July 3, 2014

Wally Shares His Birthday

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    Wally Byam
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    Marilyn Tuttle

The signers of the Declaration were dedicated in their fevered goals and are summed up in the ending statement, “we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Many of the signers lost their lives, and others lost their fortunes. As a collective body, they sent the world’s political institutions a message.

Today we not only give thanks to our forefathers for giving us our freedoms from an oppressive overseas monarchy, but we pay tribute to and celebrate the birth of an individual that and shaped an industry.

Wallace Merle Byam was born on July 4, 1896 in Baker City, Oregon.

We know Wallace as Wally Byam, the beloved founder and owner of Airstream Trailers.

One of his last portraits shows him looking past a globe into the future. Did Wally have a vision of a new Airstream World with global sales?

Have you seen the recent announcement that a new Airstream dealership has been opened in Inner Mongolia, China? Come with me as we celebrate Wally Byam.

As a child in Baker City, Oregon the young Wallace believed the annual Fourth of July parades were in his honor, celebrating his birthday. As he grew up and began to understand history, he knew he shared his birthday with a very sacred event, the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

His academic foundation at Stanford University gave him not only a wonderful education, but the armor to enter the world and to face situations one by one as they arose. Wally went through various stages in his life: working in advertising, publishing, and manufacturing.

His finest hour may have been when he grabbed a bull-horn and addressed a group traveling on one of the many Airstream Caravans. It was a thrill for owners to hear him talk. Truly his glass was always full.

Mr. Byam is best known for the Airstream, that iconic silver bullet trailer that has survived longer than any other recreational vehicle. Over the decades, the innovations from Airstream shaped the marketplace with introductions of new products that were originally only found in the Airstream and now are universally used throughout the industry.

If you go back and look at the blueprints, they represent the Airstream Torpedo famous for the “build-it-yourself” mail order sales from several 1930’s magazines. The company also showcased an Airstream production model.

The Airstream Airlite was an upgrade and a very popular model stepping up the product line for Wally and Airstream.

In 1935, Wally Byam decided from his exposure to the Bowlus trailer to build a better mousetrap and designed the Airstream Clipper with introduction in 1936.

The war curtailed production, but after the war Wally returned, Airstream returned, and from that point on Airstream’s future was on the rise.

Tomorrow we will be eating burgers, hot dogs, ribs and washing our food down with beer and soda. We’ll share our day with family, friends, neighbors or even travel towards new destinations.

Remember two things.

Remember those that made it possible for you to enjoy this day with freedom and security.

And for those that own Airstreams, will own Airstreams or admire Airstreams: Wally Byam’s birth made this all possible.

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