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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

Into the Forest

We enjoy dreams, sometimes in our sub-conscious and sometimes in reality. Wally Byam, Airstream’s founder and creator for the Airstream Wally Byam Caravan, took 41 Airstream owners, 104 people, and three auxiliary vehicles to Africa. They traveled from Cape Town, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt. How do you staff an African Caravan? Wally Byam was the Caravan’s leader. He had to make several significant choices. From the Airstream factory in Santa Fe Springs, California, he chose Arthur Ruiz to be the group’s mechanic. Through longtime media friends, Pete Turner was selected as the official photographer. Pete would go on to

An Airstream Summer

During the summer between my junior and senior years in college, I was fortunate enough to find work at the Airstream factory in Santa Fe Springs, CA. I had always been told “work is what you have to do, so do it well.” Now I didn’t know too much about fiberglass insulation when I started, but it wasn’t too long before I was introduced to its finer qualities. How fine, you ask? Try little glass needles penetrating all the pores in your skin. At night, even after a long shower, you’d go to bed knowing somewhere under the covers there’d

From #1 to #29187: the Origin of Airstream Numbers

The first Airstream Wally Byam Caravan traveled to Mexico and Central America. Wally Byam called the tour the “1951 First Annual Inter-American Trailercoach Caravan Tour, El Paso, Texas to Managua, Nicaragua.” The tour was open to all manufactured travel trailers, though Airstream was predominant. One hearty soul went from Texas to Mexico City towing a Spartan. Wally found it necessary to keep track of his brood, so he issued numbers to each trailer. Wally’s Airstream was #1, naturally. But his number wasn’t the lowest – his dear friends Andy and Dell Anderson labeled their trailer with a double-zero: #00. The

The Great Big Glorious Success

Wally Byam. Who is he? Wally is Airstream: how did this industrialist develop the iconic, legendary Silver Bullet trailer? His approach to ownership, as an entrepreneur and leader, differed from others who sought wealth above all else. In 1916, the same year that Wally graduated from Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon, he wrote down his affirmations, life goals, and his inner view of who he was. The following thought was his life’s fuel, which propelled him forward. “I am a man of extremes – either I will be a big boss, a rousing success, or a blank failure. In

From Primitive to State of the Art

Today’s Airstreams offer a complete camping experience. With kitchens, restrooms, and even showers, it’s quite the glamorous experience as compared to the early days of Airstream. But this didn’t happen overnight. Let’s take a look back. Everyone who goes camping needs water. Before the electronically-measured water tank, the common water carrier was the five-gallon Jerry can. Just think: today’s Airstreams have black tanks, which means you can take wastewater with you. But early on, there were no tanks and no marine toilets. The old ceramic or enamel “thunder mug” was in use as required, then carried to a location for burial. Since then,

Airstream Visits Cuba

In 1962, newspaper headlines screamed alarming news about the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Kennedy and the United States were locked in a tense political game of chess with the Soviet Union. For 13 days, American citizens – and people all over the world – waited with unease for the confrontation to come to a head. Ultimately, President Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to a compromise that ended the standoff and the Soviet Union removed the nuclear missiles they’d placed in Cuba, just 90 miles from the coast of Florida. Just five years previously, Cuban President Fulgencio Batista was still