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Wally Byam Stores

Airstream has a long history of retail store sales. It all started in 1945. Wally Byam, founder of Airstream, was working with Lockheed as an engineer. He kept highly detailed notebooks, both dealing with work and personal entries. One personal note pointed to his post-war endeavors. He decided he wanted to become involved in the direct mail order business, but when the war ended, he instead returned to manufacturing. In 1947, Wally reopened the Airstream factory. Years later in 1960, when the African Caravan ended, he returned to Los Angeles. He was making the necessary arrangements to transfer Airstream’s responsibilities to

Family Thanksgiving 1943

While family gatherings were commonplace during World War II, it was a rare and wonderful occasion when a member of the military could join in. In 1943, the Schwamborn, Byam, and Boyce families gathered with friends to share in a celebration of the holiday. This was a particularly special occasion because of the time period this story takes place in – gasoline was rationed, which limited auto travel. During wartime, a celebration with family is very special. While I don’t recall what we ate on this Thanksgiving, food rationing made a holiday like Thanksgiving a changed experience. I remember my

See America First, Part III: At Journey’s End

Over the next three weeks, we’ll be featuring Dale Schwamborn’s account of the 1965 “See America First” tour of the American West. Two weeks ago, Dale learned he’d be embarking on another great adventure – with a very special guest. Last week, the group visited three majestic Western locations. Grand Tetons: July 6-13, 1965 If Atlas were to become indifferent to his duty of fending off the enclosing heavens, he could find proxy in the Grand Tetons. Rising above a 7000-foot base, the massive granite silently guides the four winds along their troubled paths. Jackson Hole has been synonymous with the

See America First, Part II: The Marvels of the West

Over the next three weeks, we’ll be featuring Dale Schwamborn’s account of the 1965 “See America First” tour of the American West. Last week, Dale learned he’d be embarking on another great adventure – with a very special guest. This week, the group visits three majestic Western locations. The Grand Canyon: June 23-26, 1965 Nestled between the scrub pines of the Grand Canyon and the National Parks’ Ranger School, our caravan of Airstream trailers settled down. Lynda’s led the way; it also housed Mrs. Marta Ross, press secretary and Mrs. Carolyn Bennett Patterson, chairman of the Wally Byam Foundation Board

See America First, Part I: Lynda Bird Johnson

Over the next three weeks, we’ll be featuring Dale Schwamborn’s account of the 1965 “See America First” tour of the American West. This week, Dale introduces the trip – and the special guest that joined them on their journey. By 1965, caravanning had become an integral part of what Airstream represented. An incalculable number of miles and days had been spent traveling; curious adventurers crossed the world in awe. Within the perimeter of our own nation, the excitement of travel lured us to visit summer palaces, majestic mountains, and lyrical waterways. That year, President Johnson inaugurated a program called “See

Wally’s Creed, Part II

Airstream trailers have been seen all over the world. Caravans traveled through North America, Central America, Cuba, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and from Singapore across Asia all the way to Portugal (including Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union)! In Africa, the Caravan crossed roads, rough terrain, washboards, quagmires, and even endured blinding dust. But every night, you could find a bath, shower, dinner, and a clean bed after a long and difficult day. Today, Wally’s promise is just as active today as it was on earlier Caravans. Today’s Airstreamers gather with fellow Caravan members to enjoy camaraderie, fun, food,

Wally’s Creed, Part I

Airstream’s foundation can be found within the wheel ruts along the Oregon Trail. Wally Byam’s paternal grandparents came from Iowa, while the Biswells, his maternal grandparents, arrived from Missouri. Both families left their homes to find new lives in eastern Oregon. They endured hardships as they headed West and even still after settling in Baker City. Wally was born in 1896, on the fourth of July. There is no doubt that Wally’s patriotism was fueled by his being born on the fourth of July, but I believe it was simply a matter of fate he was born that day. As

Airstream Visits the Largest Waterfall in the World

When you’re raised on Tarzan movies, your idea of Africa is what you’ve seen on the screen: stage settings, Tarzan and Jane, and wild animals. I had also seen stock footage showing charging elephants, tribal warriors with painted faces, and filler footage that showed vast forests and bright jungles. In the classroom and in National Geographic magazines, you see that Africa is really so much more. I read about the Boer War, the Kimberly Diamond Mine, Kruger National Park, Dr. Livingstone, the Tutsi and Maasai peoples, the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, the pyramids, and Victoria Falls. In 1959, Wally Byam

The Caravan Enters Turkey

Planning for the African Caravan had been completed. It had been decided that the Caravan would travel from Cape Town to Cairo, Egypt, then through the Middle East and on to Europe. The Middle East was intriguing. The area that had been home to ancient civilizations that flourished, rich cultural traditions with wide-rippling historical impacts, centuries of nations at war, and religions that spread all over the world. Wally Byam had brought the Caravan back into ancient times, when Egyptians, Assyrians, and Romans ruled the world. When the Caravan reached the northern region of Asia Minor, we were ready to

Airstream: an Advertising Legend

How did Airstream become an American icon? Let’s trace its roots in advertising and the way it created a visual experience of the road from its origins to today. In 1919, an up-and-coming advertising man named Wallace M. Davis, the advertising manager for The Daily Palo Alto, wrote a letter to Society Brand Clothes. An excerpt from that letter, soliciting a sale of advertising space, read: “The average Stanford Man wants his clothes stylish…we believe Society Brand Clothing to be well worth the expenditure; no other national clothiers are advertising on the campus.” After graduation, Davis changed his name back