods. In the early 1980s, he sold the company and opened a pawn shop and store called Ray’s Trading at the corner of Ellice Avenue and Maryland Street. He was perfect for the business, as it gave him the freedom to buy and sell stock, use his vast knowledge of firearms and hunting equipment, and get back to making deals. He had no intention of retiring as he really enjoyed the business. Unfortunately, a cancer diagnosis forced him to close the business just a few months before he passed away at the age of 71 on 3 June 2001.

In August 2018, over 400 bolers from all over North America converged on the Red River Exhibition Park in Winnipeg to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its manufacture. Organizers believed it was the largest gathering of moulded fibreglass trailers in history.
Source: Shawn Fraser

Sandor Dusa went to work for several fibreglass manufacturing companies to make, among other things, Ronald McDonald statues and restaurant interiors, and boat hulls. He died on 26 April 2013.

In 1974, Erwin Krieg moved with his familytoVernon, British Columbia where he became a partner in a fibreglassbathtub and shower manufacturing company.Four years later, he formed a new company to manufacture recreational vehicles. It did not use boler moulds. In 1990, he retired and sold his share to a partner, who modified the original boler moulds to make them a two-piece fibreglass shell, added squared-off wheel arches, a flat RV door rather than the curved aircraft door, and increased the height by three inches, to make the L’il Bigfoot. After it was discontinued, another fibreglass mould maker at Vernon obtained its moulds and used them to produce the Armadillo trailer at Enderby, British Columbia. That firm is still in operation today. The first Armadillo prototype was sold to a Vancouverite who had approached the firm in 2014 to repair his old boler and bought an Armadillo instead.

Other direct descendants of the boler include the Scamp (Backus, Minnesota) and Casita (Rice, Texas), both of which claim origins with Boler American. The Outback is manufactured by Outback Custom Lightweight Trailers at Calgary, Alberta and its website claims that “demand in the industry has moved us into manufacturing a trailer based on the popular boler trailer of the 1970s, except with the latest technology.” [15] Another company with a connection to bolers, and to Manitoba, was Great West Vans at Winfield, Alabama, that produced a trailer called the Sidekick. Its website boasted that “the company has been in business for over 37 years, when the original plant started in rural Manitoba, Canada.” [16] Great West Vans ceased operations in the summer of 2015.

In 2012, Winnipeg-based Jim Ingebrigtsen and Huw Eirug produced a 26-minute video for MTS’ Stories From Home series called “Egg on Wheels – the boler story.” It featured an interview with Aileen and Tammy Olecko as well as interviews and photos of numerous current boler owners, their trailers, and photos from original brochures and of the Olecko family and Sandor Dusa. [17] The video also includes an interview with Keri Latimer, a singer-songwriter in Winnipeg whose boler was stolen from her yard in the summer of 2011 and later recovered. This concludes the story of the little trailer from Winnipeg that could! The egg rolls on and we will have to hold on to our hats to see what the future will bring.

The author with his custom-painted boler.
Source: Stu Iverson:Boreal Images


This article is a summary based on numerous sources including emails and telephone calls with Erwin Krieg, Aileen Olecko, Corrine Dusa, and Tammy McNichol; and obituaries for Ray Olecko and Sandor Dusa. I have spoken with the Evelands (Scamp trailers), Joe Thoen (, Maureen Chant (Jim Pattison Group), Ian Giles, and Mike Jong (Armadillo Trailers). I have been informed by numerous postings to including one from Corrine Dusa and an extensive thread called “Egg History – Boler Descendants” and online articles by Jamie McColl, Levonne Gaddy, Thomas Allan Gray, and Bob Kronbauer. For more extensive information and photographs, please see, with great information and curation by Robert Sheele. A longer version of this article can be found at the Social Sciences Research Network at I invite any additional information or corrections at

1. “International business established ‘overnight’,” Winnipeg Free Press (hereafter WFP), 12 February 1969.

2. “Manitoba Trailer Hot Export,” WFP, 28 April 1971.

3. A fiberglass trailer for compact travel,” WFP, 10 August 1968.

4. Ibid.

5. “International business established ‘overnight’,” WFP, 12 February 1969.

6. Jamie McColl, “The Boler story: an interview with Ray Olecko,” I have seen reports about a “recent poll of boler owners” that say Ensolite insulation did not exist in a boler until after the 65th unit was made. There is no information about any of the details of this poll.

7. I have seen reports about a “recent poll of flat top boler owners” with registration numbers higher than 100.

8. According to Wikipedia, bolas is the plural Spanish for the word “ball”; the weapon had balls or weights at the end of interconnected cords which when thrown could entangle the legs of animals. Bolas were most famously used by the gauchos (South American cowboys) but have been found in excavations of Pre-Columbiansettlements, especially in Patagonia, where indigenous peoples (particularly the Tehuelche) used them to catch 200-pound guanaco(llama-like mammals) andñandú (birds).

9. “A fiberglass trailer for compact travel,” WFP, 10 August 1968.

10. “International business established overnight,” WFP, 12 February 1969.

11. There is substantial duplication between the Manitoba Business Journalarticle (December–January 1971/72 p. 14)) and “Local firm exports expertise to U.S.,” WFP, 22 December 1971.

12. “Local firm exports expertise to U.S.,” WFP, 22 December 1971, reported Olecko saying that an executive of Elenor saw a boler in California and contacted the Winnipeg firm.

13. “Boler trailers move into US market,” Manitoba Business Journal, January 1972.

14. Jamie McColl, “The Boler story: an interview with Ray Olecko,”

15. “Meet the team,” Outback Trillium Trailers, (accessed 18 November 2015).

16. “History,” Great West Van, (accessed 18 November 2015, now available on the Internet Archive at

17. A video trailer (no pun intended) for the documentary can be found on YouTube at

We thank Clara Bachmann for assistance in preparing the online version of this article.

We thank S. Goldsborough for assistance in preparing the online version of this article.

Page revised: 25 April 2021