Sierra Nevada Airstreams: Memories

2005 – WBCCI Golden Anniversary Caravan

Note: Most of the comments and all of the pictures on this page are from Charles Spiher's (WBCCI #3745 ) blog and used with permission

Welcome to the Golden Caravan 2005, created for your listening, reading, and dancing pleasure by Charlie (aka Dr. C.), loyal dogs, Heinz and Kramer (aka ReWind and WrongWay), and devoted wife, Lynn, who has never needed an alias.

The background: in the swelter of summer, 1955, one hundred travel trailers embarked on a nine week odyssey commencing from Sault Ste. Marie, Mi. , divining their way eastward through six Canadian provinces, finally terminating in northern Maine as autumn erupted in its annual gestation, that quiet exhilaration of amber, yellow,and red delirium. Yeah, yeah, so what ?, you must be thinking. Note: during this caravan, the first and oldest travel trailer club, the Wally Byam Caravan Club, was formed.

The foreground: in less than one week, 105 airstream trailers, divided into three groups of 35 each, will reenact this invasion of an unwary Canada, attempting to replicate the fun, fellowship, and adventure of five decades past. In a staggered start three days apart, this fleet of aluminum tubes on axle will hopscotch, like children on a chalk covered playground, our provincial neighbours to the north. In mid-August, at a predetermined site in Kentville, Nova Scotia, the three section caravan will reconvene, along with notable dignitaries (an obvious redundancy), to commemorate the 1955 founding.

Above ground: those are the facts, now for the fluff. We have never partcipated in a caravan before, were only allowed in by virtue of winning a lottery for a space, one year ago, but are often guided by this instance, The Pope, in 1727, "blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed". Naturally we have some fear, trepidation, anxiety, apprehension, and most of the scary adjectives in the dictionary I've never heard of, but with the backing of His Holiness, what could go wrong? Of course he wasn't married, didn't have two aging dogs, and never wore his mitre in a cocoon shaped travel trailer for sixty three days.

Our group, averaging seventy years +, was co-operative, energetic, inquisitive, and fun-loving in spite of advancing age. Did I mention that they are getting along in years ? Genuinely nice older people who melded together for two months to share in an unforgettable experience of fun, fellowship, and adventure.

Click on image for larger view

Today, August 17, 2005, nearly three hundred of the most loyal members gathered together on the same lawn that Helen had described in her 1955 diary. Led by James Hadaway, a former club president and formidable prime mover for re-enacting this golden caravan, the faithful watched as a plaque commemorating the founding was unveiled.

The usual unfolded, the prayer, dignitaries were introduced, some resplendent in colorful blazers, berets, vests with pins, badges, and embroidered patches, all one would assume signifying their importance, then receiving the compulsory applause after offering platitudes to the assembly. But the day belonged to Dale "PeeWee" Schwamborn, Helen's son, and Caroline McNamara Zimmer, both survivors of the 1955 caravan. Then at ages 16 and 12, respectively, they recounted the visit to Kentville. For Dale and all of us listening it was very emotional as he had lost his mother only recently, in the summer of 2004 at the age of 99.

Links: Pee Wee (Dale) Schwamborn's WBCCI and Airstream History -|- The founding of WBCCI and an overview of the early days -|- Pee Wee's presentation notes for the Kentville Dedication Ceremony -|- Photo gallery of the 1955 Caravan

The non-postcard feature of this stop was a visit with Mike Orchard, club member #32083 from Bridgewater, NS. If you are familiar with the British fascination for 'train-spotting', the hobby of documenting every engine and railroad car you may have seen, then Mike is the penultimate Airstream spotter. Since the age of six, he has kept a detailed account of every numbered A/S and accurately compiled cross-indicies by (hold on to your Thetford) state, license number, unit and where he saw each trailer. It is a passion so thorough that it now comprises four large notebooks. He IS an A/S encyclopedia and a very pleasant young man, too. Hopefully his lifetime of work will someday be published. To date, he is over 13,000 and still counting. Chances are, if you have numbers on your trailer, he has been stalking you in a non-perverse way.

Mike's report from the Kentville Dedication Ceremonies

Charles Spiher's blog – Charles and his wife Lynn participated in one of the special WBCCI caravans traveling to Kentville Nova Scotia for the Dedication Ceremonies. His blog on the Caravan is fascinating reading and really brings the Caravan to life. - Diane

In the Soo, 6600 miles, 66 days, four tired puppies complete the circuit.

I once read in the NY Times Book Review that odyssey is defined as a trip or adventure that must begin AND end in the same place. We therefore felt compelled, bound by literary accuracy, to return to the Chippewa campground, Sault Ste. Marie, Mi. where we had convened nearly ten weeks before.

More comments from Charles blog on the Caravan, the ceremonies, and special guests

A final thought about the difference and similarity of 1955 to 2005. Fifty years ago the sight of 100 travel trailers, equipped with modern conveniences of home was a true curiosity, a novelty similar to the circus coming to town. With few private campgrounds, they relied on public parks, vacant exhibition grounds, & private farmland for space, and were fortunate to have water on occasion and rarely three amps of electricity. Comfy,lightweight, towed by V-8 Cadillacs, Buicks, and Ford station wagons, they were perceived as the modern day version of the previous century's small covered Conestogas. Fast forward to 2005 where we spent all but seven nights in private campgrounds, most with full electric, water, and sewage facilities. Fully self-contained, our immediate interests were satellite TV reception, availability of wi-fi internet access, & location of the nearest Wal-Mart. Studio apartments on wheels. RVs are now as ubiquitous on the highways as cars and semis. Other organized groups of motorhomes, banded together in scheduled travel 'tracks', crossed our path several times. Impostors. - Charles Spiher

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