Last week, I wrote about the many families who joined the adventure through Europe on the Wally Byam Airstream Caravan across the continent.
One family I left out - because they offer an entry into a longer story.
Ardean and Norma Miller, with their three sons Randy, Brad, and Bruce, had a special place on the Caravan. Ardean and Norma were preparing to have a story published in National Geographic. Ardean was a photographer, and Norma a writer.
The Millers were friends of Wally and Stella Byam, as well as my mother, Helen Byam Schwamborn. A lifelong friendship between two families.
Before the Second World War, Ardean was an award-winning photographer. He was assigned to Special Duty and continued taking photographs for the Army. It is noted that he was the very first field photographer to use color transparencies to photograph the liberation of concentration camps.
It is amazing that a feature story for Airstream adventures in Europe would be covered in National Geographic. The article brought welcome attention to Airstream, and accurately told a firsthand account of our incredible journey.
Carolyn Bennett Patterson, from National Geographic, was the liaison between the magazine and the Millers, the editor of the 1957 story. On one trip to Washington, D.C., Wally called Carolyn and they set up a meeting.
I love Carolyn's commentary about Wally, found in her autobiography.
"Wally was, to my mind, a valuable American original, a diamond in the rough, completely himself, bronzed by the sun as befits an outdoorsman, and brimming with enthusiasm and plans. We hit it off famously."
After Wally passed away in 1962, the Wally Byam Foundation was formed. For 15 years, the organization served to promote travel, international goodwill, and carry on the spirit of Wally Byam.
It was a natural selection that Carolyn Bennett Patterson became Chairman of the Board for the Foundation.
I first met Carolyn Bennett Patterson while I was in the Army. My mother was in town making preparations for the Wally Byam Around-The-World Caravan. She made it possible for me to visit the world famous National Geographic's Explorer Hall. The Hall was closed, but her arrangements made it possible for me to roam around alone for several hours!
I saw Carolyn again briefly at the 1964 Wally Byam Caravan Club International Rally in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1965, I was selected as one of three designated drivers for the summer Lynda Bird Johnson Caravan through the Western United States. The entourage consisted of Lynda; her press secretary; Carolyn Bennett Patterson; a U.S. Army communication team; Secret Service; William Allard; a National Geographic photographer; a service mechanic from Airstream in Jackson Center, Ohio; and the three drivers. Again, Airstream made the National Geographic magazine when Lynda Byrd's article was published in September 1965.
It is amazing, the connections formed between individuals through the Airstream world. As we traveled the world, we formed bonds unbreakable by distance or time.
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.