Across The Sea

This article is part two of a series about the Airstream Caravan in Europe. To read additional entries, click the links at the end of this entry.

Traveling overseas with an Airstream requires a checklist including passports, smallpox vaccinations, a tow vehicle and Airstream passports (Carnet du Passage), international driver licenses, dry camping instructions, selected equipment, clothing, groceries, mail, money exchanges, and vehicle and passenger transportation. Wow! All detailed out for the European Caravanners.

Additional memorandums were mailed out covering costs, rendezvous points for shipping rigs, tentative six month itinerary, and mail stops.

The second bulletin has detailed information.  Wally explains the details, and frequently requests the Caravanners contact Helen.

“As on all Wally Byam Caravans, we make no charge for the Tour. Everybody just pays their own expenses.”

“The Caravan is run by committees. Outside the secretary, which Wally pays from his own pocket since he can no longer handle the job himself (and in this case an interpreter for the secretary which Wally pays for), there is no paid help.”

“But until the first “Meeting Time’ is called at The Hague in Holland, we ask you all to clear everything trough the Caravan Secretary Helen Byam Schwamborn, 2204 Lindora St., Bakersfield, Calif. (She is seldom home, but the mail is forwarded to her airmail every day.)”

“What do you do next? Write Helen. …She will answer at once and begin working out a definite schedule for you. (Poor Helen—what with secretarying a Mexican Caravan meanwhile.”

Wally has now teamed up with Helen and what a duo they make in their ability to work together, plan together and make travel magic for Airstream owners.

My mother, Helen, will leave in March 1956 for the European Caravan; she will be gone from Bakersfield until October.

I would graduate from East Bakersfield High School in June. My mother missed my graduation.

In March, Wally had me and my mother come to his home in Los Angeles for the weekend. On Saturday, Wally drove us to the TWA office located at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles and cattycornered from the famous Biltmore Hotel.

For my graduation, Wally purchased a one-way ticket to Zurich, Switzerland where I would join the Caravan and my mother for the balance of the tour.  In 1956 travel was restricted to business men, and the rich either sailing on passenger liners or flying, but for a 17 year old high school graduate, unheard of.

My mother is gone, she has left for Europe, now there is just my dad and I fending as bachelors for a few months, then I go and my dad will be alone. Alone?  Our neighborhood, as such, is one block long, where everyone knows everyone. So my dad will be fine.

Someone asked me on the African Caravan, where did you learn to cook? Simple. My dad cooked two things Yankee Pot Roast, broiler steaks with baked potatoes. So I cooked spaghetti sauce from scratch, roasted meat, mashed potatoes and other simple culinary dinners.

I was finishing up my senior year, so my grades were important, so I studied to complete my classes. Afternoons were taken up with varsity track practice and weekend track meets.

My dad came in second or third, competing in a statewide checkers tournament in Pennsylvania. When I was four or five he taught me the game. After several hundred games over 12 years, I never beat him.

We began to play two-handed three deck canasta, on Sunday afternoons. I did better. Actually I did so well dad refused to play with me. I found a way to freeze the deck until I could pick up the cards and score. It wasn’t meant to be retribution for the checker games I lost, just learning how to play the game and win.

Then there was a terrible smell in the house that my dad mentioned, I didn’t sense any odors. Lawry’s Garlic spread was a favorite for toasted French bread. So for a practical occasion I hid the small jar with the lid off. Yes, there was a strong and familiar smell, this ended when my dad was going to crawl under our house to find a dead “something.” Then it was time to display the odor with lid on.

Irving Lane, was assistant principal and boys counselor at East Bakersfield High School.  He wrote the following note to my teachers.



Dale is to leave for Europe Tue afternoon and wants to take a transcript with him. Would it be possible to have him pick up his cards and grades on Tuesday?

I.E. Lane

On Tuesday June 5, 1956, I said goodbye to high school friends, received my transcript and went home. My dad and I left for Los Angeles International with enough time to have a meal at a favorite restaurant and get to the passenger gate with time to spare.

Dale “Pee Wee” Schwamborn has silver in his blood. Each week, Pee Wee shares one of his many stories, including his experiences on the iconic Airstream Caravans, his time spent working in the Airstream factory, and the many Airstreamers he’s befriended, far and wide.

Part One: A Natural Leader

Part Three: From New York to Zurich

Part Four: An Instant Connection

Part Five: Brimming With Enthusiasm

Part Six: An Early Morning Excursion