John Serro founder of the Serro (Scotty) Travel Trailer Company in Irwin, Pa. started tinkering in 1956 after he has sold his Dodge Dealership in Irwin, Pa. One of ten children John had helped his mother who took in mining works at the local mine. He would do the chores around the house, scrub the backs of the miners, help out where ever mom needed him. John only had a 4th grade education which did not stop him from living and finding the American dream !!! Tragedy had taken its toll on the family when John was in his teens, The Serro’s home was destroyed from a fire, it was totaled and they did not have any insurance or money at the time. On top of that John had also lost his father before the fire too. John was always fascinated with the automobile, he had worked very hard and managed to save enough money to open a car dealership in Herminie, Pa. that sold Dodge and Plymouth automobiles. He did so well he was able to open two other garages in Irwin, Pa. But in 1956 he had sold them all and decided to retire and take it easy.
Being a very hard worker all his life John could not stand still, retirement was not for him. He had this dream of building travel trailers, although they were not really coined yet the phrase RV’s and not many were on the road he still wanted to build something light weight and affordable so everyone could enjoy the camping experience. John had started out building a 16 ft. travel trailer, he had built them ( he built 19 of them and the first one is at Scottyland campground in Rockwood, Pa.) in his 2 car garage that was next to his barn. John sold them to area dealers but as Joe Prischl (vice- pres. and son -n- law to John) had said once ” When I towed that 16 ft. around every time I turned the corner it felt like the whole trailer was going to tip over” it was too top heavy. Back to the drawing board John went in 1957 and came up with a 10 ft. teardrop trailer, the early 10 ft. trailers were built in the garage and barn also. They had built a little over 200 of these and some are still around today. Dealers bought them as a novelty to put on there lots and attract people to stop in hopes of buying a bigger unit. The little 10 ft. drew them in though, still it wasn’t what John had in mind, he didn’t see himself building thousands of these.
Back to the drawing board John went and at his camp he had sketched a small 13 ft. trailer that had a stove, sink, icebox and couch, and a small dinette. All this in 13 ft. and could sleep 4 people. JACKPOT he thought and he was right, he and his first wife went home the next day and started to build the first 13 ft. Scotty Trailer, he had taken it to a Trailer show and people loved it as well as the dealers and orders were being placed right at the show. Except John did not have a factory, just his garage and barn. He was know for his really sharp brochures, they were done professionally and dealers thought he had this big huge plant. Johns rule of thumb was to deliver all the trailers to the dealers, because he didn’t have a factory and didn’t want the dealers to know. One dealer did find out and never ordered from John. With business getting busier he knew he had to have a bigger place, so in 1959 John built the first of three Scotty Trailer plants in Irwin, Pa. right down the road from his house and barn.
John only had 5 employees at the time, one of them started the Scotty Club with some of the campers. In the beginning they had about 30 members, later in really grew to about 54 clubs all along the east coast, they had hundreds of members now and John had a vision to build a campground JUST for Scotty Trailers and there owners and families. In December of 1961 John and Anne bought 300 acres in Somerset county and in 1962 opened the campground and had there first rally that year. It was called Scottyland Campground, it was ONLY for Scotty trailers, later in the 1980’s it opened up to other brands.( by the way Johns first wife Anne was the “brains” behind buying and dealing with the purchase of Scottyland) The rallies grew every year and in 1969 they had 680 Scotty trailers at the rally, times that by 3-6 people at a site on average and your talking a few thousand people, plus the workers, and employees. They had to cram the trailers in and things were tight BUT a lot of fun was ALWAYS had by all.
Of course the Scottys all looked alike back then and when you got up to go out the restrooms late at night many people got in bed with the wrong person. !!! The rallies back then were like $5.00 for a family and what a bargain. Mr. Serro was a VERY kind and goodhearted man, everyone loved him and respected him. All the campers pitched in and helped John get the campground going in the early days, it was like a close nit family. For a very small company John did A LOT for his customers and dealers. He and his wife camped a lot during the year with the different groups and he knew these were is customers and word of mouth is the best advertisement. In the early rallies John GAVE AWAY a NEW Scotty trailer for the grand prize !!!! Imagine some place doing that today……He also gave each chapter a trailer frame to build there floats on for the rally parades, again just a very generous man.
Then came the Serro Scotty Caravans, one year in the 60’s they went to Nova Scotia with 54 trailers, imagine that !!!!!!!!!! There are really no two Scottys alike as some say, Serro used what ever they had on hand, some trailers may be the same length and year but look a little different. An extra window here, two different styles of doors there, etc…. at the rallies John would have the workers go around and do some touch up, fix minor problems people had with there Scottys, again all free !!!! Business was great and the Rv industry was really in full swing, Scottys were very light weight and could fit in a standard garage, that’s what got John in the RV hall of fame in 1987. The low profile and design got him inducted, and he has served on many RV boards and many clubs he was a member of and served on also. The famous Blue aqua and white colors started in 1964 and they used the same color until 1978. John didn’t want to change the color but times were changing and bigger trailer were getting popular and new earth tone colors were catching on. Serro made the change in 1979 and started to build bigger trailers too. Then the gas crunch hit again in 1980 and the Irwin Plant had closed about for 5 month, thanks to Joe Pirschl he had got the company back on its feet and business was rolling again after a 5 month shut down.
John had also opened up a plant in Bristow, Okla. and then one in Ashburn, Ga. in the early 80’s they had to shut down the Bristow and Ashburn Plant, and just leave the Irwin plant open. The Bristow plant never opened again but two of the employees at the Ashburn plant decided to open the plan back up and called it the “Scotty Company” the trailers were built like any other Scotty, small layouts, materials, logo, looks etc…. but they could NOT use the word ” Serro” in any of the brochures and name plate. The front awnings said ” SCOTTY” the ones in the Irwin Plant said “SCOTTY by Serro” same look, design just no wording of Serro. Business was very good at the Irwin plant and in 1990 Serro came out with its first motorhome, it was a hit also and being a former Dodge dealer that’s what kind of truck chassis they used.
Then the Pittsburgh fire dept. asked Scotty to build this type of fire safety house to teach children about fire safety and Scotty built them one and the idea caught on to get into that market as well. they could build the travel trailers, the motor homes and the fire safety house on the same assembly line. It worked out well, until the fire of 1997 which burnt the plant down to the ground. A lot of motorhomes and trailers and fire safety houses were lost. All the companies history memorabilia was lost in the fire also. Lucky no one was hurt and the employees had gone for the day. Truly a great loss, the company did open a month later in Mt. Pleasant, Pa. and decided to build only the fire safety houses among other type of safety houses. Travel trailers would no longer being built, there were to many companies out there and Serro being a family run business thought it would be best to just stay with the safety houses. Today business is doing very well and they employ about 45 employees. The Scotty dog is still the companies logo, and by the way the Scotty of Serro Scotty came one of two theories. One John had a good fishing buddy named “Scotty” the other was a tow truck john pulled up next to at a light in the early days, Scottys Towing, and with that came Serro Scotty. John was a wonderful and very smart business man, he will always be remembered by many people and loved what he did. John had passed away in 1998 and it was truly a great loss to so many people, he took Serro Scotty to his grave though, someone had slipped a Serro Scotty name plate in his suit before his burial. A true legend…..John and Anne Serro.
Special Thanks to:
Jerry Freitag, Historian
On the Serro Scotty
Re-published with permission from scottytrailers.com.
Images provided by Gary Pirschl.