Written by: Timothy Fitzgerald
06/07/2013 11:10 AM
When most people hear Airstream one of the first things to pop into their mind is the silver Airstream shine, the legendary symbol of the freedom of the road, of the great American Road Trip. The story behind that legendary shine is as inspiring as it is interesting. We got in touch with the people who know the story better than anyone else. Betty and Leonard Sullivan are members of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International, Inc. We wanted to find out just how profound an impact Wally Byam had on the RVing industry.
What is the Wally Byam Caravan Club?
Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) is the world's oldest trailer/motor home organization composed of one brand of recreational vehicle, the "Airstream."
The club has approximately 6,500 family members and has over 140 local units across the United States and Canada. Members also live in England, Switzerland, Japan and Mexico.
Who was Wally Byam?
Wally Byam, born July 4th, for whom the club is named, began making aircraft aluminum design trailers in 1936 in a small garage in Los Angeles, California. After World War II, he opened production lines in California and Ohio to meet the public demand for the unique "silver" units.
How did Airstream caravanning get started?
In 1951, Wally Byam advertised nationally for anyone interested in accompanying him on a caravan through Mexico. Upon his arrival at the border, over 75 trailers were waiting to join him. Thus, the concept of Airstream caravanning was born, and the club was later formed.
Such Airstream caravans today travel literally to all parts of the world. In 1959 a group traveled from Capetown to Cairo, actually building some of the
roads necessary to complete the journey. Three years later, some of the same caravaners traveled "Around the World" on a caravan, parking their trailers on public display in "Red Square", having obtained special visas from the Russian government. More recently, WBCCI members caravanned across the Republic of China.
How does Wally's spirit live on in the club?
Wally Byam was a caravanner. He developed many unique caravans during his lifetime and the club fosters this memory by continuing the tradition of caravanning. We caravan to region and international rallies or we explore a geographic locale through a caravan experience. The list of caravans can be found at www.wbcci.org. In addition to caravans we have many varied scheduled rallies yearly.
How many trailers are expected at your annual rally and when?
Trailers for the 30th Annual Rose Parade Special Event, the next upcoming rally for 2011, will begin arriving December 28th in Pasadena California. The event runs for four days from December 28th 2011 to January 1st 2012.
Trailers for the 2012 annual international rally, held in Missouri, will begin arriving about June 15th, on a scheduled basis, with approximately 800 units expected to be parked before June 27th.
This first group to arrive will consist of nearly 275 volunteers, committee members and officers required to establish and ensure a safe and skillfully organized event. Caravans approaching 15-30 trailers each will be precisely scheduled for arrival a few days prior to the start of the 7-day event.
Why do people join the Wally Byam Caravan Club?
People join the club because they appreciate the camaraderie of others who own the same brand, love to travel with others in a caravan or to Airstream Rallies, enjoy Unit and International Rallies where they catch up with friends from all across the United States, or may have a vintage model and find that the club has many members that know how to repair and fix a vintage model to its original state or upgraded state.
Who joins the club?
Only persons who own an Airstream product may become members of the club. Members are usually obtained by advertising our club through the corporate office in Jackson Center, friends, former owners, or by affiliation with a club activity called a buddy rally and thereafter purchasing an Airstream, occasionally a member learns of the club through a dealer or the internet. Personally, a Unit officer contacted me after I purchased an Airstream motorhome. We attended a luncheon and thereafter joined the club.
What are the club's most popular activities?
More people attend Unit rallies than any activity we have. People enjoy the Unit activities, fellowship, and great meals. Each Unit has a newsletter that informs people as to the club activities, events coming up, and member doings. These are also on the website. Each year several rallies are prominent: the International Rally which changes location annually, the Hobo Rally in Indio, CA, the Mardi Gras Rally in New Orleans, etc. There are many more which you will find at www.wbcci.org.
How long have you been a member, and what do you get out of the club?
We have been members for 12 years, traveled extensively with various caravans and to numerous rallies and thoroughly enjoy the activities of the club, including the rallies, friends and travel. WBCCI has become like a family and we know friends all across the nation. Recently we were struck by a sleeping trucker in the rear of our tow car totaling the car and the motorhome. We were very fortunate to have survived. We are now on our second motorhome. As a WBCCI family, members from across the nation sent get-well cards, prayers and encouraging notes. In such circumstances one recognizes club members hold each other dearly.
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