Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wally Byam Caravan Club International

Wally Byam Caravan Club International
25th Anniversary 1955 - 1980
Athletic and Convocation Center
Notre Dame, Indiana

Postmarked in 1980 with a 15 cent stamp - Hand Stamped at the post office, the hand stamp reads: 23rd Int'l Rally STA., Notre Dame, In. - WBCCI 1955-1980

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the sender writes:
Just a note and a card. Had 3341 trailers. Been pretty warm. We are parked on grass. Our trailer #205 now. It was changed and we didn't even now it. Will tell you more about it later. Love, Mom and Dad

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Wallace Merle "Wally" Byam, (1896-1962) was one of the pioneer manufacturers of the travel trailer. He founded the company, Airstream Inc.

This is long, but interesting:

Byam was born July 4, 1896 in Baker, Oregon. As a young child he traveled extensively with his grandfather, who led a mule train in Baker, Oregon. Later, as an adolescent, Byam worked as a shepherd. He lived in a two-wheeled shepherd's cart outfitted with a kerosene cook stove, a sleeping bag, and wash pail. These early experiences contributed to his later entrepreneurial pursuits.

As a young man, Wally signed on with the merchant marines, attended Stanford University, owned an advertising agency, and became a magazine publisher. A do-it-yourself magazine he published featured an article describing how to build a travel trailer. When readers complained about the plans, Byam tried them out for himself. Indeed, he discovered the plans were flawed.

Byam was thus inspired to build his own travel trailer. While he considered his first attempt primitive, the design profoundly influenced the evolution of travel trailers. By dropping the floor down between the wheels and raising the ceiling height, his design made it possible for occupants to stand straight upright when inside the trailer. Byam wrote an article describing how to build his trailer for under $100 - this time drawing an enthusiastic response from his readers.

During the late 1920s, Americans were beginning to take to the roads in greater and greater numbers. Byam's new trailer was a perfect match for the increasingly popular mobile lifestyle. Byam thus began selling sets of his plans for five dollars each. He also sold complete trailer kits, and finished trailers he built in his Los Angeles backyard. His fledgling business survived the crash of 1929. By 1930 he had abandoned, advertising, and publishing to become a full-time builder of travel trailers.
During the mid 1930s, Wally honed his skill of fusing form and functionality. By incorporating aircraft construction methods to lessen wind resistance and improving the trailer's strength-to-weight ratio, his designs boasted a more aerodynamic and contemporary look.

On January 17, 1936, the Airstream Trailer Co. introduced the "Clipper," and a well-known American brand was born.

In 1955 Wally travelled to Europe with his wife Stella in a one of kind Airstream Bubble to scout the 1956 caravan.
Then in 1956 he travelled to Europe in a Gold Anodized trailer towed by a Cadillac.
Byam's spirit was the inspiration for the formation of the nonprofit club, Wally Byam Caravan Club International, to promote the use of Airstreams to travel as much as possible. The club is still in existence today with more than 7,000 member families. In 2007, the club held more than 1400 rallies and caravans.

Byam famously led caravans worldwide as publicity exercises for the Airstream brand. His most notable caravan was a 1959 sojourn from Cape Town, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt.

Wally Byam died on July 22, 1962 at the age of 66.

(I bet he had many, many wonderful stories to tell!!)

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