Recollections of WBCCI

Mike Orchard WBCCI #32083

WBCCI Golden Anniversary Celebrations

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Note: Mike was able to visit the site near Kentville where the ceremony commemorating the 50 year anniversary of the establishment of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI) was held. The following are his recollections of the event


WBCCI was established in Kentville,Nova Scotia during the 1955 Eastern Canada Caravan. The original itinerary was obtained by Dave Levinson in 2003 from Natalie Corkum (age 90)a long time resident of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Natalie's husband Hugh Corkum was a rumrunner during the prohibition period of the 30's and later became Chief Of Police of Lunenburg. Part of his duties as the police chief was to welcome the caravanners to the area and the itinerary was obtained at this time. It was decided to recreate the original caravan as part of the WBCCI 50 year celebrations. The 1955 caravan numbered 100 trailers but for 2005 the recreation would consist of 3 separate caravans of 35 trailers each. These caravans would be known as Golden Anniversary Caravan Sections 1, 2 and 3 and would be spaced 3 days apart following the same route. Because interest was so high to partake in these caravans,a draw was held at the 2004 Int'l Rally in Lancing,Michigan. The 3 sections, after traveling separately, came together in the vicinity of Kentville for an event dedicating a commemorative plaque at the site of the inaugural meeting of WBCCI.

The following is my recollection of the plaque dedication in Kentville

The ceremony in Kentville was held on Wednesday August 17th to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the establishment of the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI). On the small hill overlooking the ceremony was a 1955 Airstream bubble from New York and a brand new 2005 Airstream from Ontario. The significance of this was one trailer was from the year the club was organized and one from this year, 50 years later. Another fact was WBCCI is an international club and one trailer was from the US and one was from Canada. The ceremony was well attended by approximately 200 to 300 people on a mostly overcast day. The location was at Palmeter's campground, the same location as 50 years earlier. At that time,the location was known as Palmeter's China Shop which I believe was one of the largest of its kind in North America. At the end of their stay 50 years ago, Mr. Palmeter presented each of the ladies of the caravan a piece of fine china as a memento of their visit.

Today, Kentville Nova Scotia is situated in Region 1 of WBCCI and Region 1 President Raynold Lemaire welcomed the group. International President James Haddaway gave a retrospective of the significance of the location and the history of the club. There were 3 caravans recreating the original one in 1955 and Haddaway introduced the current caravan leaders to the gathering. The president of Airstream (the mother ship) recounted the symbiotic relationship between WBCCI and the Airstream Company in his speech to the Airstreamers. The Canadian Atlantic Unit (122) hosted the event and the unit president Edith Richard said a few words of welcome.

To me, the next two speakers were the highlight of the event. They were participants on the original caravan in 1955. Caroline Mcnamara Zimmer (WBCCI# 522), who was 12 at the time recounted some memories of that caravan so long ago. The china shop and the amount of kids on the original caravan were mentioned. Dale Schwamborn was also on the original caravan. Dale just happens to be a second cousin to Wally Byam. Dale, who I believe was 16 at the time was travelling with his mom, Helen Byam Schwamborn. Wally Byam and Helen Byam Schwamborn were first cousins. Their fathers were brothers. Bert and Ray Byam.

A little history on Helen. During the 1955 caravan, Wally and his wife Stella left the caravan in Montreal Quebec and flew to Europe to organize a European caravan. They left Helen in charge of the rest of the caravan to the Maritimes. Several believe that she was the driving force in the organization of the club. She passed away in 2004 at the age of 100. Dale recounted to the gathering how in 1955 he and his mom Helen were given an airstream by Wally in California. Wally pointed the trailer east and said get going. Helen had never towed a trailer before. Dale also had the daily diary Helen kept in 1955 and through tear filled eyes read a few of the passages. It was very touching.

The plaque was then unveiled by James Haddaway and the ceremony concluded and cake was served. People mingled and I got to renew some friendships from people I hadn't seen in years. I also had the pleasure to meet Coleman and Lou Mitchell WBCCI# 1100. Coleman has 9 stars on the trailer (each star signifies 5 years of membership in WBCCI). He has been a member for 48 years and only 1 person has been a member longer (Rupert and Elvira Leuch of Mountain Home Arkansas WBCCI# 496). I asked Coleman about the early days of WBCCI and Wally in particular. He mentioned he had been on a caravan with Wally once. His recollection of Wally was that of someone who was trying to sell trailers. The early caravans were open to all types of trailers with the intention of trying to convert non Airstream owners to the Airstream product. He was a businessman as well as a traveller. Coleman told me that Wally used to shout instructions to everyone through a bull horn and you got the impression you better listen. He had a strong personality and could be a little bossy. Coleman thought Wally has been put on a pedestal and it was really Helen that was the driving force in the club we belong to today. I really enjoyed our conversation and it was a highlight of the day for me.

Being a long time supporter of WBCCI I can say I really enjoyed the day and feel lucky to be able to attend it. It was very well organized and will hold a special place in my memory.

I forgot to mention that just before section 1 departed on the morning of August 20th I had the pleasure to meet Caroline McNamara Zimmer (WBCCI# 522). As you probably recall she was one of the 2 original members of the 1955 caravan . We only got a chance to talk for a couple of minutes but we exchanged emails. Would like to hear her impressions and memories of both the 1955 and the 2005 caravans. Looking forward to hearing from her.


Section 1

The first section of the GAC arrived on Thursday Aug.18th, the day after the plaque dedication in Kentville.The co-leaders were Chuck Kiple (#3607) Iowa,and Dave Levinson (#20566) NY. A little background first. I met Dave and his son Gary (#20567) in South Bend Indiana at the 1990 International Rally. I was walking up and down the rows of airstreams listing numbers when he approached me to querry what I was doing. A conversation ensued and we have been friends ever since. At subsequent Int'ls I would try to hook up with him at some point during the rally.

In 1997 Dave became the leader of the Nor by nor east caravan which travels the Maritime provinces every 2 years. Gary co-leads on these caravans. At the 1999 caravan Dave asked me show him my log books and invited me to the caravan breakfast/drivers meeting one morning. As breakfast concluded, Dave started the drivers meeting and as that concluded he said, 'We have a special guest with us and he is going to tell you about his hobby of listing airstream numbers'. This was a surprise to me but I gathered my thoughts and made a presentation that went over very well. It seems I do better when I don't have a lot of time to prepare.

Because of the Kentville presentation, (all 3 sections were to be close to that town on the 17th), Dave's section 1 lost a day of their Lunenburg stop. They arrived on Thursday afternoon and left on Saturday morning so they only had 1 full day in town. I listed the trailers on Thursday afternoon,and went back in the evening. I knocked on Dave's trailer door and Chuck Kiple answered. They were making preparations for the drivers meeting for Friday evening. After introductions, Chuck and I talked for awhile about current club issues including membership and the proposed name change. Chuck, being the organizer of all three sections of the GAC, has at one point or another had contact with all participants of the caravans either by phone or email. He mentioned he got a call one night from a member he had not met before but talked to him as if he knew him all his life. He wanted to know if Chuck knew much about the new 39 foot Airstream landyachts. A few days later,Chuck received another call from the same member who told him he purchased the new landyacht, sight unseen and was now looking for a tow behind car( toad). This man was joined the caravan and the landyacht is impressive to say the least. Chuck and Dave asked me to attend the drivers meeting on Friday night and maybe say a few words to the group. On Friday night, Krista,J ared and I headed to Lunenburg where K&J went to the playground while I attended the drivers meeting. The meeting went a little late and Jared was overtired so I had to skip giving the presentation. After being introduced, Chuck explained the situation and invited me back early the next morning to see them before they left.

I arrived at 6:45 the next morning and showed Chuck and some fellow caravanners my log books. He seemed impressed and genuwinely interested. Gary Levinson had also copied 3 DVD's for me on Airstream travel including the famous one narrated by Vincent Price. Very nice of him. Can't wait to watch them. We promised to get together again during their next visit to Lunenburg in 2007. So concludes Section 1 of the Golden Anniversary Caravan.

Section 2

On the morning of Saturday August 20th Section 1 of the GAC pulled out of Lunenburg bound for their next stop of Halifax Nova Scotia. That same afternoon, Section 2 began arriving. Sections 1 & 3 used the community center grounds to park (blacktop). Section 2's parking was the adjacent field behind the high school. This is the same parking area used by the Region 1 Rally in 2002 of which I sent you a picture of earlier this year. Krista and Jared accompanied me on this visit and we parked by the school awaiting the arrival of the group. My son Jared who is now 2 and a half was very excited at the prospect of seeing some airstreams in person. He has seen many in pictures and online. He became very excited as the first trailers started to arrive and loudly cried 'daddy airstreeeem' as each one rounded the corner to the parking area. Along with my wife Krista, they waved at each trailer as they went by. I was busy listing the numbers and license plates. This is the best time for me to do my hobby as it eliminates the necessity to walk through the parking area listing the numbers. It is also the best time because if I was to wait until a later time, many of the tow vehicles would not be there.

I introduced myself to the section leaders, David & Linda Andrzejewski (WBCCI# 16411). They were not surprised to see me as Dave Levinson (Section 1 co-leader) had given them my name and mentioned I may stop by. We talked for awhile and agreed the best time for me to talk about my hobby and bring my log books would be the night before they leave (Monday) at the end of the drivers meeting. This way all the members of the caravan would be there. They were very accommodating and a super and fun couple. I was glad to have the opportunity to meet them and they seemed genuinely interested in my hobby and thought their group would be to.

On Monday evening I returned to Lunenburg for the presentation and drivers meeting. There is a videographer that is alternating between the 3 sections of the GAC and he was present this particular evening. I arrived at the site and as I was looking for Dave or Linda, a man approached me and asked me if I needed a chair to sit on. It was Don McKelvay (WBCCI# 6939) of London, Ontario. He is currently Region 2 VP and as we walked to his trailer to grab me a chair we continued talking. Don's unit is the Ontario Canada unit (124) which has experienced phenomenal growth in membership. I believe he will do a great job as region president and is internet active. A definite asset in my view to the clubs future. This group was a fun group and it was a lively and at times comical meeting. I was called upon to do the raffle draw and as the business part of the meeting concluded my turn arrived. I have given these presentations in the past many times and never took notes with me. I should have this time as I was nervous (for some reason) and talked as much about membership opportunities as my hobby. I invited any interested to look at my log books to see where I had 'spotted them' in the past. Almost all did and I believe it went over VERY well. As I was looking up one members number for her and related to her I had first seen her trailer number in 1966 she started to tear up. After the crowd had cleared we talked a bit and she explained to me that she had inherited the number from her parents and of course the first time I had seen her trailer number it had actually been her parents I had listed. It was very emotional for her and very touching for me. One of the highlights for sure. I left as darkness fell with the feeling that this group was having a blast and wished I could continue on with them on their caravan.

Section 3

Section 2 departed for Halifax on the morning of Tuesday August 23rd and section 3 arrived in the afternoon. I listed the trailers as they arrived. This happens over a period of 2 to 3 hours and during this time I conversed with 2 women on the parking crew. Enjoyable conversation. Checked in with the leaders, Richard & Kathryn Griffin. I wrote a little note to be put up on the bulletin board, which they agreed to, saying I would be available on Thursday morning to show my log books. I decided before I left on Tuesday I just HAD to meet Charles Spifer (WBCCI# 3745). In reading his posts on Airstream Forums I was a little apprehensive for some reason on what he might think of my hobby. Had a good conversation and let him know I would be back Thursday morning. Thursday was a very busy day for me. I arrived at 8:45 as the time for me to show my log books was 9 am. I set up my log books on the hood of my car, the only available space, and waited to see if anyone showed up. A few did which was nice. At 9:30 Dr Chas arrived and things improved drastically. I was really glad to see him again and think he is a very nice fellow. We talked a bit and he looked at my log books, seemed impressed and questioned me on some of my stats. Questions that I could tell he was interested. He saw a aerial picture of the 1990 Int'l Rally in South Bend Indiana (his home town). He pointed out where his business was in the picture which was kind of neat. He took some pictures and mentioned he occasionally contributed articles for Airstream Life and there was definitely a story here. It was now 10:25 and I had 5 minutes to get to my dentist appointment so I regrettably had to excuse myself. Wish I could have spent more time there.

This concludes all 3 sections of the GAC and overall I met a lot of great people, have several new email contacts and maybe a feature article in the future in Airstream Life. Great time. Now I have to wait 2 years for the next caravan to arrive in Lunenburg...arrggg.


Main page Mike Orchard

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