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Illinois Trailer Coach Association
RV News On Line - The Voice of the RV Industry
www.rv-news.com, 1 Nov 2001 [cached]
In 1936, Betty added to her rapidly growing trailer coach industry involvement by contracting to become the interior designer and a national sales manager for the Royal-Wilhelm Coach Company in Sturgis, Michigan.She was probably the first female designer in the industry.In 1937, she also began to design interiors for trailers built by the Bender Body Company of Elyria, Ohio.In 1937, Betty added to her lengthening list of industry firsts by designing and building what was perhaps the first custom commercial towing rig by extending and sloping the bed on a Ford flatbed truck so it could carry one trailer while towing a second unit.She used this rig to pick up and deliver units for her sales lot - thus avoiding factory delivery charges.
In 1940, having gained experience by designing and innovation for other companies, she
began manufacturing her
own brand of custom Orr Trailers which were widely recognized as high line luxury travel trailers as well as some very specialized commercial display units.Her
commercial trailers were probably the first in the industry on which one complete side was removable for product display purposes.The material rationing, which severely limited access to many products at the start of World War II, shut down this already successful venture. Betty
also designed and built the first fifth-wheel rig intended to be towed behind a truck and customized the vehicle to tow it.The earlier Curtiss Aerocar style fifth-wheel trailers were all originally designed to tow behind an automobile.In 1955, after over twenty years of operation, she
retail trailer sales function to concentrate exclusively on her
highly successful wholesale parts and supply business. Betty Orr was a charter member of the Trailer Dealers National Association (an early predecessor of RVDA) where she was the first female member of their board of directors and served as the first female president (acting) in 1949 when Web Coulter, the elected president, was incapacitated for the remainder of his term.She was also the original chairman of the association's Manufacturer/-Dealer Relations Committee.She was elected chairman of the Illinois Trailer Coach Association in 1951 where she was recognized as the first woman chairman of any trailer industry state association. As a very active member of the national MHMA, she was the first female member of their Suppliers Board of Governors and was elected as the first female member of the MHMA board of directors.
At the Trailer Coach Manufacturers Association
national show in 1955 in Cleveland, Ohio, she
conceived and directed the first "all industry forum" where five panels of representatives from all segments of the industry made presentations and fielded questions from the members of the audience.
In the era when women were generally left at home "barefoot and pregnant" or having teas and doing charity work, Betty Orr
was making her
mark as a dynamic and brilliant businesswoman and a very great national influence on the earliest days of the RV industry.Because of her
broad reaching industry involvement, she
was a tireless proponent of cooperation and communication between the manufacturing and retail sides of the young industry.She
retired from all industry activities in 1967 after over thirty-five years of active national service and successful business ventures. In recognition of her many contributions as a retail dealer, inventor, manufacturer and supplier, and as a national association member and dynamic industry leader, Betty Orr was elected as a member of the very first class of inductees into the RV/MH Hall of Fame in 1972.