Wally Byam Airstream Lifestyle
The Wally Byam Airstream Lifestyle: More Than A Winding Road
By: Lisa Renee Sherman
Airstreams have developed a following equal to that of Harley Davidson motorcycles. People have claimed that once they heard the engine roar to life, and felt the power of the vibration they were gone. Same could be said for Airstream owners. There is something about the unique look of the vintage models, and or the rich tradition of the name that pulls individuals in.
Without even realizing it, Wally Byam changed the face of Airstream when he was able to connect the dream for exploration with the actual name brand. The American Spirit evolves around freedom and expansion. Though the words “patriotic” or “national pride” never was connected to the Airstream as a marketing tool, the consumer knew that the Airstream stood for those things.
For a large part, this could be due to the fact that the company was created during the time of the Great Depression and had not only survived but flourished. Ultimately this is the perfect illustration of America at its best. To rise up from the ashes of nothing, and to achieve great things. Byam symbolizes so many things for the history of America, which go way beyond his sketches of trailer body frames.
When looking at most RV and Motorhome sales, other than Airstream, the sales are motivated exclusively by price of purchase. There might be a small percentage of repeat purchasers, but by and large most of the average travel trailer or motorhome consumers are looking for the best option for the least amount of money.
This is where the Airstream consumer differs greatly from the average recreational consumer. Airstream consumers are drawn to a specific era, or style. They are searching for a specific tone, or feeling that the trailer creates. Vintage trailer consumers are exited about the concept of restoration, or are drawn to the finish product that is restored back to its original splendor.
The Airstream community is most definitely an open doors community, with the focus being their passion for Airstreams. This is such a unique following for a travel trailer or motor home. The Wally Byam Caravan Club International is the largest RV recreational club in existence today. One significant discovery is that there are generational memberships. It is common for grandchildren to become members after their parents and grandparents. The Airstream trailer is most definitely a coveted family heirloom that is passed down through the generations.
To this day, the love for caravan tours has maintained and currently there are over forty-five scheduled. These caravans crisscross the country searching for every little nuance that can be discovered. This is a testament to how brilliant Byam was in marketing. Without a doubt, marketing trends come and go. Marketing Agencies are constantly having to stay ahead of the curve in consumer trends. The concept of caravan tours originated in 1951. The fact that in 2009, some fifty-eight years later, caravans are still a vital part of the Airstream owner life is amazing!
Most Airstream owners are drawn to the community atmosphere, which focuses on fellowship. There are some owners that enjoy heading to new destinations, and uncovering new ground. But on the other side, there are owners that enjoy heading to the same destinations that they have for years to park next to the neighbors that they have had for years. Continuously, Airstream owners refer to the Airstream “family”.
Without a doubt, Airstream owners forge bonds and lifelong relationships with other Airstream owners. Children grow up establishing best friendships with the trailer parked next door….and their children consequently meet the children of those friends.
Frank Palmer, who wrote the history of Airstream on the website for the WBCCI, stated that “there never was a Wally Byam caravan that wouldn’t stop in the midst of having fun to take up a collection for some orphanage somewhere, to collect a pile of “surplus” canned goods for a village whose crop had failed, or to drop off clothing, school supplies or books.”
The Airstream community still today appears to hold the same values established by Wally Byam himself. There is a focus on fellowship, and good will. When looking at the Creed that Byam established for the Club, point seven states; “to play some part in promoting international goodwill and understanding among the peoples of the world through person-to-person contact.” By and large this is how the Airstream community functions yet today.
Besides the WBCCI, there are an assortment of other clubs that focus on the Airstream. There are vintage travel trailer organizations, local Airstream clubs, as well as basic RV focused organizations. One of the more unique clubs is the Amateur Radio Clubs. These are organizations that focus on time period radios and travel while airing shows. There is virtually a club or organization of any type of Airstream enthusiast.
For any recreational travel enthusiast the lifestyle is built around adventure, discovery and freedom. The ability to go anywhere, at anytime and at your own pace is the ultimate desire. The traditions that Byam introduced for the focus of goodwill and valued fellowship have not only maintained but has become an important aspect of the Airstream community.
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