July 2, 2015

The Mysterious Order of the Trident

See More

Explore Stories

The Mysterious Order of the Trident

The 1959 Airstream Wally Byam African Caravan was the event not to miss. 41 Airstream families and 104 Caravanners made the journey to Africa, and every single one crossed the equator, either by sea or by air. Equator-crossing ceremonies were held, a tradition of many seasoned sailors around the world. King Neptune, the Supreme Ruler, Monarch, and Potentate convened the first-timers, nicknamed Pollywogs. They were duly initiated into the mysterious Order of the Trident, recognizing their first equator crossing and their induction into the Brotherhood of the Nautilus. Don and Genevieve Christie, Caravanners from Carmel, Indiana, went through the initiation as

The Hands That Built Airstream

Last week, Dale discussed his feelings upon returning to Jackson Center, home of Airstream, for Alumapalooza 2015. See last week’s article here. I remember leaving the Main Street factory in 1955 on the first Eastern Canadian Caravan. Traveling Route 66, and then rerouting to Ohio, opened my eyes. Jackson Center was a city center composed of decade-old wooden structures. After a tour of duty in the US Army, I went to work at Airstream in California. In 1965, I established the first personnel department at the factory. Ohio and California were working on an employee classification system with defined work

Return to the Mothership

Arriving in Jackson Center for Alumapalooza, fond memories reappear from the past. For me, visiting Airstream is a pilgrimage which reminds me of the many times I’ve been fortunate to visit not only the factory but the charming and wonderful Jackson Center village. Today’s Airstream factory has been enlarged to meet the domestic and international markets that continue to grow. Growing up, I visited Wally many times at his home in Los Angeles. I took for granted his garage: looking back, that garage is a shrine, his home a brain trust, for it is on those grounds that Wally designed

Was Airstream an Accident?

Wally Byam, not unlike a mighty oak growing from an acorn, groomed and cultivated himself over the course of his lifetime. Frequently, the question comes up: why did Wally have the vision to create an Airstream, the legendary and iconic recreational vehicle whose lifetime stretches from one century to the next? Wallace Merle Byam came from pioneer stock. His paternal and maternal grandparents came overland on the Oregon Trail to settle down in Eastern Oregon. As an adolescent, he tended to his grandfather’s sheep on the rolling hills of eastern Oregon. This fostered his deep-seated love for camping. His sailing

Airstream’s Enduring Promise

“To keep alive and make real an enduring promise of high adventure and faraway lands…of rediscovering old places and new interests.” Stories of Airstream’s history take you to exotic, far away places as well as unvisited destinations just over the horizon, closer to home. The old times will tell stories of visiting pygmies in the old Belgian Congo, or parking beneath the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. Even more amazing is landing in Singapore and traveling overland to Land’s End in Portugal. Andy Charles reported the Around the World Caravan was on the road for 403 days and 31,000 winding

Sinking Under the Nubian Sand

The Cape Town to Cairo Caravan traveled over 12,000 miles over seven arduous months, trekking through South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. One notable experience, prior to traversing the Nubian Desert to Wadi Halfa (in present-day Sudan) took place after stocking up on supplies in Abu Hamed. Before leaving Khartoum, all Caravanners attended a general meeting run by Wally. Caravanners heading to Wadi Halfa had two choices. They could either safely and painlessly go by train and flat car, or they could elect to cross the sandy and ever-so-treacherous Nubian Desert. Wally had one stipulation:

The Troubleshooters

Do we take for granted that Airstream trailers appear on television programs, in movies, and in advertisements today? Perhaps. During the middle of the 20th century, things were a little different. Today, Airstream has proliferated as a “rock star.” But in those days, Airstream trailers appeared in Life, Look, National Geographic, Smithsonian, and in numerous other magazines. There were Airstream Wally Byam Caravans traveling across five continents, with newspapers and periodicals covering the Airstream adventures. But movies, television, and advertising hadn’t adopted Airstream as a movie star just yet. Then NBC scheduled a new series in 1959, The Troubleshooters, starring

The Bowlus and the Clipper

I am always amazed when I go through old files and uncover wonderful treasures that take me back to an earlier time, or provoke thoughts of how far Airstream has come since its early days. This time, it’s a photograph taken in 1984 of a very iconic trailer: a 1936 Airstream Clipper. A note attached to the photograph says it’s the prototype for Wally Byam’s Airstream Clipper models. There are many experts who can – and will – qualify this photograph. Over time, I’ve learned about the Bowlus, a predecessor of the Airstream trailer, as well as certain Airstream configurations.

Toughness, Leadership, and Trust

Last week, Dale wrote about Art Costello, former President of Airstream, Inc. He discussed the way Art’s leadership continued to move the company forward after the passing of Airstream founder Wally Byam. This week, read about the trust Costello instilled in others. Wally Byam had many talents. As a leader, he was thoughtful and caring, a master at understanding the strengths and weaknesses of his employees. When Wally returned from the African Caravan in 1959, he planned to go into retirement. The seas were calling, and he wanted to spend time on the water, sailing under open skies. So he

Who was Art Costello?

Some individuals are so much larger than life they cast a shadow over others. Wally Byam was one of these people. But having known Art and his family, I have no doubt about his strength as a leader and the important void he filled after Wally’s death in 1962. Without his knowledge, and without the lessons he learned as Wally’s protégé, Airstream’s survival is doubtful. The two met at a time when Wally was general manager for travel trailer manufacturer Curtis Wright. They weren’t hiring, but Wally met with Art anyway. Suddenly they were interrupted – a worker needed a