Phyllis Riviere: Riviera Trailer Court

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Don’t you dare use the phrase “trailer trash” around Phyllis Riviere. In the 25 years she and her husband, Oscar, owned and operated the Fayette Riviera Trailer Court, she met a lot of really nice people.

Sure, there were a few challenging renters over the years—some strange characters and few misbehaving ones—but all in all, Phyllis got to know dozens of good people.trailer-park2

She and Oscar sold the court to Louis and Tommy Clemenson in 1991—two years before Oscar died—and it’s now the 40th anniversary of the facility.

The Rivieres moved into the house just to the south of the court in 1946. The next year they rented the surrounding farm, as well, and then one year later they bought both the house and land.

The property included what Phyllis remembers as an old, decrepit orchard with a little bit of everything. Four varieties of apples, a couple varieties of peaches, cherries, plums, even several grape arbors. Only a tree or two remain.

Eventually Oscar’s parents decided to build a home to the north. Blueprints were ordered from Ohio Farmer magazine for a dollar.

The Rivieres’ oldest daughter wanted to purchase a lot between the two houses, and when she married, she and her husband moved a mobile home onto the property.

“That’s where I got the idea,” Phyllis said.

Her husband was hesitant about the plan to open a mobile home court, but Phyllis moved forward. She spoke with the owners of courts in Delta and Wauseon and came up with some figures to present to banker Ed Davenport. He approved the loan.

Curtis Keefer handled the construction, putting in a road and sidewalks, and making concrete runners to support the  wheels for 14 mobile homes.

The first contract was signed by Miss Mildred Crook on Aug. 19, 1966, and Riviera Mobile Court was a reality.

The Rivieres later moved into Oscar’s parents’ house and that’s where Phyllis still lives.

“We had some good times,” Phyllis said. “I remember the Halloween parties where we would go around collecting wood for a bonfire. We’d have hot dogs, cider and hot chocolate.

“I remember the first death here and the first birth,” she said.

She and Oscar got to know a lot of the tenants quite well, from the eccentric woman who talked about the danger of “tired electricity” to the two trouble-maker boys that were handled with some tough talk by Phyllis.

“You go on and tell your dad you have to move out of here,” I told them. “You can’t stay off other people’s property. Now go on!”

They family stayed, but Phyllis never had a problem with them after that.

At one time there were 11 children for the school bus to pick up; other years there were none.

To her recollection, only one trailer was ever blown over in a windstorm—the owners had failed to fasten it down—and only one fire, from an exploding fuse box after too many appliances were operated at once.

“There was quite a buzz around town when word got around that we broke ground,” Phyllis said, “but there were times when we wondered if we were doing the right thing.”

When times were tough, Oscar would tell her, “It’s your fault. It was your idea.”

And in better times, when someone talked about the court, he would go on about how it was vacant land just sitting there waiting for a good use.

Phyllis’s idea was to create the trailer court as a source of retirement income. The idea worked well, she said.

“We had a lot of different people, and we had a lot of nice people. It was quite an experience.”

Besides that notion of “trailer trash” that annoys Phyllis, there’s one other stereotype of mobile home dwellers that doesn’t sit well with her: the idea that they’re itinerant families always on the move.

At the Riviera court, one couple who signed a lease in 1966 still lives there today.

– September 20, 2006 
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