The Wally Byam Caravan Club was founded more than 60 years ago.
Since then, it’s offered fun, fellowship, adventure, and excitement for its members – and played a big role in shaping the Airstream community. It feels like one big family, with brothers and sisters all over the world, eager to share stories of adventure and discovery.
We begin this week with a bulletin from the September 1964 publication of The Caravanner, detailing one of the many places the WBCCI has taken ordinary people like you or me on a wild adventure.
World Caravan Touring Russia
Warsaw, Poland – The Wally Byam “Around The World” Caravan has crossed behind the Iron Curtain and is presently touring the villages and cities of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Russia.
The Associated Press reported in a dispatch from Moscow that the Wally Byam Caravan arrived at the gates of the Soviet capital August 7, parking beneath the “onion-shaped domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral.”
The report said that hundreds of curious Russian tourists in Moscow had been attracted away from the sights around the Kremlin to surround the Airstreams and the American Caravanners.
“They peeked under engine hoods, poked their heads inside cabins, took photographs, and plied the Americans with questions about where they were going and where they had been,” the AP dispatch said.
Meanwhile, the Caravanners hoped to move their encampment into Red Square for a brief stay there before continuing on into Leningrad.
Imagine traveling across the entire world! The Around-The-World Caravan beginning in 1963 involved 105 people in 47 Airstream trailers, exploring the highways of Asia from Singapore to India, Turkey to Italy, cutting its way behind the Iron Curtain before winding through Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Portugal.
Click here to see a map of the Caravan's route across the world.
When the Wally Byam Caravan Club was first founded, it began humbly, with only a few Airstreamers approaching Wally to ask if they could begin a club for owners. His cousin (and my mother), Helen Byam Schwamborn, was chosen to spearhead and manage the club, with financial support coming from Airstream.
The WBCCI did stand independently from Airstream in governing their organization, and Airstream was judicial in determining how the money was allocated and spent.
At that year’s Princeton International Rally (which I wrote about last week), Art Costello, President of Airstream, expressed the need to bring all Airstream and WBCCI activities together to provide better access to the many things each organization was providing.
In the August 1964 edition of The Caravanner, he said,
“The Wally Byam Caravan Club is, and always will be, an inseparable part of Airstream, Inc. and of its most fundamental philosophy of customer service…the Club is a part of the very “product” which the company produces for its customers.
When you buy an Airstream travel trailer you buy more than a physical trailer; you buy a Way of Life. You buy an opportunity to go on every Wally Byam Caravan, to attend every Airstream Rally, and you buy the privilege of applying for membership in the Wally Byam Caravan Club.
Anything that alters or diminishes the Wally Byam Caravan Club diminishes the very thing that we are selling. Anything that increases the Club’s activities, makes them smoother, less work and less strife, increases the value in Airstream ownership."
It is today, as it has always been, about far more than just a product. It is a community, a family even, people who welcome and care about one another. Airstream is a way of life that includes people from all backgrounds, that allows individuals to form connections that last a lifetime.
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.